Our veterans, recently home from Iraq and Afghanistan, have worked exceptionally hard, taken big risks and persevered emotionally and physically in a hostile and challenging arena. Tours of duty present split-second decision making, courage and risk of life and limb. But these qualities are the fabric that makes up our warriors. These characteristics are well matched to those an entrepreneur needs to start his own business.
It’s only logical that returning veterans, especially officers would be a natural as successful small-business owners. The most recent census shows that there are 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses that employ nearly 6 million people in the U.S. today.
There are many ways the federal government and the state of Pennsylvania are currently helping vets realize this dream of owning their own business. There are low interest loans from the Small Business Administration and free advice from business experts. Veterans can learn about workable business plans, financial and tax issues and get answers to the many questions that face a new business owner.
The SBA “Boots to Business” program helps our veteran’s transition from soldier to business owner. There is a special program for disabled vets with extra support that includes training, covered expenses and free business consultation for a year. There also are programs for members of the National Guard and reservists.
In Philadelphia, there is a program for disabled vets who want to create a business in the finance industry. In Pittsburgh, veterans take a training camp to become entrepreneurs. That’s just two of many options to help our veterans launch their own small business. The federal government and Pennsylvania offer preference to disabled-veteran businesses when bidding on state contracts.
Here at the National Federation of Independent Business, we have many members who are successful veteran small-business owners. We hope newly returning vets will seriously consider starting a small business as one option when they make the transition back to civilian life. Welcome home and thank you for your service.
Kevin Shivers is executive state director for the National Federation of Independent Business.