One of the first introductions I had to the entrepreneurial education provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration was attending a Boots to Business Reboot training, a free two-day course for veterans who want to start a business.
As I was talking with different participants and listening to their conversations with each other, I was struck by the incredible connection and support within the veteran community. If you have worked with veteran organizations, you know what I’m talking about. This was the first time the veterans in the room had met each other, yet there was an instant trust, understanding and camaraderie among the group.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all supported our veterans the same way they support each other?
I invite all local community members to join me in honoring veteran entrepreneurs and the contributions they make to economic growth during the fifth annual National Veterans Small Business Week, Nov. 5-9.
Nearly one in 10 small businesses are owned by a veteran. And, veteran-owned small businesses employ 5 million workers and generate $1.1 trillion in receipts. Clearly, the dedication veterans commit to military service continues into business ownership.
The SBA will celebrate and support veteran-owned small businesses through a variety of programs during National Veterans Small Business Week and highlight their inspirational stories on social media with the hashtags #VetBiz and #MyVetBiz.
Stories like Brittni Darbonnier and her husband Shawn Kurtz of Darbonnier Tactical Supply in Oak Harbor. While transitioning out of the military in 2013, Darbonnier and Kurtz realized there was a local need for a tactical supply company. Using Kurtz’s prior experience in tactical supply sales, they started Darbonnier Tactical Supply, or DTS.
Wanting to grow their business with federal contracts, they entered the SBA 8(a) Business Development Program designed to help small businesses grow with government contracting. DTS quadrupled its sales from the end of 2016 to the end of 2017, and grew from two employees to six. They now work with more than 85 military bases and federal agencies throughout the world.
Making the American dream of business ownership a reality for our country’s veterans is a top priority for the SBA and the current administration.
In fact, earlier this month, the president showed his dedication to small businesses and veterans with a donation of his second-quarter salary to the SBA. This donation will go toward helping our nation’s veterans transition from military service to entrepreneurs, specifically to assist the SBA with creating a seven-month intensive entrepreneur training program for veterans.
Together, government efforts are critical to the successful transition process for service members exiting the military and considering entrepreneurship as their next move.
The SBA Office of Veterans Business Development empowers veterans by equipping them, transitioning service members, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses with small business counseling, training and education, access to capital, and contracting opportunities.
For example, at nearby Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, the SBA provides Boots to Business training to nearly 100 transitioning service members every year.
And when those service members transition from military to civilian life, the SBA is ready and honored to serve our veterans during every life cycle of their small business journey.
• Jeremy Field is the regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, Pacific Northwest Region.