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The Next Mission: Starting a Veteran-Owned Small Business

Realizing the dream of owning your own business has always been an important part of the American experience. Not everyone actually attempts it, of course. But the economic freedom to cast off the chains of an employer and chart your own course as the owner of your own business or practice is as important to the idea of America as the freedom of worship and the freedom of expression.

As a service member or veteran, you have a number of innate advantages over many who don’t share that experience: You know you can wake up early in the morning, endure hardships, and take risks in support of the mission. You’ve also seen some great managers at work, hopefully, in your NCOs and officers over the years. You’ve probably also seen some poor ones.

But veterans have another more direct advantage in the competitive business marketplace: Preferential treatment on the part of government procurement officers – not just for veteran and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, but also for larger businesses who themselves subcontract with them.

In fact, the federal government often sets aside some procurement contracts specifically for veteran and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, if they think there is one out there who can successfully do the job.

What’s more, procurement officers are under pressure themselves – they need to fulfill a quota of their own: At least 42 percent of government procurement is supposed to flow to qualified small businesses, women-owned businesses, veteran or disabled veteran-owned businesses, minority-owned businesses, 8(a) HUBZone businesses, etc. And more specifically, the federal government has announced that each government is tasked with meeting the goal of having 3 percent of its total contract awards go to service-connected disabled veteran-owned business.

Baby Steps

If you’re not already in business, you’re not going to land a coveted spot in the GSA Schedule tomorrow. But if you have a business, or you are planning to start one soon, there are some steps you can take to start taking advantage of your veteran status.

Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Disabled Vets

Disabled? You might check out the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp Program for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV). The program consists of an online self-study curriculum, followed by an online discussion module. Phase II is an intense 9-day in-person seminar on navigating business startup issues, government procurement processes, management and finance specifically for those who have service-related disabilities in the post 9/11 era. The program is free to the veteran – it’s actually resourced by a number of universities around the country, as well as by private donations.

Once you have all that done, you’ll be certified as a veteran-owned or disabled-veteran-owned small business. That will get you moving, but it won’t, by itself, bring in any revenue.

By Jason Van Steenwyk

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