Each year, more than a quarter of a million U.S. armed forces members leave military service, and many will look to take the plunge and start their own businesses.
Such "vetpreneurs" don’t have to go it alone, due to an array of programs designed to help vets learn to launch and run their own companies.
Transition services available at bases like Davis-Monthan Air Force Base allow departing service members to explore post-military career options including entrepreneurship.
Once separated, service members can take advantage of mostly free help from agencies including the U.S. Small Business Administration, local Small Business Development Centers, the SBA-partnered mentoring group SCORE and other local agencies.
Those agencies have served veterans for decades, but in 2012 the SBA launched “Operation Boots to Business: From Service to Startup,” to boost outreach and business training to vets.
The program features conferences to introduce veterans to business opportunities and connect them with training and mentoring through partner groups like SCORE.
Last month, a Boots to Business conference was hosted in Tucson by the Microbusiness Advancement Center and Small Business Development Center.
John Wiles, president of SCORE Southern Arizona and a retired Air Force pilot, said his group and others visit Davis-Monthan four times a year to speak as part of the base’s transition program for departing service members.
Veterans are often seen as desirable employees because of their training, discipline and leadership experience, and that translates to entrepreneurship as well, said Wiles, who flew 100 combat sorties during the Vietnam War.
“Military training provides sort of a distinctive sense of doing what needs to be done to accomplish the mission,” Wiles said.
BUSINESS HELP FOR VETS
Arizona Small Business Development Centers - Veterans Assistance Portal
An entry point for local vets with links to many government programs
Microbusiness Advancement Center/ SBDC
330 N. Commerce Park Loop, Suite 160
SCORE Southern Arizona
1400 W. Speedway
U.S. Small Business Administration
Veteran-owned business page, including information on special SBA business loans to veterans
U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs
Includes information on government contractor preferences available to veteran-owned businesses
Operation Endure and Grow
SBA-sponsored online entrepreneurship training for guard and reserve military members and family.
Kino Veterans' Workforce Center, 2801 E. Ajo Way; 740-4636
Opened in 2012 by Pima Count OneStop Career Centers, in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Labor, Defense and Veterans Affairs; the Arizona Departments of Veterans Services and Economic Security; Pima Community College and local nonprofits and employers.