Entrepreneur dreams – As so many Veterans transition into the civilian world, many find it quite difficult to find employment post service. There are a variety of reasons including medical and mental health, as well as simply not understanding how to navigate the civilian employment system. Entrepreneur dreams might be far in the back of their minds but they may not act on it because they don’t know the process or sources of funding. Well, I’m here to tell you that it IS possible and I truly believe more veterans SHOULD look at being entrepreneurs! Here is my story….
I had a really great job helping Veterans find employment after I left service. Unfortunately, my medical and mental health conditions led to me having to leave that job. I still suffer from severe migraines and I also have battled major depression and severe anxiety most of my adult life. I can “fake it till I make it” but in the end, my condition got the best of me. So I went on unemployment until that ran out and then I started mowing yards and other random side jobs to be able to pay my mortgage. I had applied for social security but (fortunately) they denied me. I say fortunately because I don’t consider myself disabled. I just have a condition that limits some of my activities. So the idea of being my own boss really started running around in my head. One day I was making crafts (one of my forms of therapy) and I was like “Dang, I should make these to sell!” But of course I had no business background, my credit sucked big ones because of poor decisions on my relationship choices, and I had no money in savings. So I got on the internet and YouTube and started researching Veteran Entrepreneur programs and resources. OMG is there a lot of information and resources out there! Every page I landed on led me to more! Then for a moment I got REALLY mad! I had been working Veteran Employment for Texas Veterans Commission for almost 3 years and had no clue about these resources! WTF???
Why did that anger me so? I had met so many veterans over the last couple of years that weren’t able to hold steady jobs due to their conditions but also because employers didn’t want employees that always had doctor appointments. But many of these Veterans had hobbies or tinkered with things on the side – things that could possibly have turned into a revenue stream! Ok, so I got past my anger and decided this was for me. There are MANY resources out there and the majority are FREE OF COST for veterans. I’m going to list a few things that are super important to know if you are even considering being your own boss and don’t know where to start.
Ok, before I head into the list of resources, I want to make sure I put this one very important item here at the top so it doesn’t get lost in this LONG thread. Also, be advised that this specific information is for Veterans registering a business in the STATE OF TEXAS. This is a STATE benefit for veterans of the State of Texas as a result of Senate Bill 1049. Once you are finally ready to file the paperwork to become “official” as a business – meaning applying for your business license, you can get many of the fees waived if you file as a Veteran Owned Business! Now, this doesn’t apply if filing as a sole proprietor, but if you file as an LLC. If you don’t know the difference between a sole proprietor and an LLC, then you definitely aren’t ready to filing for anything but you can read a little on them here and here. So back to the waived fees – to file your Certificate of Formation for an LLC, it would normally cost you about $300 (Texas). Wouldn’t it be great to NOT have to fork up that cash? Well guess what? You may not have to pay it! As long as your business is 100% veteran-owned (can be a single owner that is a veteran or a partnership in which both are veterans), you can file as a Veteran-owned business. There are a couple of documents you will need to file, but once approved, you are not only waived from the filing fees but also waived from paying the franchise tax for the first five years the business is in operation. ***If you have already filed (after January 1, 2016) and didn’t know all this wonderful information and paid the filing fees, guess what?? You can request a refund of the filing fees that you paid! Is that awesome news or what?!
Okie Dokie, I’m just gonna list some of the main places that I found significant and USEFUL information and free resources and/or assistance. Many of these offer free seminars (or really low cost). I highly recommend the SBA’s Boots to Business Reboot and SCORE. I got accepted into the V-WISE program and will be heading to the conference in Kentucky this coming August!
Small Business Development Center (SBDC): I live in Corpus Christi so the link is actually to my SBDC but you should have one in your area as well or at least at the closes larger city. Lot’s of free classes and seminars as well as online courses (fee and free).
SCORE is a wonderful organization that provides free training in business topics as well as provides you with a (free) mentor. These are business professionals who have volunteered to help others with their business endeavors. Really great resource!!!
Small Business Administration: Boots to Business Reboot is a two-part training program on small business ownership as a career vocation that is open to veterans of all eras, Service members including members of the National Guard and Reserves, and their spouses.
Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) – EBV offers cutting edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management to post-9/11 veterans with disabilities resulting from their service to our country. The EBV is designed to open the door to business ownership for our veterans by 1) developing skills in the many steps and activities associated with launching and growing a small business, and by 2) helping you leverage programs and services for veterans and people with disabilities in a way that furthers your entrepreneurial dreams. They will completely fund the cost of attendance, lodging, meals and full transportation
Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) is a premier training program in entrepreneurship and small business management. V-WISE helps women veterans and female military spouses/partners find their passion and learn the business savvy skills necessary to turn an idea or start-up into a growing venture. The three-phases of the program include a 15-day online course (Phase I), 3-day entrepreneurship training event (Phase II), and ongoing mentor-ship, training and support opportunities for graduates launching or growing their business (Phase III).
V-WISE is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the generous philanthropic support of corporate and foundation partners nationwide. The program is open to all women veterans, active duty female service members and female partners/spouses of active service members and veterans who share the goal of launching and growing a sustainable business venture.
Coalition for Veteran Owned Business (CVOB) is a coalition of industry leaders committed to providing innovative solutions and thought leadership to grow and support veteran- and military spouse-owned businesses in communities throughout the nation. How will we do it? By connecting veteran, service member and spouse-owned businesses with organizations, resources and information that will help them start or grow their business and employ veterans and military spouses in their communities.
THE VA – as much as we (veterans) tend to dislike those folks, they do have resources for Veterans in the entrepreneur arena. This one isn’t going to be easy but if you can keep your temper in check and not take NO for an answer, this could very well set you up. I think it is one that any DISABLED veteran eligible for Voc Rehab benefits should look into. But they keep it a secret! I came across a flier/brochure that mentioned it under the Vocational Rehabilitation (Voc Rehab) program so I began researching it. I came across a YouTube video that really help me to understand what I was up against. Now remember, you must be eligible for Voc Rehab benefits in order to qualify for this program. Also, there are two categories of benefits which are based on the severity of your condition which prevents you from gainful employment. The M28R is their manual for all benefits under Voc Rehab. It’s a lot of reading and cross referencing, but it was well worth the time invested to read it because when I went for my first appointment with my counselor, it was ME educating HIM on his own program! So go ahead and start reading that manual and I will come back to this program in another blog post because there is so much to write about it!
Alright, that’s all for tonight!