SBA expands boot camp for vets

Friday - 11/19/2010, 9:08am EST

William Elmore, Associate Administrator, Office of Veterans Business Development, SBA

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Whether it's on a battlefield or in a boardroom, America's veterans are warriors.

William Elmore, Associate Administrator in the Small Business Administration's Office of Veterans Business Development told Federal News Radio "one of the interesting things we've learned over the last 10 years is that veterans do better as entrepreneurs; i.e. veterans are self-employed small business owners at higher rate than any other population in America."

And if there's one thing veterans learn in the service, it's that training can make the difference between failure and completing the mission.

The Small Business Administration and Syracuse University stepping up to help, expanding their Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities by adding two new program.

"Basically," explaind Elmore, "the idea behind both of these programs is to take what we've learned from the EBV model, which is the Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities, and apply it to other parts of our community. So the V-WISE (Women Veterans Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship) program is really targeted to this emerging community of women veterans."

Fifteen to 16 percent of service members are women, said Elmore, and about 7% of veterans are women. The SBA is taking the unique experience and background that women veterans bring to the table and integrate them into "the growing world of women entrepreneurship as well in America."

The second program (Operation Endure & Grow) is really targeted to the Reserve and Guard members who are entrepreneurs and their families. What we know is, and this has been historically the fact, is that when a small business owner serves in the Reserve or Guard, especially since 9/11, the likelihood they're going to be activated is significant and that can have a really negative effect on their small business.

Keeping a business going while the owner is in the warzone is a challenge, for the warfighter and their family, said Elmore. "So we tried to develop a program around that to help not only the Reserve and Guard member, but their family members understand all the nuance, detail and resources available to help them manage that business while the reservist is activated."

The programs include everything a successful entrepreneur needs to know, said Elmore, including building a network, mentors and community. There's an additional emphasis on making sure everyone knows what's available from government whether it's SBA and DOD and on the state and local levels. "We have a couple of special loan products here at SBA, but if you don't know about it, you can't take advantage of it."

While the programs do include instruction on federal contracting, "less than 5% of veterans are interested in the federal marketplace."

Of the 11 million veterans employed right now, said Elmore, "three point six million of those veterans work for themselves either as a small business owner or as the co-owner of a small business with someone else."

Asked why so many veterans are entrepreneurs, Elmore said he could only guess. "It's leadership, it's training, it's skills, it's knowing the real world, it's having a commitment to your fellow soldier and to your country. Military service is a selective process. Not everybody gets in. Not everybody's capable of joining the military," he said. Just as not everybody has what it takes to make a small business a success.

"If you've served two tours in Iraq, you know a lot more about how the real world works than somebody who's in their second of college."