Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day is for All Veterans

Most Americans will be taking today off to celebrate Memorial Day. The official function of Memorial Day is to honor the men and women of the United States who have fallen while serving our nation’s military service. I raise my arm in salute to all of them!

I also want to extend my appreciation to all the other veterans who have spent time serving and protecting our country. Now as they return home and transition back into civilian life, many are wondering what their next steps will be.

For over 20% percent of them, that will mean starting or purchasing a new business, according to an article by Megan Dorn in
Small Business Week: Veterans in Business. Veterans already own about 15% of America’s small businesses — that’s approximately 4 million veteran-owned companies. So where are veterans getting their entrepreneurial spirit from?

Well, entrepreneurs are known for their willingness to take risks for something they believe in (their businesses), as is also the case for members of the military. While on active duty they are willing to risk their lives because they believe in their country.

More than one-third of "new veteran-entrepreneurs" and current veteran business owners have obtained skills from their active duty service that were directly relevant to business ownership. This should come as no surprise when you consider the intensity of discipline that comes with military training.

“Veterans make great entrepreneurs,” Carl Schramm, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation said in an article. “They bring exceptional focus, leadership and tenacity—all hallmarks of successful entrepreneurs.”

If you are a veteran and an entrepreneur, you should know that the Small Business Association (SBA) offers specific services to veterans, including its Community Express Loan program and the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative. In addition, eligible veterans can use their Montgomery GI Bill for entrepreneurship training and business classes.

According to the SBA, veteran’s business development officers in the SBA district offices can help you prepare and plan for your enterprise. Its Veterans Business Outreach Centers are designed to provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling, e-based assistance, and mentoring to eligible veterans.

There are four Veterans Business Outreach Centers around the country specifically charged with helping the veteran population start and grow businesses. They're located in Albany, New York; Herndon, Virginia; Lynnhaven, Florida; and Edinburg, Texas. To find out which states each center serves, go to the
SBA website.

Actually, joining an existing startup is one of the best ways to develop your entrepreneurial skills. Start by networking to get to know some founders personally. In addition, you should use the standard resources for identifying job opportunities at small companies, like Craigslist.org or Monster.com. You can also visit websites of new companies as a starting point.

In closing, I hope all of you are taking some time off with your family and having a good Memorial Day Weekend. First and foremost, remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice that we may enjoy our freedoms. As we all know, freedom is never free.

Marty Zwilling


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