The Entrepreneur Ecosystem Still Exists

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veteran businessman

Following WWII, almost half of those transitioning out of the military started a business. Today, less than five percent of transitioning service men and women pursue entrepreneurship. Why is there such a gap?

To support the entrepreneurial efforts of transitioning veterans after WWII, the federal government formed the US Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA provided counseling, access to capital and access to government contracts enabling newly formed business to ramp up.  Retired executives from existing businesses volunteered to provide mentoring for these nascent business owners. An entire ecosystem of support services was apparent and readily available to empower veterans to leverage their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

Today, this entrepreneurial ecosystem still exists, but the resources are not as apparent. Even with the addition of small business development centers, women’s business centers, procurement technical assistance centers and a myriad of other entrepreneurial development partners, most transitioning service men and women are not aware of this valuable ecosystem.

“I have never heard of SCORE,” is the answer I most often receive when I query the military connected community regarding their knowledge of small business resources.  In addition to the generic request for information on starting a business, “How can I finance my business” is the most frequently asked question. Yet, Community Development Companies (CDC), Community Development Financial Intermediaries (CFDI) and SBA loan programs are foreign to transitioning service members.

This lack of awareness of entrepreneurial development resources dampens the desire to pursue the American dream of business ownership. Coupled with a lack of access to capital, today’s transitioning service men and women forego the opportunity to grow, improve and prosper as the entrepreneurs they desire to be.  Many settle for underemployment in jobs they do not relish, and suffer from diminished hope for the future.

There are resources and information that can inspire an amazing transformation in the lives of those who have served and want to continue serving.  Combine that information with personal motivation and attack. Attack the problems that keep you and others up at night. Attack the problems that plague our communities. Attack the problems that lead to veteran poverty, homelessness, mental and physical incapacity. Attack the problems that are best solved by trained warriors who have served and want to continue serving.

Free seminars, workshops, webcast and on-demand training are available in an abundance. Attending conferences allows you to get face-to-face with aspiring and successful entrepreneurs that have walked the path you are now treading. Connect with customers—and big brands—that are seeking the solutions you provide to their problems. Find mentors willing to stand side by side with you as you journey through the process of launching, growing and winning as a business owner.  Remember, “education costs, but it pays for itself.”

Entrepreneurs take action. By increasing your awareness of and facilitating your access to entrepreneurial development resources and opportunities, you unlock the doors to new and innovative solutions that translate into economic value for yourself and the world around you. Don’t settle. Get the information you need to attack your future, and launch your business beyond the battlefield.

Business beyond battlefield

Get the details and register today at BBBC19.com

Standard Operating Procedures for the Military Transition Process

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Veteran looking at iPad

By Brian Niswander

For the past decade, I’ve conducted interviews and collected data from thousands of veterans and spouses about their transition out of the military and into the civilian workforce.

After countless hours analyzing survey data and comments, I’m convinced that a successful transition embodies five key elements.

After making this discovery, I started thinking about my time in uniform and the importance of adhering to Standard Operating Procedures.

I couldn’t help but remember how we had procedures and checklists for important mission activities, and I think we owe the same level of rigor to veterans as they consider their future transition.

Based upon extensive research conducted by the team at Military-Transition.org, I developed a 5-step process to reduce confusion and increase the chances for success during the transition process:

#1 – Start Preparing Early

The data is clear and the majority of veterans surveyed (84%) indicate that starting early is critical to a successful transition. Unfortunately, this is seldom as easy as it sounds. Today’s ops-tempo requires military members to focus on the mission for the majority of their day. While finding time for things outside of the mission and family can be challenging, the advice from veterans is simple—you must find a way. There’s nothing unpatriotic about thinking and planning for what follows your military service. I tell serve members to start considering what’s next at least 24 months ahead of their transition. Starting this far ahead will pay dividends and will enable you to begin focusing on those transition elements which require time and effort to accomplish.

#2 – Have a Transition Plan

Your initial plan doesn’t have to be complex, but should include goals, enabling activities, and timelines. These can change as you progress, but you need to have a starting point. Your first goal might be to research and learn more about industries, organizations or positions that align with your existing skills. Maybe you’d like to do something completely different in the civilian workforce and need to begin exploring new and different opportunities which are outside your comfort zone. Activities may include reading books, journals, blogs and newsletters about these fields. Those considering an educational program might explore what programs are available and what career opportunities result from attaining that degree, certification, or license. In all cases, start connecting with those who transitioned before you, and others who can assist and might become mentors along the way.

