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Veteran Entrepreneurs Who Rock It!

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By Debbie Gregory.

It is becoming more and more common for veterans to leave the battlefield and enter the world of entrepreneurship. This article will introduce a few outstanding veteran entrepreneurs.   They set a high bar.

  • U.S. Marine Corps veteran Travis McVey of Heroes Vodka combines being a veteran entrepreneur with a commitment to support his fellow veterans. Heroes Vodka was first bottled on Veteran’s Day, 11.11.11. As the “Official Spirit of a Grateful Nation,” the mission of Heroes Vodka is to deliver exceptional taste and superior value to consumers, while honoring veterans and other American service organizations through charitable contributions. McVey donates a portion of all sales to AMVETS. 
  • U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Nick Taranto, founded Plated, a meal delivery service that offers healthy, affordable, and delicious food. The service, which was acquired by Albertson’s Grocery Stores, delivers boxed chef-designed dinners that can be prepared at home in around thirty minutes. 
  • U.S. Navy veteran, Brandon Buttrey founded Counterstrike Coffee Buttrey reflected on his time in the service when coffee was highly valued and enabled servicemembers to better function. He knew that if he designed a military/veteran friendly coffee brand, he would have some serious customers. Counterstrike Coffee offers pre-packaged coffee in both whole bean or ground form. A portion of the proceeds goes to the veteran warfighter community. 
  • Michael J. Penney is the co-founder of Cigars and Sea Stories, a podcast devoted to sharing stories with veterans who are adding value to the world. In March of 2016 he presented at TEDxRaleigh, “What’s Your IED: How to Add Value During Life’s Explosive Situations”, combining military and personal experiences to bridge the lives of veterans and civilians. Penney is the creator of the “5 Paragraph Business Plan” – taking the military operations order format and applying it to business. 
  • Few entrepreneurs can say they founded an internet business that grew from zero to a billion dollars in revenue. Chuck Wallace is one of those rare entrepreneurs. In 1999, Wallace co-founded eSurance, a company that not only survived the bubble burst, but thrived and provides a quick and easy way to purchase insurance.  Before starting eSurance, Wallace was a U.S. Air Force pilot who taught undergraduates to fly.

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

 

Research to Expand Veteran Entrepreneurship

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By Debbie Gregory.

A new study is poised to gain insight into the newest generation of veteran entrepreneurs, with the collected data being utilized to develop policies and programs to support their successes.

The study is collaboration between the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) and Bunker Labs, the leading incubator for veteran-owned businesses in America.

This joint research effort will provide insights that will hopefully increase the current rate of veteran entrepreneurship, and increase the success of existing veteran entrepreneurs.

IVMF offers  a number of programs, including the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans Families,  Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, Operation Boots to Business, Boots to Business Reboot, Center of Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship, Coalition for Veteran Owned Business, VETNET, and the VetSmallBiz Challenge.

More than 32,000 veterans, service members and military spouses participated in IVMF programs in 2015.

The IVMF research team will conduct qualitative and quantitative research at Bunker Labs locations across the country. The use of focus groups and surveys will also allow the participation of female veteran entrepreneurs, which is seeing a dramatic increase in numbers.

The research outcome is designed to understand all aspects of veteran entrepreneurship, especially the obstacles and challenges that are involved in the process. The findings will no doubt reveal insights that can be scaled into larger solutions to support the next generation of veteran entrepreneurs.

Funded by the IVMF’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship, the research will create benchmarks that will lay the groundwork to inform the design of future national studies on veteran entrepreneurs. The research this spring will culminate in findings being reported out nationally in summer 2017.

Veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs wanting to participate in the research can learn more here.

President Signs Vet Entrepreneurship Act

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President Signs Vet Entrepreneurship Act

By Debbie Gregory.

When President Obama signed an act to encourage and equip veterans who want to start their own small businesses, the goal was to help veterans navigate financial barriers by waiving the upfront guarantee fee for veterans applying for 7(a) express loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA), thus helping recently discharged service members and other veterans with opportunities to start new businesses.

With 21 million veterans living in the United States, the unemployment rate among this population is substantially higher than the national average. Because of this challenging statistic, more veterans are exploring self-employment opportunities.

The bill, introduced by House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH), has received praise from lenders and veterans alike.

“Our veterans are as entrepreneurial minded as anyone else in the world,” said Chabot. “Think about all that’s required to launch a new business:  strategic planning, tactical expertise, dogged perseverance, and the ability to adjust plans to overcome new challenges at a moment’s notice. This is the American warfighter. Making sure they can access the resources needed to start their own business and build up the communities they’ve protected will do more than just create jobs – it will help them successfully transition into civilian life.”

Rich Bradshaw, President of Specialized Lending at United Community Bank, Blairsville, GA said, “As a lender, a veteran, and an Air Force Academy graduate, helping veterans make a life for themselves and their families once they return home from service is very personal to me. With more veterans returning to American soil, it is essential we do everything we can to bring down barriers to obtaining access to capital as they come back from doing everything they can to protect our country.  Waiving fees for veteran 7(a) borrowers encourages them to open small businesses, create jobs, and boost the economy.”

According to the Small Business Administration, an estimated 10% of all small businesses across the US are veteran-owned.

Tips for Veterans Considering Business Ownership

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VAMBOA Small Business

One reason that many young Americans join the military is to get the chance to excel in a broad range of talents. Many young people complete high school and college, and realize that they have not isolated a singular talent that they want to spend the rest of their working lives doing. With their futures laid out before them, these brave patriots opt for military service as a means of finding an occupation that afford them the opportunity to wear many hats.

When these same patriots complete their contractual term of military service, some find that they still don’t have a desire to work in a field that only utilizes a few of their many skills and talents. Many Veterans choose to become entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is an exciting path for many Veterans, because it provides them with the freedom to be their own boss, while using all of their natural abilities and trained skills.

Similar to military missions, success or failure of a Veteran entrepreneur’s business relies heavily on the individual effort in preparation and execution of a business plan. In creating a business plan, Veteran entrepreneurs need to be sure to research every option, benefit and program available to them as a Veteran small business owner. Contacting the U.S. Small Business Administration, or researching their website at www.sba.gov is the best way to start gathering all of the intel needed to create a business plan. Veterans interested in starting their own businesses should also research the VA website’s portal for Veteran entrepreneurs.

Once a strong business plan has been created, Veteran Entrepreneurs can look into seeking loans and financing. Some of the particulars that Veterans want to look at include the type of credit scoring model their prospective lender uses, the lender’s loan rates, and loan terms. Lenders reputations can be viewed at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) by visiting www.finra.org. And again, the VA and SBA websites are great places to start your research for lenders who have a history of loaning to Veterans.

Veteran entrepreneurs who brave business ownership should take care to find a way to remember that like great military careers, great businesses aren’t made overnight. No one wakes up one morning to find stripes on their sleeves or stars on their collar. Instead they spent years learning the ropes and paying their dues as lower-grade enlisted or officers. The same mindset needs to be kept for entrepreneurship. Your business might start out small and experience struggles and hardships before it establishes itself and its reputation.

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