As we move into November, a month of gratitude, the Small Business Association begins the month by celebrating National Veterans Small Business Week (NVSBW).
We take this opportunity to say “thank you” to our military men and women, and veteran community for serving our country. Now entering its sixth year, NVSBW raises awareness of veteran business ownership and encourages local communities to support their veteran- and military-owned businesses.
At SBA, the Office of Veterans Business Development is devoted exclusively to promoting veteran entrepreneurship and supporting veteran small business owners and their family.
Veterans and transitioning service members can access customized entrepreneur curriculums, in-person classes and online courses to aid them in their small business journey. SBA knows that these resources are valued by our service members’ community.
For example, veteran couple Don (U.S. Navy) and Sheila (U.S. Marine Corps) Richardson started their business, Aspen Communications, with two employees and revenues of $30,000 in 1999. The company focuses on structured cabling and fiber optics, computer networking, network security, surveillance, and phone and video conferencing. Don and Sheila reached out for guidance along the way to the Small Business Development Center at Yavapai College and SCORE for assistance in addressing challenges unique to business and federal contracting. SBDCs and SCORE are SBA resource partners that offer free one-on-one counseling to small business owners. Today, Don and Sheila employ 20 and have revenues exceeding $2 million. Aspen is now a Service Disabled Veteran Owned business with a Federal 8(a) certification and located in a HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone).
SBA encourages veterans and transitioning service members to utilize SBA services. Here are five SBA resources available today to our country’s service members reach the American Dream of owning a business:
1. Transition assistance: SBA and its resource partners support active duty and transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses through Boots to Business, part of the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program. Find a Boots to Business education and training program here: sbavets.force.com/s/.
2. Entrepreneurial training: On your entrepreneurship mission, you may need additional training to help you start, grow, or expand your business. Whether you’re a female veteran, service-disabled veteran, or looking to learn business fundamentals, you can tap into SBA’s entrepreneurial training programs for help. Resource partners include Women’s Business Centers that assist women in starting and growing small businesses; Small Business Development Centers that offer free, one-on-one counseling and low-cost training services; and SCORE a network of thousands of volunteer business counselors around the country that provides free in-person and online counseling as well as educational workshops.
3. Access to capital: It may be time to consider funding options for your business – whether it’s capital to start the company or funding to help you expand. SBA and its network of resources understands that funding and capital may be a barrier for veterans on their mission to start or scale up your business. The network of local offices, resource partners, and organizations is available to help entrepreneurs identify lenders and understand different financing options. SBA’s Lender Match is a free online referral tool that connects small businesses with participating SBA-approved lenders.
4. Government Contracting: Are you looking to pursue government contracting opportunities to help your business grow? At this stage of your mission, SBA and its partners can help you through the Veteran Federal Procurement Entrepreneurship Training Program where you can learn how to navigate the complexities of government contracting. Learn more about government contracting at sba.gov/federal-contracting.
5. SBA district offices can connect you to local SBA resources, mentors and training. Visit sba.gov for more information and to find a local office.
Michael Vallante is a Small Business Administration administrator for Region IX, overseeing the agency’s programs and services in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and Guam.