#3 – Build Your Network

Of all the advice I’ve gathered over the past decade, this is the most recommended element of a successful transition. You can utilize social media (LinkedIn) and identify individuals to connect with, organizations of interest, and potential opportunities to learn about. You should also become active in community groups and build contacts through face-to-face networking. Engage with other military members, veterans, and civilians to understand their career experiences, education, and training programs. Successful networking not only helps you learn about post-military life, but it will also help you learn a new language which I call “the language of civilians.” Trust me, you need to speak their language—this is critical for the next element of a successful transition.

#4 – Learn to Translate your Skills

Of all the elements within the transition process, this activity will require the most effort. Translating your skills results in a strong resume, good interviewing skills, and the ability to demonstrate your value to a potential employer. Practice is essential to success and you must consistently demonstrate how your skills add value when networking. Ask for feedback and make continual improvements. This will require time to accomplish, but it’s worth the investment.

#5 – Be Patient

Almost half of the veterans surveyed (48%) claim their transition was ‘more difficult than expected’ and more than half (59%) say it ‘required more time than expected’. Take the time, do the research, build your network, learn how to translate your skills, and be patient along the way. You didn’t become a soldier, sailor, airperson, marine or coast guard person overnight, so don’t expect the transition to be quick. Remember that patience and persistence are key throughout the transition process.

Brian Niswander is the Founder of Military-Transition.org, an organization that uses data analytics and visualizations to assist military members with their transition into the civilian workforce. He started Military-Transition.org after identifying a need for data-driven-solutions which inform and guide veteran decision making during the reintegration process. Brian was an Air Force intelligence officer and now provides ‘transition intelligence’ to educate military families. His work has been featured in numerous publications along with radio and podcast interviews. His background includes analytic and leadership positions within the consumer goods industry along with management, strategic planning and marketing in public and private organizations. Brian has an MBA from the University of Notre Dame and a BS in Behavioral Science/Human Factors Engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy.

The Punniest Female on Instagram

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military spouse dubbed punniest on Instagram is pictured with the Puns in the background

Military spouse Angelica Hanley is behind the pun-based stationery brand ACouplePuns.

Angelica Hanley is a self-professed entrePUNeur, so when she found herself making up puns to describe the things she saw throughout the day, she decided to turn her love of puns into a shareable art form.

Thus, ACouplePuns was born and is now a rapidly growing online and wholesale greeting card shop connecting people through punny sentiments.

A card for every occasion imaginable, ACouplePuns delivers sweet messages accompanied by disarmingly darling drawings on superb card stock that is scored, folded and packaged by hand.

Her designs are inspired by travel, pop culture, and current trending topics.

She’s a military spouse who used a lifestyle of frequent moves to create a business she could take with her wherever she and her husband end up.

Angelica hold up some of her punniest cards
Via Instagram @ACouplePuns

Seeking a means to connect with people after a cross country move a couple years ago, Angelica launched ACouplePuns on Etsy with ten greeting card designs.

After just two years she has over 100 cards, which have landed on store shelves all over the country.

She has created custom cards for many popular female-founded brands such as Kendra Scott and also coordinated giveaways on Instagram.

Angelica enjoys sharing laughter through her cards and is building a community of fellow pun lovers she refers to on Instagram as “Punny People.”

She encourages you to share the puns you see with her at ACouplePuns to help inspire her latest creations!

Source: ACouplePuns, Instagram @ACouplePuns

Five Military Veterans Win Free Dream Vacations Travel Agency Franchise

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2019 Operation Vetrepreneur Winners pose together with U.S. Flags in the background

As part of a weeklong Veteran’s Day celebration, the number one franchise for veterans Dream Vacations awarded five military heroes with free travel franchises as part of its award-winning 8th annual contest “Operation Vetrepreneur: Become Your Own General.”

Currently nearly 35 percent of franchise owners within Dream Vacations are military veterans and in the past eight years, the travel agency franchise has awarded 42 free franchises valued at more than $533,400 to deserving military veterans.

