A late season Nor’easter threatened to derail our annual event; but if any group would rally after a storm to support each other it would be the military community.
Over 215 Veteran small business owners, military spouses, government agency representatives, prime contractors, commercial vendors and elected officials converged on the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA for the 13th Annual Veterans in Business Conference (VIB). What began with a handful of volunteers and a 50 seat training room has grown into the premier Veteran entrepreneurship conference in the Metro DC region.
The showcase event of the Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) and Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Community Business Partnership (CBP), the Veterans in Business Conference provides relevant education, networking and business opportunities for Veteran small business owners seeking to conduct business with commercial vendors as well as local, state and federal government agencies. This year’s theme – “Igniting Business Success!” – emphasized the importance of teaming, partnering and mentor-protégé relationships; as well as having a diversified pipeline of business opportunities.
Following the National Anthem, the conference kicked off with opening remarks by Dr. Gerald Gordon (President & CEO, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority) and a keynote address by Staci Redmon (Founder & CEO, Strategy and Management Services). Both speakers were optimistic about opportunities for Veteran small business owners in Fairfax County (home to 12,000 Veteran-owned small businesses) and the metro DC area. Staci particularly emphasized the benefits of working with the SBA small business resource partners throughout all phases of business; and importance of “giving back” to the community.
The attendees then dispersed throughout the conference sight to network, visit the exhibitor’s hall and attend a variety of workshops designed for both start-up and existing government contractors. Topics included: Teaming and Partnering, Access to Capital, Mentor-Protégé Programs and Supplier Diversity Programs led by a Commercial Vendor’s Panel.
At lunch, the group was treated to an update on economic growth in Arlington County from Victor Hoskins (Director, Arlington Economic Development) and SBA programs by Allie Leslie (Deputy Administrator of the SBA). And for the 5th year in a row, we were honored to be able to present the Virginia SBDC Network Small Business Veteran of the Year Award to Steve Synnott, an Air Force Veteran and Owner of Syntelligent Analytic Solutions.
The conference day concluded with a special panel discussion on Military Spouses – The Challenges and Triumphs of Entrepreneurship. Being an entrepreneur is tough – trying to be a military spouse AND an entrepreneur can seem downright impossible. Sue Hoppin (Founder, National Military Spouse Network), Louisa Jaffe (CEO/President, TAPE), Cachet Prescott (Director, Small Business Development Center @ Community Business Partnership) and Steve Jordan (Northern Virginia Technology Council) shared their experiences and insights (including finding work-life balance, and education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities), and the resources that helped them get ahead in business.
Feedback from the attendees has been incredibly positive – praising the “quality of the venue, workshops and speakers”, as well as remarking on the “friendly air of diversity and inclusion” that many of the first-time small business owners felt throughout the day. Many thanks go out to our sponsors: BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, TD Bank, Access National Bank, the Small Business Administration, PilieroMazza Attorneys at Law, General Dynamics, Strategy and Management Services, WSSC, SAIC, John Marshal Bank, Kearney & Company, the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, and BRTV. Photography courtesy of our very own Jessica Smith Media.
We were also able to provide scholarships to 10 Veterans and military spouses aspiring to become small business owners. Thank you to those sponsors: Lockheed Martin, Fairfax County EDA, BAE Systems, Blake Willson Group, Navy Federal Credit Union, Trademasters Service Corporation, Federal Acquisition Strategies, Grunley Construction Company and the Veterans’ Transition Forum.
Special thanks to DiversityComm, LLC., (and U.S. Veterans Magazine) for being a long-time Media Sponsor of the Veterans in Business Conference. Their unprecedented participation and partnership at more than 300 diversity-focused conferences (such as the VIB) and the support of their millions of members makes them a one-stop-shop for diversity & inclusion.
The Veterans in Business Conference will return in 2019 for its 14th year! Details at veteransbusinessconference.org