HERNDON, Va. – For over 45 years, SCORE has been helping Americans start and grow small businesses. Now, thanks to a partnership with the Wal-Mart Foundation, veterans interested in entrepreneurship have an edge in taking advantage of SCORE's resources.
The Veteran Fast Launch Initiative
In April 2011, SCORE got involved in the White House's Joining Forces initiative, led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. This national program is designed to have Americans come together to support our nation's military family, giving them the opportunities and support they have earned.
Through a generous grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation, SCORE has been providing current and retired members of the military and their family with funding to attend a SCORE workshop series on how to start a business for free.
In addition, through relationships with other national partners, the initiative provides program participants with free or discounted software and tools. All SCORE clients receive free mentoring services from their knowledgeable and highly experienced pool of mentors located in over 360 chapters nationwide
Veterans Helping Veterans
Some SCORE mentors have a unique perspective when advising current or former military members. Walt Abbott, a mentor with the SCORE Washington D.C. chapter, knows the benefits of the Veteran Fast Launch program firsthand. He served as an army specialist in Vietnam from 1955-1956.
"As with all the people SCORE mentors, military personnel have preconceived ideas about starting their own business," says Abbott, who regularly speaks to current and former military members about entrepreneurship. "The Veteran Fast Launch program gives them the opportunity to test drive their business concepts risk and financially free to determine if their passion and ideas are ready to justify taking the next steps."
Jerry Musselman, the chapter chair at SCORE Colorado Springs, takes pride in the success of the Veteran Fast Launch initiative. As a former Air Force pilot, he has worked hard to implement the initiative in his region, which has a very heavy military population.
"For our Colorado Springs community, the Veteran Fast Launch program has enabled us to double the amount of clients going through our workshop program," says Musselman. "We have several clients who are about to embark on their business venture."
A Vision to Help Small Businesses
Dr. LaVerne Jackson is a SCORE client who knows the benefits that military experience can have on entrepreneurship.
"The military teaches discipline, structure and decision-making based upon evidence rather than assumption. Also, the military system requires flexibility and stamina in the face of adversity," says Jackson, a U.S. military veteran who spent eight years as an Army nurse. "Small business is a good fit for military families, and SCORE has decades of evidence-based practices to share with them."
Jackson, who resides in Alton, Ill., became interested in entrepreneurship and small business development as she watched our nation's economic challenges during the recession that began in 2008. She feels that small businesses are the heart of the American people, and the economic growth that these ventures can create has the ability to lead to brighter days for communities across America.
"Small business means success stories for everyday men, women and children," says Jackson. "It means a nation that has re-engineered itself with people, not profit, as their focal point."
Because of the benefits that small businesses bring to their communities and the skills that the military gave her, Jackson wanted to pursue entrepreneurship and help the economy rehabilitate. Through the Veteran Fast Launch program, Jackson attended a five-week SCORE workshop series to learn the basics of starting a small business.
"Through SCORE, I learned the process for developing a small business as well as the day-to-day realities of small business development," claims Jackson, who now understands the challenges of business ownership. "There are differences between an idea and a good business concept. Having this education and knowledge allows aspiring small business owners to be successful."
With SCORE's help, Jackson opened a small business incubator to help community residents pursue their dream of being a small business owner. Jackson's company offers office space at affordable prices, and they support their tenants with resources such as Internet, use of basic office equipment, mentoring, training seminars and referral to other critical resources.
Jackson is grateful for the Veteran Fast Launch program and accredits her success to the hard-working mentors in her SCORE chapter.
"I hope that SCORE will continue to be there to assist families to pursue their dreams and invest in America's greatest resource: Americans!"
Active Duty Military Benefit from SCORE's Resources
The Veteran Fast Launch program has assisted numerous military members who are still on active duty. Sgt. 1st Class William Seifert has been in the military since 1987. He is currently assigned to Fort Carson, Colo., and he has previously served in the Marine Corps.
Seifert has had a rewarding military career, but he always had the desire to be a business owner.
"While serving in the Army, I was given many opportunities to pursue my education. Therefore, I decided to go to school for business," says Seifert, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration in March 2010.
Once he finished college, Seifert starting researching information on starting his own business. Through the Small Business Administration (SBA) website, he discovered SCORE and signed up for a free workshop for military members through the Colorado Springs chapter.
"Usually, when you see 'free' programs, they are very basic and uninformative. This class was not like that at all," claims Seifert. "There was so much information available that I knew I needed more time and help to explore starting up a business of my own."
After that, he was told that SCORE Colorado Springs offered a series of advanced workshops that he could attend, but there was a cost. Seifert knew that if he wanted to start a successful business, he needed more training.
"This is where the Veterans Fast Launch initiative came in. One of the mentors told me about the limited availability of funds through this program, so I immediately found the website and signed up for my voucher," says Seifert, who found SCORE's resources valuable and necessary to his business venture. "My voucher paid for the workshop series, and I am so thankful for the private organizations that fund the Veterans Fast launch program."
Seifert completed the advanced workshop series, and he continues to attend mentoring sessions with SCORE volunteers.
"Starting a business is not an overnight process, and you need to build a solid foundation of knowledge before you can get your business up and running," says Seifert. "The Veteran Fast Launch program helped me by setting me on the right path with knowledgeable individuals to guide me. I am very grateful."
Through the education he received from SCORE, Seifert and his wife have started the American Patriots Training Academy. This organization focuses on training American citizens on gun safety and marksmanship.
"SCORE has helped me get started on the right path to fulfill a dream that not everyone gets a chance at. I am extremely grateful," says Seifert.
"After serving this great nation, I now have the opportunity to serve it once again through my business."
How to Get Involved
The Veteran Fast Launch initiative provides veterans, active duty military members, their spouses and members of their immediate family with:
More information about the Veteran Fast Launch initiative can be found at vetsfastlaunch.org.
Since 1964, SCORE has helped more than 9 million aspiring entrepreneurs. Each year SCORE helps launch 58,000 new businesses and create 71,000 jobs. SCORE provides small business mentoring and workshops to more than 375,000 new and growing small businesses annually.
For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800/634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org. Connect with SCORE at www.facebook.com/SCOREFans and www.twitter.com/SCOREMentors.