(Pictured left to right) Army Veteran Don Shirley, Army Veteran Michael Foster, Marine Corps Veteran David Alexander, Air Force Veteran Jimmy Weeks and Navy Veteran Tawnya Caldwell. Photo Credit:  TheLXA.com

“Military veterans have made so many sacrifices so we can be the land of the free, making the American Dream a possibility, and Operation Vetrepreneur is just one way we are able to give back to these heroes,” said Drew Daly, senior vice president and general manager of Dream Vacations. “Every year our winners raise the bar in their business plans and I am excited for Dream Vacations to join them on this journey to successful business ownership.”

The annual “Operation Vetrepreneur: Become Your Own General” contest was open to former members of any of the five branches of the U.S. military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard) who are retired, off active duty and/or honorably discharged prior to the contest start date this past May. Candidates participated in a rigorous three-part application process which included creating a business plan, video essay and phone interviews. More than 2,400 people have applied for franchise ownership through Operation Vetrepreneur since 2012. This year’s winners are Marine Corps Veteran David Alexander of West Orange, N.J.; Navy Veteran Tawnya Caldwell of Hermitage, Tenn.; Army Veteran Michael Foster of Port St. Lucie, Fla.; Army Veteran Don Shirley of Cedar Park, Texas; and Air Force Veteran Jimmy Weeks of Costa Mesa, Calif.

“I’m proud of my service in the United States Marine Corp Infantry. It taught me discipline, determination, how to work hard and strive for perfection — all traits that I’ll apply to running a travel franchise,” said Vetrepreneur winner Alexander. “I’ve always had a passion for traveling and meeting new people. I love experiencing new adventures and learning about different cultures. I have a natural curiosity that traveling always seems to satisfy.”

All military veterans and Gold Star families who purchase a Dream Vacations travel agency business receive an enlistment package valued at no less than $5,000 and ongoing support. They can select one of four perks currently being offered — $2,000 travel training credit; receive up to $7,000 back based on initial fee through the Earn Back promotion; waived administrative fees valued at $1,350; or a Microsoft® Surface Pro tablet valued at $1,000. In addition to having access to the Command Center, an internal portal with veteran-specific training and veteran-themed marketing assets, all veterans and Gold Star families receive a waived training fee for a business partner and the ability to hire active-duty military spouses and veterans as associates at a discount. Additional veteran incentives include the ability to move residences and stay in business, travel discounts for military customers and access to veteran networking groups.

As the only travel franchise to receive a 5 STAR ranking from VetFran, Dream Vacations proudly supports military veterans and is consistently recognized by leading industry publications as a veteran-friendly franchise. It was ranked the #1 franchise for veterans by Entrepreneur magazine in 2019, and other recent number one rankings include Military Times and Forbes. Additional recognitions include inclusion on G.I. Jobs annual “Hot Franchises for Veterans,” US Veterans magazine’s “Top Veteran-Friendly Companies”, USA Today’s “50 Top Franchises for Military Veterans” and recognition by MSC Cruises in its Seaside Salute Award. The Operation Vetrepreneur program won gold from the Travel Weekly Magellan Awards and the IFA Franchising Gives Back Awards.

Dream Vacations is committed to being “Rich in Diversity” and empowers all owners, franchisees and employees to reach their highest potential by leveraging their broad range of talent, experiences, personalities, viewpoints and ideas to generate business growth.

Military veterans who are passionate about travel with an entrepreneurial spirit who would like to be part of a travel agency network that cares more about its agents, travelers and military veterans, should visit www.DreamVacationsFranchise.com or call 888-249-8235 to learn about franchising with Dream Vacations.

About Dream Vacations

Travel agents with the top-ranked home-based travel agency franchise Dream Vacations have the resources to plan and create seamless vacation experiences for their customers while offering the best value. A member of the International Franchise Association, Dream Vacations is part of World Travel Holdings and has received partner of the year, a top-ranking status, by all the major cruise lines as well as national recognition for its support of military veterans. For more information about Dream Vacations, visit www.DreamVacationsFranchise.com. Like Dream Vacations on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DreamVacationsFranchise, follow on Twitter at @Dream_Franchise and watch its videos at http://www.youtube.com/DreamVacationsBusiness.

11 Free Programs To Help Veterans Succeed As Entrepreneurs

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two men shaking hands, one of them is in a suit, the other is in military uniform

Veteran-owned businesses are an important engine of economic growth. New research from Experian has found that veterans tend to own and operate business with a larger employee base, and veteran-owned businesses have better longevity and sustainability than non veteran-owned business. (Experian analyzed and compared the credit data of veteran-owned businesses and non-veteran-owned businesses from 2015 through July 2019.)

