America’s Largest Network of Volunteer Business Experts Wants to Mentor Veteran Entrepreneurs

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Retired Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeremy Boucher, a Springfield, Massachusetts, native, pours a drink for a customer at Split Fin Brewery in Midway, Georgia, Sept. 17, 2020. Jeremy and Dr. Kristen Boucher are both Army veterans, and they opened Split Fin Brewing in June 2020. (Sgt. 1st Class Justin A. Naylor/U.S. Army photo)

Veterans are an entrepreneurial bunch. Vets are 45% more likely than non-veterans to start a business, and their military training and experience is a key factor in that fact. The 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses in America are another testament to their entrepreneurial spirit.

A majority of military members past and present say their service helped develop their work ethic and discipline, leadership and management skills and instilled the confidence required of a successful entrepreneur. Anyone who has started a business will tell you these are all qualities necessary to make such a monumental move.

"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," Dr. LaVerne Jackson, a former U.S. Army nurse and SCORE client, told Military.com. "Small business is a good fit for military families, and SCORE has decades of evidence-based practices to share with them."

Yet, no matter how much anyone, veteran or not, wants to start a business, a lot of effort, money and know-how goes into getting one off the ground. A lot of barriers keep budding veteran entrepreneurs from starting their businesses, from access to capital to government regulation.

Having a business expert, perhaps one who is also a veteran entrepreneur, mentor a new startup through these barriers might be the biggest difference between success and failure of a new venture. That's where the nonprofit SCORE comes in.

For the past 50 years, SCORE has been helping veteran entrepreneurs start or grow their businesses by providing resources and mentorship. As a partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, it has become the largest network of volunteer business experts in the country.

No matter what kind of business an entrepreneur is starting, or what the veteran status of that entrepreneur might be, SCORE connects new startups to the resources and mentors that will benefit them most. For new veteran business owners, however, SCORE has more in store.

SCORE launched its Small Business Hub for Veterans to help military-connected business owners translate their military skill to success in the business world. It is bringing all the available resources together in one place while pairing them with mentors who can help guide them to that success.

Along with the barriers faced by all entrepreneurs, veterans face unique challenges, according to SCORE data. Veterans are more concerned about government regulation, creating a customer base and having close connections to their communities than non-veterans. That's why mentorship programs like SCORE's are so important.

"When you go to the SCORE website, you can actually choose different mentors from the list," Fanni Xie, an Army veteran and owner of Appleton, Wisconsin's Uni Uni Bubble Tea, said in a statement. "You can see their credentials, their experiences. You can be matched with the one that can help you most. SCORE is a starting point for your business."

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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