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Op-Ed: SBA initiatives support veterans’ entrepreneurial success

Every day, tens of thousands of American troops risk their lives and sacrifice time with their families to protect our national security and keep us safe. Through their strength and commitment, they protect our nation, liberties, freedom and way of life.

The Defense Department keeps our military members safe while serving; and once our heroes return home, the Department of Veterans Affairs cares for them. Many are, however, surprised to learn that the U.S. Small Business Administration also plays a role in helping our nation’s service members transition back into civilian life.

For a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, reintegrating into civilian life can be challenging. The transition from uniformed duty to civilian status is not just a change of jobs, it’s a change in virtually every aspect of a life: careers, responsibilities, homes, communities, lifestyle, training and more. If service members have families, the transition will also mean big changes for spouses and children.

That’s why the SBA is here to help the more than 105,000 military veterans living in Puerto Rico.

Armed with a $100,000 award from President Donald Trump’s salary for the second quarter of 2018, our agency has partnered with the Veteran Entrepreneurial Training and Resource Network to establish a pilot training program for military veterans and their immediate family members who are small business owners. This new program will equip these entrepreneurs with the resources and networks necessary to grow their ventures.  

This VETRN “MBA” program, which is taught nationally, kicks off with a 26-week program in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and includes 13 weeks of class time and 13 weeks of peer-to-peer mentoring. These Saturday morning classes of 12 to 20 participants include strategic planning, financial management, cash flow forecasting, marketing, sales methods, human resources, growth plans, access to capital, legal issues, and government contracting.

When you consider the leadership and management skills our veterans develop while on active and reserve duty, it’s no wonder so many of them choose the path of small business ownership — and succeed.

Applicants for this pilot program must be a veteran or immediate family member of a veteran, a current business owner with at least one year of operation and one employee (not including the owner) and have annual revenues of $75,000 or more. Also required: passion, dedication and commitment. Applications for the September 2019 program can be found at the VETRN website or by sending email.

If you can’t make it to the New Hampshire training, other VETRN MBA programs will take place closer to home. You can even start now by taking advantage of the many veterans programs and services the SBA offers every day.

For example, our Veterans Business Outreach Center provides entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, vets, Guard & Reserve members and military spouses. The SBA has 22 organizations participating in this cooperative agreement.

George Washington once said that “the willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”

At the Small Business Administration, we firmly believe in that and are doing more than ever to support our nation’s heroes.

Author Steve Bulger is the Regional Administrator for the SBA’s Atlantic Regional Administrator, serving the States of New York, New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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