Nearly 25% of veterans express interest in starting a business. That’s the good news. The bad news is entrepreneurship among younger veterans is on the decline. A report by Bunker Labs suggests one way to foster veteran entrepreneurship is through an “ecosystem” approach: “Taking an ecosystem approach to facilitating entrepreneurship requires ensuring that there is relationship density, strong network effects, and connected resources for entrepreneurs.”

Fortunately, there are a growing number of free programs designed to help veteran entrepreneurs tap into ecosystems that can help them thrive. Here are 11 of these programs:

1. Boots to Business

Boots to Business (B2B) is an entrepreneurial education and training program offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) as part of the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program (TAP). The course provides an overview of entrepreneurship and applicable business ownership fundamentals. It begins with a two-day “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” course, and after completing that course, participants may further their study through the B2B Revenue Readiness online course, delivered through a partnership with Mississippi State University.

Who qualifies: Active duty service members (including National Guard and Reserve), veterans of all eras, and their spouses.

Learn more: Visit SBAvets.force.com. To register, contact the Transition Service Manager (TSM) on your military installation.

2. Reboot

This one or two day in-person course is offered off installation and provides participants with an overview of business fundamentals, while introducing techniques for evaluating the feasibility of business concepts. The course covers a range of entrepreneurial business concepts and provides resources for accessing startup capital, contracting opportunities, and more.

Who qualifies: Veterans of all eras, including National Guard and Reserve members, and spouses.

Learn more: Review the class schedule and register at SBAvets.force.com.

3. VETRN

VETRN trains veteran small business owners and family members, free of charge, on how to successfully grow their own small businesses. This executive MBA program is based on the award-winning “StreetWise MBA,” which is taught in over 70 cities across the United States. VETRN has an exclusive contract to teach this management training program to veteran cohorts. Veterans accepted into the program receive a mentor on Day One and have access to a substantial professional resource network.

Who qualifies: In order to be accepted into the VETRN program, veteran small business owners must have been in business for one or more years, have at least one employee, and have annual revenues of $75,000 or greater.

Learn more: Visit Vetrn.org 

4. VetFran

One out of seven franchise businesses is owned and operated by veterans of the U.S. military. VetFran is a strategic initiative of the International Franchise Association (IFA) and includes over 600 IFA member companies that offer financial incentives, education, and support to veterans interested in franchise ownership and/or a career path in franchising. Navy Federal Credit Union is one such partner, providing startup capital for veterans who are buying franchises, as well as additional capital for franchise expansion.

Who qualifies: Veterans and their family members can use the extensive toolkit on the VetFran website to explore franchising, learn about discounts, and find franchise opportunities.

Learn more: Visit VetFran.org.

5. Veteran Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs)

In partnership with the SBA, the Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) Program is designed to provide entrepreneurial development services, such as business training, counseling, and resource partner referrals. Services include pre-business plan workshops, concept assessments, business plan preparation, entrepreneurial training, mentorships, and more. There are 22 organizations participating in this cooperative agreement and serving as VBOCs.

Who qualifies: Transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business.

Learn more: Visit the VBOC webpage on the SBA website.

Other Articles From AllBusiness.com:

6. Veteran Institute for Procurement

This program provides veteran-owned business executives with comprehensive instruction on how to accelerate their federal government contracting business skills. It offers three programs for veteran-owned small businesses:

  • VIP START—For businesses that want to do business with the federal government.
  • VIP GROW—For businesses that want to increase their federal government contracting opportunities.
  • VIP INTERNATIONAL—For businesses that want to enter and/or expand their contracting opportunities overseas.

The three-day, in-residence training is offered at no cost to participants (other than travel to the event).

Who qualifies: Service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses and veteran-owned small businesses.

Learn more: Veteran Institute for Procurement

7. Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV)

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) offers small business management training programs for post-9/11 veterans and their family members. It includes three programs:

  • EBV—Designed for businesses in the early-growth stage; includes an online course, a 9-day residency program, and a year of mentorship and support.
  • EBV-F—Offers entrepreneurship training with a focus on family issues, caregiver issues, and work-life balance issues related to being a business owner.
  • EBV Accelerate—For veterans who run successful businesses; provides tools and coaching to help take a business to the next level.

