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We’ll Be Their “Wingman”

Are you a self-starter? Do you have a general-management skill set? Are you used to constantly changing roles and responsibilities? Are you disciplined and focused? Are you risk-tolerant and able to manage stress?

These are the threshold questions that SBA counselors ask every day to help prospective entrepreneurs assess if they have what it takes to be a successful small business owner. And when those questions are put to veterans of the U.S. armed forces, they often get “yes” replies.

The military has a track record of producing outstanding leaders, which helps explain why nearly 1 in 10 U.S. entrepreneurs are veterans. Statistics show that vets are 45 percent more likely to be their own boss than their non-veteran counterparts. Veterans own 2.5 million American businesses that employ more than 5.8 million people. These companies generate more than $1 trillion in sales a year. (That’s a staggering sum. You could pay the salaries of 57 million Army privates with a trillion dollars.)

Our veterans have worked hard and made so many sacrifices for our country. They have put themselves in harm’s way and often must leave their families behind to keep America safe. At the SBA, we have a solemn duty to work as hard for them as they’ve worked for us. No one deserves to live the American Dream more than those who’ve put on a uniform and fought to defend it.

On Tuesday, I attended the "Boots to Business" program at the Pentagon. In a small classroom of students, primarily service members transitioning out of the Air Force, the SBA put on a two-day “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” course that focused on how to translate military experience into succeeding as a small business owner. I was inspired by the power and diversity of these heroes’ dreams: aspirations to open a medical practice, a flight services engineering firm, a cybersecurity company, a photography business, a veterinarian practice, and a barbecue restaurant, to name just a few.

This year, the SBA will train 15,000 transitioning service members and introduce them to the basics of business ownership. After the two-day intro class, SBA offers an intensive eight-week course to help these leaders evaluate their business concept and develop viable business plans. SBA then continues to provide guidance through our resource partner network in communities across America by offering one-on-one assistance to assess and mitigate risk, comply with regulations, access financing and create new jobs.

I’ve started three businesses, and I know it can often seem like a lonely road. But there are resources available; you just need to know where to look. In the military, you get used to being part of a team … and not just any team, but the finest team in the world: the United States Armed Forces. I promised the members of that class – and I extend this promise to all veterans – that if they pursue their dreams of opening a new business, they won’t be alone. The SBA will be right by their side, offering counselingcontracting opportunities, and access to capital.

The SBA will be their wingman, fighting for them and with them, every step of the way.

Publication Date (Future dating allowed): 
Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 12:15pm