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By Debbie Gregory.

Beginning in boot camp, servicemembers learn how to navigate unknown terrain and make things happen with limited time and resources. The transition from military service to entrepreneur is a path that many veterans take. In fact, nearly 10 percent of U.S. small businesses (approximately 2.4 million) are veteran-owned and employ about 5.8 million individuals.

Veteran-owned small businesses contribute approximately $1.4 trillion to the nation’s total sales/receipts per year. But military and veteran entrepreneurs face many of the same challenges as their civilian counterparts run into: funding, financial management, regulation and compliance, and marketing strategy.

Linda McMahon, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), is a rock star who is currently on the Ignite Tour. No, it’s not a musical event, but rather a spreading of awareness of the SBA’s programs and services that assist veteran entrepreneurs.

One of McMahon’s missions is letting veterans and active-duty servicemembers know that aside from loans, the SBA offers a variety of mentoring and network opportunities, with more than 20 specialized veteran outreach centers and a numerous training programs.

At the veteran outreach centers, veterans can access business plan workshops, concept assessments, mentorship, and training.

Aptly named Boots to Business, one SBA program is part of the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and is offered at participating military installations and online. The program works with veterans (and their spouses) as they prepare to leave the military and transition into the private workforce.  Last year alone, about 17,000 people went through the program

As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start and grow their businesses. For more information the SBA’s veteran programs, go to www.sba.gov.

vboc

Each year, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) helps more than 200,000 veterans, service-disabled veterans, and National Guard and Reserve service members, and military spouses start and grow their small businesses.?  The SBA will be adding six Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) to the existing 13, bringing the nationwide total to19.

Each VBOC will provide entrepreneurial training, comprehensive business assessment, and mentoring to active duty service members, veterans and service-disabled veterans, National Guard and Reservists, and military spouses interested in starting a small business.

The new VBOCs will be located as follows:

  • Center for Women & Enterprise (CWE), Providence, RI
  • University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI
  • Georgia Southern University Research & Services Foundation, Statesboro, GA
  • Cochise County Community College District, Sierra Vista, AZ
  • University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
  • MiraCosta College, Oceanside, CA

Existing VBOCs are located as follows:

  • Veterans Business Outreach Center at Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS
  • Big Sky Economic Development Authority, Billings, MT
  • WBDC Chicago, Chicago, IL
  • Community Business Partnership, Springfield, VA
  • Hampton Roads Veterans Business Outreach Center, Norfolk, VA
  • Veterans Business Outreach Center at Gulf Coast State College, Panama City, FL
  • Veterans Business Outreach Center at Fayetteville State Univ., Fayetteville, NC
  • VetBiz Central, Inc., Flint, MI
  • University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, TX
  • New Mexico Veterans Business Outreach Center, Albuquerque, NM
  • Veterans Business Resource Center, St. Louis, MO
  • Business Impact NW, Seattle, WA
  • Veterans Business Outreach Center – Region IX, Sacramento, CA

VBOC locations were selected based on “Boots to Business” program demand, military installation, and transitioning population data.

VBOCs support transitioning service members as they begin self-employment or entrepreneurship. Part of the VBOC funding is used to cover costs involved in doing outreach to increase participation in the Boots to Business entrepreneurship training program on military installations in the U.S. and its territories.

Veterans business development is available in each state at SBA District Offices and at VBOCs located throughout the U.S.  To learn more about additional opportunities for veterans available through the SBA, visit www.sba.gov/vets.

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By Debbie Gregory.

I must sound like a broken record when I say that the traits and skills our nation’s service members possess make them great entrepreneurs, and that military service is one of the leading indicators of entrepreneurial success. Now the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) backs this up with statistics that reveal veterans are 45% more likely to be entrepreneurs than non-veterans, and over 13% of veterans have been self-employed in recent years.

Part of that success might be due to the many resources available to help budding entrepreneurs start and run their small businesses, once they leave the military. In fact, over the last three years, more than 35,000 transitioning service members and military spouses have participated in the SBA’s Boots to Business entrepreneurship training program, presented in collaboration with Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families.