There is no cost to participate in these programs; however, EBV Accelerate participants must cover travel costs to the residency program.

Who qualifies: EBV applicants must have separated from service after 2001 and have a service-connected disability. EBV-F is available to family members of qualified veterans, including members of the National Guard and Reserve. EBV Accelerate is available to qualified veteran-owned businesses at least three years old with five or more full-time employees. (See full conditions for each program on website.)

Learn more: Learn about all three programs at the EBV website.

8. Bunker Labs

Bunker Labs is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, a national network of veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs dedicated to helping the veteran community start and grow businesses. Programs include:

  • Launch Lab Online—An online gamified, interactive way to get an entrepreneurship education; can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
  • Veterans in Residence—Provides space, services, business mentorship, and community for veteran entrepreneurs and military family members who are entrepreneurs; currently available in 17 cities.
  • CEOcircle—A mastermind group of select CEOs who are military veterans or spouses, and whose companies are growing; group meets monthly.
  • Bunker Connect—A “part networking, part mentorship working session.” It brings together transitioning military, veterans and their spouses, and more than 65 resource partners. The program is slated to be available in 12 cities by mid-2020.
  • Muster Across America—An annual national tour to cities across the United States showcasing veteran entrepreneurs, empowering local entrepreneurial ecosystems, and building connections between veterans and the business community. Events include education, networking, and a pitch competition.

Who qualifies: Active duty military, veterans, and their families are welcome. CEOcircle is by invitation only, but applicants may submit an “interest submission” online.

Learn more: Visit BunkerLabs.org.

9. National Veterans Entrepreneurship Program (VEP)

National Veterans Entrepreneurship Program (VEP) is a comprehensive entrepreneurship training and support program for veterans with a service-connected disability. It includes a self-study portion, eight-day residency program in Oklahoma, Tennessee, or Florida, followed by five months of support and mentorship. All travel, accommodation, meals, materials, and instructional costs are covered by the VEP.

Who qualifies: Any veteran with a service-connected disability.

Learn more: VEP at Oklahoma State University, VEP at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and VEP at University of Florida.

10. Patriot Boot Camp (PBC)

Since 2012, Patriot Boot Camp (PBC), a national 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, has been on a mission to create a community that advances and supports military members, veterans, and military spouses in their mission to become creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs leading the new economy. PBC’s core program is an intensive three-day technology entrepreneurship boot camp that culminates in a pitch practice and competition. Fun fact: Four alumni have appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

Who qualifies: Military members, veterans, and military spouses.

Learn more: PatriotBootCamp.org

11. Vets First Verification Program

The Vets First Verification Program provides verified firms owned and controlled by veterans and service-disabled veterans the opportunity to compete for VA set-asides. VA also trains and certifies Verification Assistance Counselors to provide application assistance to SDVOSBs/VOSBs that want to become verified. Free counseling services are available to veterans free of charge at Procurement Technical Assistance Centers throughout the country. Free webinars and extensive educational resources are also available online.

Who qualifies: Veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

Learn more: Visit the Vets First Verification Program website.

RELATED: New Job Website Helps Veterans Transition to Civilian Life

This article was originally published on AllBusiness. See all articles by Gerri Detweiler.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

Veterans Are Finding Lasting Peace After Taking These Free Journeys into Nature for Months at a Time

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veteran on a hike looking out at the wilderness in the distance standing near a cliff

With countless US ex-service members struggling to readjust to civilian life following their deployment, more and more veterans are finding unparalleled success in alternative forms of rehabilitation and therapy.

Warrior Expeditions is a nonprofit that has proven nature to be an effective treatment for veterans suffering from PTSD. The organization helps veterans overcome their trauma by sending them on longterm nature excursions lasting two to six months.

The charity, which also provides all the gear and supplies necessary for the journeys, typically helps 30 to 40 veterans every year with about 10 different expeditions—all of which are facilitated at no cost to the vets.

The organization’s recently concluded 53-day trip through North Carolina is the first time that Warrior Expeditions has incorporated paddling, biking, and hiking into one of their excursions.

Marine Corps veteran Sean Gobin was inspired to launch the charity after he returned to the US in 2012 following several combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. He then found peace and healing by hiking all 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail—and he knew that he wanted to share the experience with other veterans just like him.

