By Bruce Freeman The Small Business Professor
Just recently, my colleague and book partner Karin Abarbanel came across a surprising statistic and brought it to my attention.
Nearly 4 million small businesses across America are owned by veterans. According to the US Small Business Administration, the success rate of veteran-owned businesses is high compared to other business startups.
As women join and leave the military in ever-greater numbers, female vets are a growing segment of the small-business community.
Q: I'm planning to leave the military soon. I'm weighing the idea of launching a small business. As a woman vet, are there any special services available to help me?
A: According to Karin Abarbanel, co-author of "Birthing the Elephant," and contributor to "An American Crisis: Veterans' Unemployment," the answer is yes. Special services and programs do exist, and they're increasing. Women in all branches of the military are launching new ventures and finding success. In many cases, the skills and experience they've gained in leadership training, project management, procurement and technology prove very valuable in surviving the ups and downs of a startup.
Today, the SBA, universities, nonprofits and even major corporations like Citi, Capital One and Wal-mart are recognizing the benefits of helping talented, motivated women vets choose entrepreneurship as a post-military option.
With their targeted training and support, women vets are starting new businesses in fields ranging from IT and cybersecurity to marketing and home organizing.
For the past three years, for example, the nonprofit Count Me In has teamed up with Capitol One to sponsor the Women Veteran Entrepreneur Corps Conference and Competition.
Through this initiative, vets learn about business basics, startup resources, networking, marketing financing, and even have the chance to pitch their business plans and win seed funding. Another recent event, Citi Salutes: Realizing Your Dream Business Competition, invited vets aspiring to become entrepreneurs to submit small-business plans in hopes of receiving a share of $130,000 in seed funding.
In addition to its more than 100 Women's Business Centers around the country, the SBA has resources tailored to women vets, including Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, a program launched by the SBA and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University.
Participants receive online training in business planning, marketing, accounting/finance, operations/production, human resources, and work-life balance.
Ongoing support is provided online and through a network of mentors and partners.
Female vets also have access to targeted funding sources: The SBA's Patriot Express Pilot Initiative offers fast-track funding to vets who want to establish or expand small businesses.
There are also state-level initiatives like the Employ Illinois, Military Reserve Loan. Using www.Business.gov, vets can also identify grants available through the federal government.
For more information, visit: www.veteransunemploymentbook.com ___ ABOUT THE WRITER Bruce Freeman, a small business consultant, is adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Seton Hall and Kean universities. He also is co-author of "Birthing the Elephant: The Woman's Go-For-It Guide to Overcoming the Big Challenges of Launching a Business."