Since not every veteran has access to the Boots to Business program, here are some important tips to stay the course:

  1. Lean on your military skills, traits and experience. While in the military, your ability to lead, bounce back, and push through served you well. Likewise, these abilities will serve you well as a great entrepreneur or small business owner.
  1. Know the difference between an opportunity and an idea. While an opportunity could parlay into a business, an idea is more of a feeling or notion that could be fleeting and lead to a failed venture. Try to brainstorm with the people you trust will give you honest feedback, or pull together a focus group.
  1. Analyze the market. Is there a market need for what you are offering? Who will be your customers? Why will they be your customer vs. your competitors’?
  1. Know where to find funding, and be aware of all the financial risks. Will you be tapping friends and family, a bank loans, or outside investors? The SBA has numerous financial resources and SBA-guaranteed loans are an excellent form of funding for veteran startups. T
  1. Make sure you do a feasibility analysis to make sure you know whether or not small business ownership is right for you. A New Venture Feasibility Analysis Tool is available on the Boots to Business website here: http://boots2business.org/resources/
  1. Remember that your business, and ultimately your success, depends on YOU.

boots_to_businessBoots to Business is an introduction to starting a business for veterans and transitioning military. The entrepreneurial education and training program is offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as part of the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP).

Speaking at a recent “Boots to Business” boot camp, James Williams, the lead economic development specialist for the Richmond, Virginia District Office of the SBA, told the story about a group of his peers who sold sandwiches to pay for college tuition.

“We laughed at them,” he said. “Fast forward to today — they’re called Subway.”

“Boots to Business” is part of a push to better prepare troops for life after the military and improve TAP, the target of many a veteran’s distain for what has previously been considered to be a superficial approach to transition. Formerly aimed only at troops close to separation, the program was recently opened to all veterans and troops, regardless of how much time they have left in the service.

Williams said that “Boots to Business” serves as a reality check about the very difficult road ahead for anyone starting a business. He added that the structure and discipline troops learn while in the armed forces serves them well in business, but that there’s often an adjustment to leaving the military bubble, with its free health care, readily available services and housing stipends.

“One of the big hurdles is becoming acclimated to civilian life again,” he said. “They have been in a protected kind of life, separated from the general population — some of them have separation anxiety.”

“What we’re really looking to do is give them a vehicle by which they can think about, ‘What is the feasibility of my dream?’ ” he added. “In the end, if you decide, ‘This isn’t for me,’ that’s still a success.”

The Veteran and Military Business Owners Association (VAMBOA) is a non-profit business trade association that promotes and assists Veteran Business Owners, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOB) and Military Business Owners. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and responsible for job generation. That is why VAMBOA provides its members with Business CoachingContracting Opportunities, a Blog that provides information, Networking contacts and other resources. Membership is FREE to Veterans. Join Now!

Boots to Business: VAMBOA: By Debbie Gregory

BootsBusiness

By Debbie Gregory.

It is expected that over the next three to five years, more than 250, 000 service members are expected to separate from the service each year. These Veterans will face stiff competition in the job market, as well as a consistently higher unemployment rate than their non-veteran peers. With unique work and leadership experiences and a tradition of hard work and resiliency, these Veterans will look for alternative options to provide for their families. Economists contend that self-employment will help stimulate our struggling economy. With an abundance of opportunities provided to them by federal, state and local programs, combined with the desire to work for themselves after their service, many Veterans will seek out entrepreneurial ventures. For these Veteran Entrepreneurs to be successful, in addition to the leadership skills and drive that they developed in the military, they will need to acquire the knowledge necessary to run a business. One of the most effective programs for Veterans launching their own businesses is the Boots to Business program. Boots to Business is an entrepreneurial education program offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). This program is an elective track within the Defense Department’s revised Transition Assistance Program called Transition Goals, Plans, Success (Transition GPS).  The course is offered in three parts. The first part, the Entrepreneurship Track Overview, is an introductory video shown during the mandatory five day Transition GPS course. The second part is a two day classroom course called Introduction to Entrepreneurship. The third part is an eight week instructor led, online course called Foundations of Entrepreneurship. This section offers detailed instruction on the elements of a business plan, and tips and techniques for starting a business.

The Boots to Business curriculum provides indispensable knowledge to transitioning service members who are interested in exploring self-employment opportunities. The program guides soon-to-be Veteran Entrepreneurs through the stages of business ownership, including evaluating business concepts and developing a business plan. Participants in the Boots to Business program are also introduced to the SBA resources that they can use to access startup capital and much more.

Having a sound business plan is critical to getting the startup capital and other lending approved. The Boots to Business program will help Veteran entrepreneurs develop and implement a business plan that will raise their chances of obtaining the funding to get their businesses off the ground.

The best part of the Boots to Business program is that it is available free of charge at participating military installations to service members who are retiring or otherwise transitioning from the service, as well as their spouses.

The Veteran and Military Business Owners Association (VAMBOA) is a non-profit business trade association that promotes and assists Veteran Business Owners, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOB) and Military Business Owners. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and responsible for job generation. That is why VAMBOA provides its members with Business Coaching, Contracting Opportunities, a Blog that provides information, Networking contacts and other resources. Membership is FREE to Veterans. Join Now!

VAMBOA: What Boots to Business Does for Veterans: By Debbie Gregory

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