Are you a veteran considering starting your own business? Or maybe you’ve started a business but need more support, knowledge or resources.
The Veterans Business Outreach Centers may be able to help you. Co-director Dan Newberry said many people, including himself, have trouble adjusting to civilian life after leaving the service because they don’t always feel like they belong. He said it’s common for veterans to feel like they immediately need to find a job or go to school after their service, without taking the time to consider what really interests them or where they feel comfortable.
“They don’t get a plan,” Newberry said. “There’s not really a road map.”
Newberry said people who have military backgrounds are often successful business owners.
“Because veterans have a unique skill set that they acquire when they’re in the service, everything from leadership skills, managerial skills, accountability, persistence — that natural grip that they obtain while serving plays really well into becoming a business owner,” he said “It’s a marathon and not a race, and you have to have a level of commitment to see that through and you have to be very goal-oriented.”
Military service members are used to having structure and direction in pretty much all aspects of their lives, Newberry said. Sometimes, people need a nudge in the right direction to find their new momentum as a civilian. That’s what the VBOC intends to do.
The VBOC is part of the Small Business Administration and serves veterans, active-duty service members and their families in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. Its Boots to Business program is a two-day introduction to entrepreneurship training made for transitioning service members. The VBOC also offers a course for post-transition veterans, their spouses and their children.
In addition to the Boots to Business program, the VBOC helps with business writing, access to government contracts, mental health awareness and access to capital.
Newberry said obtaining capital is a common struggle for veterans when they leave the service because they may have a low income or struggle to find sufficient employment. The VBOC is able to connect them with community development financial institutions for loans.
The VBOC also helps veterans who already have businesses started by providing resources to keep their business plans updated. Most training and coaching is being held online at the moment. All services are free.
But one of the biggest offerings at the VBOC, Newberry said, is the supportive relationship between the VBOC and its clients.
“It’s like that camaraderie when you’re serving,” Newberry said. “When you’re in the military you’re constantly bouncing stuff off your battle buddies, and we’re their battle buddies now.”
Newberry and his co-director Makeba Butler are both veteran business owners, so their expertise helps with guiding clients. Newberry said he wants the organization to feel approachable and not intimidating. They act as a sounding board for ideas and road blocks clients have, then help coach them through.
For more information about the VBOC, visit wwbic.com/veterans.