As we mark 10 years of National Veterans Small Business Week (NVSBW), we celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit of the nation’s veterans, service members — including National Guard and Reserve members — and their military spouses. They are resilient, innovative and driven — all essential qualities that make successful entrepreneurs.
Over the past 10 years, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has witnessed the significant contributions military-owned small businesses make to their local communities and economies and remains committed to supporting veteran and military spouse small business owners at every stage of their business journey.
NVSBW, held annually the first week of November, showcases the military community’s accomplishments in entrepreneurship. This NVSBW, we will look back on a decade of celebrating America’s veteran and military spouse business owners. However, the SBA has supported veteran-owned businesses since its establishment in 1953. With the help of SBA resources, military-owned businesses have grown and flourished over time. Through local district offices, resource partners and other veteran organizations, SBA provides support — including disaster assistance and recovery resources — entrepreneurial training programs (ETP) for veterans and local assistance resources. During NVSBW, you can attend virtual events across the country, connect with local resource partners and learn about tools to help small businesses start, grow, expand or recover.
In 2013, 24-year Navy veteran Michael Stacks was transitioning out of the military and ready to begin the next chapter of his life with his wife, Kerrie. Michael and Kerrie had always dreamed of opening a brewery to honor Michael’s father and grandfather, who were lifelong home brewers. To turn their dream into a reality, Michael and Kerrie knew they needed assistance starting a business and contacted their local Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC). By working with their VBOC and applying concepts from the Boots to Business entrepreneurship course, Michael and Kerrie created a business and financial plan and officially launched Bold Mariner Brewing in 2015. Bold Mariner quickly developed a following and its signature beer was selected as the “beer of choice” for the Virginia Governor’s Mansion.
In the years following the launch of Bold Mariner, Michael and Kerrie continued to keep in touch with their local VBOC to receive business counseling and mentorship. Because of their VBOC’s help, Michael and Kerrie were able to swiftly apply for an Economic Injury and Disaster Loan, allowing Bold Mariner to weather the COVID-19 pandemic. The continued advice and assistance of the SBA and their local VBOC helped Michael and Kerrie turn Bold Mariner into a successful brewery. Ten years after opening for business, Bold Mariner continues to experience 30% growth each year and has moved to a new production facility to accommodate demand. Michael and Kerrie are now shipping Bold Mariner products to international markets.
Michael and Kerrie are helping other veteran-owned businesses support our economy and find the SBA resources they need to succeed. Currently, they have partnered with Chris Fettes, a Navy veteran and owner of Be Free Craft Ice Cream, to sell the ice cream in their brewery. Michael and Kerrie have connected Chris with the SBA so he can utilize the same resources they did to achieve success.
Terra Smith, military spouse and veterinarian, saw the need to make veterinary services more convenient for her rural community. She decided to develop her own mobile veterinary clinic business, DocTerra , which would provide services at clients’ homes. Her husband, a Marine Corps veteran, suggested she explore business resources for military spouses. Terra connected with her local VBOC at Fayetteville University, which provides entrepreneurship training to the military community, including veterans, active duty and military spouses. They helped her develop a business plan and assisted her in accessing capital to get her business started. One of Terra’s first steps was to convert a church bus into a mobile clinic, which would allow her to travel directly to her clients in the community. The VBOC also helped her obtain an SBA-backed loan and access ongoing support as her business grew. Terra credits her VBOC with helping her start DocTerra from a position of strength.
Business owners like Michael, Kerrie and Terra are examples of the military community’s work ethic and dedication. As we celebrate 10 years of NVSBW, you can explore the resources they used and take the next steps on your own small business journey.
For more information about NVSBW, check out National Veterans Small Business Week . You can also join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #NVSBW23.