This week, the Small Business Administration celebrates veteran-owned small businesses’ entrepreneurial spirit and resilience with its eight annual National Veterans Small Business Week.
“We were really proud of the connection that we have to the veteran’s community in helping them transition to entrepreneurship,” SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman told Military Times. “And want to keep on working to amplify those programs.”
According to Guzman, nearly 1.8 million veteran entrepreneurs are a “driving force” in the U.S. economy and employ almost 4 million people while generating roughly $1 trillion on an annual basis.
The SBA is hosting a week of in-person and virtual events around the country to promote this contribution and inform veterans who aspire to open a small business. According to Guzman, the objective of these events is two-fold. First, the SBA seeks to educate veterans on the “extensive” opportunities the organization has for veterans to access capital, a key to starting a business. Additionally, Guzman said that the SBA seeks to plug veterans into networks that are key to supporting their business ventures.
“Specifically, the networks are using what’s key to building those bridges to those resources,” Guzman said. “And making sure that the businesses are positioned and ready to get capital or to or to get those opportunities.”
Integral to building these networks, according to Guzman, are 22 Veterans Business Outreach Centers, which spread across the nation at a mixture of military installations and universities. According to the SBA, VBOCs offer entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling, and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard & Reserve members, and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business.
Additionally, VBOCs offer a specialized program to transitioning service members called “Boots to Business.” Since its establishment in 2013, Boots to Business has trained and graduated more than 143,955 service members, veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses.
“We want to make sure that veterans know there are customized programs that will support them,” Guzman said. “In understanding their unique journey and unique skill sets to be able to leverage that for an entrepreneurial dream.”
Guzman also highlighted a pilot Community Navigator program that seeks to elevate aspiring entrepreneurs in underserved communities by connecting them with targeted local assistance. The program includes financial aid, capital access, guidance regarding contracting and procurement, marketing assistance, and industry-specific training.
Although the Community Navigator pilot program is an SBA-wide initiative seeking to connect under-served communities writ large, Guzman said that the SBA has recently opened a specific community navigation center at Syracuse University.
“What SBA is trying to do is build up a comprehensive set of resources,” Guzman said. “To really help power all of our entrepreneurs and level the playing field.”
While NVSBW ends on Friday, Guzman and the SBA want veterans to know that programs to enable their success in the private sector are available year-round and exist to empower them as they embark on their journey into the civilian world.
“It’s a front door to endless resources for entrepreneurs, more customized through the lens of a veteran’s perspective,” Guzman said.
If you’re a veteran seeking to start your own business, Guzman said to head to www.sba.gov to check out tools available and begin the process of being connected to programs and opportunities in your area. Further, to see a list of NVSBW events in your area or that you might want to attend virtually, head over to www.sba.gov/national-veterans-small-business-week.
James R. Webb is a rapid response reporter for Military Times. He served as a US Marine infantryman in Iraq. Additionally, he has worked as a Legislative Assistant in the US Senate and as an embedded photographer in Afghanistan.