A Place to Start: How Can a Veteran Build a Business?
I opened my first business in my home in 1999. It was literally what is known as a kitchen table business. It took over the entire kitchen table, then the spare bedroom, and was moving into the living room when my first deployment came about in 2003. Upon my return, the wife laid down the law; “Make it a real business or stop driving me insane with this.” It was her way of saying it was time to go all in and do it right, and so we did.
The first few years were running and growing very well, better than the average for our industry and the local market even. In less than four years we had moved into a new location that had more than doubled our space, added an additional six full time and five part-time employees, expanded our back of the house services and tripled our available inventory. Life was good, until September of 2009 when a micro burst ripped off 2,000 square foot of our roof, flooded the showroom and shop destroying inventory and our displays. Worst of all, our insurance would not cover the loss of business or damages enough to allow us to recover due to it being an act of god. We were done for.
Fast forward a few years to 2017, I am now retired and bored, filling the time with things that make me smile and kept me in and around the industry. That is when an old service buddy turned me onto a veteran owned non-profit called the Veteran’s Business Builder Program that helps veterans build businesses from concept to full launch. Most importantly they were standing up a new non-profit to help veterans do the same thing, and they needed help with the beta test and launch of the program. Now the parent company has been in business launching new and rebranding and systemizing existing businesses since 2006. With more than 3,000 successful projects under their belt, they have seen just about every type of business imaginable.
Now as a veteran I had seen a lot of the resources available to us to help start a business, there is plenty of free information out there. But even the materials that the Veterans Small Business Development Center gives very little in the way of tangibles. Most places give a bit of coaching, seminars, and lots of motivational videos. The SBA is great at teaching you how to build a business plan, which is great is you plan on making business plans for new companies for a living. But if you only need one plan that you know inside and out it can be a lot of wasted time and frustration. I was frankly over the programs that are lots of hype and motivational videos and not really helping me get the job done.
I was amazed at what is in the program that the Veteran’s Business Builder Program delivered. I said to my wife, “If I had this program available to me back then, we would have a chain of stores now!” Not only do they give a well-rounded education about the way to run a business and how to make it as easy as possible, but they build the business WITH you. While some things are done for you others are done side by side with you. I had a dedicated success manager that was with throughout the entire program. He answered all my questions, was the interface with the backend tech guys that were building my actual webpage and designing my logo and reminded me of important to-do items that I had overlooked. When it was done, I had a fully functioning business.
When I was done with the program, I had:
• An SBA/Investor ready business plan and pitch deck (This also sync’s with the included accounting software for my forecasting and milestone tracking)
• My legal business entity was created with the state and all my employer registration done with the state
• I knew my top 5 Strengths and a certified Gallup Strength Coach gave me coaching to fully understand how I can work within them maximize them in my life
• Logo and branding package
• The company social media page created with the first 20 posts written and scheduled to be published
• This website! (The standard is a 5-page website, ecommerce sights are a slight additional fee)
• One year of accounting software that includes payroll and accountant ready financial exports
• In house (independent of the Veteran’s Business Builder Program) insurance advisor that I wish I had available to me years ago…..
• Dozens of legal and internal business templates for me to customize for my business
• Hundreds of pages of content for me to reference to assist me with running my business
• Hundreds of resource links within the program that is still available to me more than a year after completing the program
The Veteran’s Business Builder Program began when a few veteran small businessmen wanted to pass on their knowledge and experience. They knew that many vets have knowledge and passion but lacked the experience to operate in the business world. VBBP is a place to start. It gives vets the tools to evaluate the value of their knowledge and experience and a path towards starting a business. There is no BS and no pretend. Vets get an honest evaluation of their prospects and solid mentoring and resources.
The program is not free, but the Veteran’s Business Builder Program is working to get the program certified with the VA for the Self-Employment track of their Vocational Rehabilitation program for veteran’s that have a qualifying rating. They are also working on investor/sponsors for veterans that have a solid business idea that an investor sees promise in.
Scholarships are available for disabled veterans which can range from reduced tuition to no cost services. For those that qualify, there is immediate, interest free funding available of up to $250,000 for up to 18 months. That is more than enough to complete the program and open most small businesses (the average cost of opening a business being $30,000 alone).
This program is by far the most comprehensive system that I have ever seen that gives entrepreneurs that education and actual tangibles they need to go from concept to their grand opening. I highly recommend it to any veteran looking to build a business.
Start your journey at veteransbusinessbuilderprogram.org
by Jimmie Smith
Jimmie is a veteran of the Army and Marine Corps with a combat tour in Afghanistan. A true Renaissance man, he has worked in construction, IT, been a gunsmith and run a gun store. He is now a managing partner with DD214 Media. DD214 was launched through the VBBP course.