There is no shortage of evidence on how spending time in nature can positively impact one’s physical and mental health. For the veterans participating in the Warrior Expedition outings, these therapeutic perks are also supplemented by the benefits of exercise, meditation, and sleeping outdoors.

Continue on to the Good News Network to read the complete article.

5 Reasons to Choose Businesses That Support Veterans

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package of bottled water sealed and ready for shipping

Most people want to give back to veterans, yet they don’t always know how to go about doing that. One way to help is to support those businesses that have a mission of helping veterans.

Will Post, an entrepreneur and U.S. Marine veteran, is on a mission to help raise money for veterans and bring about awareness regarding veteran suicide rates. His new mission is to raise funds to start Our Soldiers Spring & Bottled Water Corp., which will bottle and sell high mountain spring water. Once the company is established it will have donation buttons on the website, making it simple for people to donate to veteran-focused charities.

“People know that veterans need our help and support, but they don’t know how to help them,” explains Will Post, who is an entrepreneur, veteran, and is the founder of Our Soldiers Spring & Bottled Water Corp. “When we come together, putting our funds into a good cause that will address veteran issues, we can do a tremendous amount of good. That’s exactly what the mission is with the Our Soldiers Spring & Bottled Water Corp.”

Post is in the process of raising funds to go forward with opening a bottled water company that will raise money to support veteran initiatives, specifically organizations that provide assistance to veterans. The water will be pure and clean, coming from a pristine high mountain spring. While it provides consumers with a source of healthy, clean water, it will also make it easier for people to make direct donations to the individual charities, including the Semper Fi Fund and the Wounded Warrior Project. A portion of the proceeds from the water sales will also be donated to the two organizations.

The unique logo that was created for the water company was designed to honor fallen soldiers. It features a military weapon, helmet, boots, and dog tags. The image serves as an important reminder of the support that is being given to veterans and soldiers.

Here are 5 reasons to seek out and support veteran businesses:

  1. By supporting a business that backs the efforts of charities that help veterans, consumers will be helping veterans. Charity organizations cannot be successful with their mission if they don’t get the funds they need to carry out their programs.
  2. Supporting veteran owned businesses helps provide support to many others as well. Millions of veteran-owned businesses have employees, so sales will go to support them as well.
  3. Supporting veteran owned businesses inspires other veterans to put their skills to use opening a business. It gives them hope and helps to keep them happily engaged in life.
  4. Supporting veteran owned businesses and those that provide funds to organizations is an act of patriotism. It gives people a chance to show their appreciation for the service they provided to the country.
  5. It’s estimated by the U.S. Small Business Administration that veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans. This may be in part because they have a unique skill set to share and they have been taught leadership skills in the military that are a great foundation for entrepreneurship.

“We all need clean drinking water in our lives as a part of a healthy diet,” adds Post. “Why not choose to help veterans with every bottle that you drink? That’s what my mission is about, and with the help of those who donate it will become a success. Every donation is helpful and appreciated, and will get us one step closer to helping to provide veterans and consumers alike with what they need to thrive.”

According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, there were over 6,000 veterans in the country who committed suicide during 2017. In fact, sincemedal hanging in picture with the words Our Soldiers spring and bottled water company 2008, there have been at least 6,000 veteran suicides every year. They also report that the suicide rate for veterans is 1.5 times that for non-veteran adults. Suicide prevention is a priority, and veteran-focused charity organizations help to address this situation by giving veterans the resources and support that they need.

The Our Soldiers Spring & Bottled Water Corp. has a video regarding veteran suicide and the fundraising, which can be viewed here: bestofthebesttelevision.vids.

Those who would like to make a donation to help support the Our Soldiers Spring & Bottled Water Corp. can log go to the GoFundMe page for it: gofundme.com/water, or online to: oursoldiers.com/ or visit the Facebook page: facebook.com/Bottled-Water.

About Our Soldiers Spring & Bottled Water Corp

Founded by Will Post, an entrepreneur and Marine veteran, Our Soldiers Spring & Bottled Water Corp. bottles crystal clean water from a high mountain spring source. The website is currently under construction so stayed tuned over the next few weeks: oursoldiers.com/.

