On November 23, was a roundtable discussion held on zoom with District 6 Representative Derek Kilmer. Also attending was Kilmer staff, veterans who participated in Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) Boots to Business program, and staff from Business Impact NW (BIN) including CEO Joe Sky-Tucker.
The purpose of this discussion was for Boots to Business participants to speak with Rep. Kilmer about how federal government programs impact veteran-owned businesses. Kilmer reported in the meeting that his district has more military veterans than any district represented by a democrat in congress.
“The fact that we have men and women who serve this country, who continue to make this their home, I actually think this is one of our region’s strengths,” Kilmer said. “Part of my interest isn’t just figuring out what Business Impact Northwest is up to in terms of supporting that work, but also trying to figure out how I and our team can be helpful as well.”
Boot to Business is described as an entrepreneurial education and training program offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). It is part of the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program. The program includes steps to evaluate business concepts, principles behind developing a business plan, and information on SBA resources. Those eligible for the class are transitioning service members, including the National Guard and Reserve, and spouses with access to military installation.
Preparing for the transition
Tom, a Boots to Business participant, mentioned that there needs to be additional time for those in the service to find their ground. This includes finding a place to live, getting enrolled in school, and finding a job. Joe Sky-Tucker said that the biggest challenge Business Impact NW runs into is the transition of service members.
“The transition, even with a good transition, is a hard one to make,” said Sky-Tucker. “We generally see about a year before people come back just to get their feet under them.”
Reaching out and making connections
Sky-Tucker believes that there could be more done to support transitioning service members.
“We understand starting a small business is not going to be top of the list for them,” said Sky-Tucker. “We want to be in the back of their mind when they’re ready.”
BIN is working to expand its services to help support the military community more broadly. This involves reaching out to military spouses and other military connected families. Business Impact NW wants to incorporate more branches allowing transitioning service members the opportunity to understand how to run a small business.
Tom commented that BIN has been an asset for him and his family. Because of BIN, they were able to learn how to run a small business.
Sky-Tucker also mentioned that clients forget what resources are accessible until they are exactly ready to start their small business.
“We just have to try and be everywhere all the time, and in some ways to be there to catch people when they’re ready to start a small business,” said Sky-Tucker.
A key ethic within the veteran community is wanting to support other people that came before them or coming out. From Sky-Tucker’s perspective, veterans traditionally say they want to open a small business to help out their fellow veterans.
“We really see our work as also being a resource and connector,” said Sky-Tucker. “If there are other programs or opportunities within the veteran community or even outside of that, we want to connect them into that. Steve [VBOC Director] does a great job of working across with other different veteran organizations and veteran entrepreneurship organizations just to make sure we are creating an ecosystem that is as cohesive as possible.”
To learn more about programs offered through the Veterans Business Outreach Center, check out our website.