Veteran turned business owner…that seems to be a common theme these days. For the men and women of the U.S. military, returning to civilian life is often bittersweet. Veterans who have left the U.S. military in the past 10 years are facing an unemployment rate of 12.1 percent, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The lessons learned from military service: leadership, teamwork, problem solving, and hands on practical experience are the same attributes needed to succeed in business. These skills combined with the challenging employment conditions and SBA loan advantages, it only makes sense that nearly a quarter of newly discharged veterans consider starting their own businesses.
Over three years ago, the U.S. Small Business Administration launched a pilot loan program, called Patriot Express, dedicated to assisting veterans and spouses of veterans turn their small business dreams a reality.
Patriot Express loans can be used to start or expand a small business and is offered by SBA’s network of participating lenders, featuring SBA’s lowest interest rates for business loans.
In honor of Veteran’s Day, Joe McClure, Montana District Director for the U.S. Small Business Administration, visited a local veteran-owned small business and Patriot Express recipient, RoughStock Distillery in Four Corners near Bozeman.
Owners Bryan and Kari Schultz led a tour through the RoughStock Distillery facility - the first legal Montana whiskey distillery since Prohibition – and educated McClure about the production process which involves mixing, mashing, fermenting and aging.
Schultz pointed out that one of the biggest difficulties in getting started was the lack of knowledge of making whiskey (as it’s illegal to home produce), so it was definitely a process of “learn as you go.”
One thing they knew from the start (both Bryan and Kari are fourth-generation Montanan’s); they wanted to use Montana’s agriculture in their whiskey. “We have world class grains right here in Montana,” Schultz said with enthusiasm. “Why wouldn’t we put it to good use in our whiskey products?”
RoughStock made a name for themselves in the whiskey market because of the uniqueness of using local Montana barley rather than the usual corn or rye. As the popularity of Single Malt Montana Whiskey grew, RoughStock introduced four other whiskey varieties including Black Label, Spring Wheat Whiskey, Straight Rye Whiskey and Sweet Corn Whiskey.
RoughStock has exceeded everyone’s expectations, including owners Bryan and Kari. Their five year goal was to reach regional markets outside Montana such as Idaho and Colorado, however in three short years RoughStock’s market reaches across the U.S and international markets including Canada and Europe.
In the beginning the Schultzes used their own start-up cash along with a small SBA Patriot Express loan from Big Sky Western Bank. Then, after developing a fine-tuned product, which took the whiskey market by storm, the Schultzes returned to Big Sky Western Bank to help with expansion. RoughStock then acquired another Patriot Express loan to purchase a double still that will shorten the usual one week process of distilling down to one day.
“I’m excited SBA can be a part of this great opportunity for the Schultzes and RoughStock to make history,” said McClure, SBA District Director. “RoughStock is a unique business that puts Montana on the map in the whiskey industry and uses Montana’s greatest resources to feature a great product.”
If you are a veteran or qualifying military member interested in starting or expanding your own business, contact the SBA today at 406.441.1081. Let SBA help turn your dreams into a reality! Learn more by logging onto www.sba.gov.
Who May Apply for These Business Loans:
o Service-disabled veterans
o Active duty service members
o Reservists and National Guard Members
o Current spouse of a veteran or service member
o The widowed spouse of a service member who died during service or as a result of a service disability
What kinds of businesses? Applies to both start-ups and established businesses.
What can the loan be used for? For most business purposes, including start-up, expansion, equipment, cash flow, payroll, overhead, working capital, or inventory.