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Be Your Own Boss


Noah Currier participating in the 2011 National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News January 2015

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program features several service tracks for veterans, including a track for self-employment.

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When U.S. Marine and paralyzed veteran Noah Currier decided to start a T-shirt company several years ago, initiative and uncertainty shared the same space in his mind.

Currier’s combat experience in the Battle of Fallujah and months of rehabilitation following his spinal-cord injury had prepared him for a lot of challenges, but launching an apparel company with little business experience or education wasn’t one of them — or so some thought.

Today, the president and CEO of the Oscar Mike company is celebrating his third year in business with a brand that has captured the attention of a growing number of investors and competitors alike.

Often Overlooked

It’s no secret the benefits of owning your own business are countless.

Entrepreneurship can offer the freedom and flexibility to achieve a healthy balance between work, family and personal responsibilities, a balance many employees struggle to maintain today.

What better way to increase income potential and orchestrate your own success story than by pursuing a passion while remaining true to personal values and beliefs?

Small businesses have become a driving force in today’s domestic and global economy. Entrepreneurs have contributed significantly to the economic growth in the U.S., employing nearly 5.8 million Americans and generating more than $1.2 trillion in revenue.

Surprisingly, entrepreneurship is often overlooked as a viable post-service career option for veterans and transitioning service members.

The Right Information

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program features several service tracks for veterans, including a track for self-employment.

However, a recent audit of services revealed that less than 1% of all VR&E participants receive this help.

While the primary goal of a vocational rehabilitation counselor is to help veterans prepare for, find and maintain suitable employment, many discourage veterans from pursuing entrepreneurship and redirect them to more traditional employment options.

Often, it’s because of a lack of the counselor’s ability to properly analyze the feasibility of a proposed venture or the inability to provide the right development tools and resources to set the veteran on the right track.

It’s vital both counselors and veterans are armed with the right information to ensure sound decision-making as they explore all post-

service vocational options.

Many veterans and transitioning service members already possess the skills needed to become successful entrepreneurs. In fact, the most recent U.S. Census data reports that almost 10% of existing small business owners are veterans.

While the benefits of business ownership for veterans are enticing, there are also risks and challenges that deter many veterans from pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors.

No Shortage Of Resources

The most common deterrent for any entrepreneur is getting started.

How to finance a business endeavor, managing business operations and finding the right time and approach to break into a new business or buying a franchise are all common barriers to entrepreneurship.

Today, there’s no shortage of information or resources available for potential entrepreneurs. Nonetheless, sorting through the ocean of information online or in the community to find the most effective programs and resources can be a daunting and confusing process.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) paves the way for veterans and military families by providing direct support and access to entrepreneurial training and counseling programs. Many of these resources are available at no charge.

The SBA offers three entrepreneurship training programs designed specifically for veterans:

-Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities

-Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship

-Boots to Business

In addition, the SBA connects veterans and family members to reputable local resources, training programs and lenders who can provide the financial support needed to pursue the dream of business ownership.

With more than 21 million veterans in the United States and the additional 250,000 service members transitioning annually, now is the time to consider whether entrepreneurship is the right career option for you. It was for Currier.

For more information on these programs, training and resources available for veteran entrepreneurs, visit sba.gov.

Shelly Edwards is associate director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America PAVE (Paving Access for Veterans Employment) Program.

 

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