Sources:

Small Business Administration sba.gov/veterans-and-entrepreneurship

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs mentalhealth.va.gov/docs

Stedman Graham: Lead Yourself First, Others Second

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Stedman Graham poses with several servicemembers outside in front of a large military plane

By Brady Rhoades

Once upon a time, Stedman Graham—yes, that Stedman—was a soldier in the United States Army, trying to figure out who he was and where he was going. More than 40 years later, he’s a world-renowned businessman, author and speaker with a laser focus on identity leadership.

“Understanding who you are is the key to your growth,” he told U.S. Veterans Magazine.

Five years in the Army in the 1970s gave him a solid foundation. “I would not be here today without the military,” he said. “I needed structure.”

Graham learned to be on time. To listen when others were speaking. To do his best. To not quit. To be a follower. To be a leader. To get down to the nitty-gritty details of whatever task he was working on.

“It helps you lay out a process for continual improvement,” the 68-year-old founder and CEO of S. Graham & Associates and bestselling author of 11 books said of his experience in the military.

Graham has never forgotten those lessons, and he is forever grateful. Which is why he continues to visit military bases and stay in touch with servicemen and women.

It’s also why he lobbies employers to hire veterans.

“The message of learning while you’re experiencing is a great message for our troops,” he said. “It’s a great design for self-actualization…You couldn’t have a better opportunity than serving.”

And, he added, you won’t get a more grounded, humble, flexible and

Graham’s latest book helps people identify themselves before taking the lead
Graham’s latest book helps people identify themselves before taking the lead

can-do employee than a veteran.

Graham was born on March 6, 1951, in the Whitesboro section of Middle Township, New Jersey, the son of Mary Jacobs Graham and Stedman Graham Sr. He is one of six children.

He received a bachelor’s degree in social work from Hardin-Simmons University in 1974, and a master’s degree in education from Ball State University in 1979. Graham, who stands at 6-foot-7, played basketball at Hardin-Simmons.

He later moved to High Point, North Carolina to establish himself in public relations. At B & C Associates, he worked on behalf of African-American causes and had many distinguished clients, including author Maya Angelou and South African activist Winnie Mandela.

He is also founder of Chicago, Illinois’s Athletes Against Drugs (AAD), a non-profit organization that provides services to youth and has awarded more than $1.5 million in scholarships since its founding in 1985. Moreover, the organization arranges for sports figures to educate children about substance abuse.

In 1988 Graham created S. Graham & Associates, a Chicago-based corporate and educational marketing and consulting firm.

Graham has delivered speeches at many public and private schools on the topics of identity and self-awareness. He is perhaps most famous as an author of business and self-help-related books, including, Who Are You? and his newly-released, Identity Leadership: To Lead Others You Must First Lead Yourself.

Graham has been partners with Oprah Winfrey since 1988.

Identity leadership employs a simple but profound premise: You can’t lead anybody until you lead yourself. And to lead yourself, you must know yourself. The “self” is the biggest enigma in the world, the more provocative challenge, and the most rewarding mountain to climb, according to Graham.

Stedman speaking to servicemembers
“It takes years to do simple. People think there is such a thing as an overnight success. There isn’t. Success is hard work. The success I am having today took me 25 years. You have to put the time in to get the rewards out.” —Stedman Graham

Graham talks about being a learner, a hard worker, and knowing who you are, but if you go deeper, he invokes what he calls the most important word in the English language.

“Love is the key word,” he said. “Passion, talent and skills are related. Do what you love.”

In Identity Leadership: To Lead Others You Must First Lead Yourself, readers learn how to define themselves. The alternative, Graham said, is that society “puts you in a box.”

“When you can’t define yourself, the world defines you by your race, by your house, by your car, your money or your title,” he said. “It’s kind of socially constructed and designed to control your development.”

Graham said once he figured out who he was, he began to lead himself and, “to create a vision beyond my circumstance.”

If love is the most paramount word, purpose might be second, or in the top five. “Everything starts with a purpose,” said Graham, adding that purpose is essential to self-actualization.

In his world travels, he is intensely interested in motivating people to get rid of labels—whether they are linked to race, gender, class, you name it—and to take control of their own destiny.

He wants others to realize the process for success is the same for everybody in the 24 hours we have in our days.

Graham says being able to teach that, and to help people realize their potential, is a passion and a joy. He advises his readers and listeners to not be afraid.

“Failure, in fact, is a phenomenal teacher,” Graham says. “The concept goes back to ‘learning while you’re experiencing.’”

He said veterans know what it’s like to be part of something bigger than themselves, and they’ve learned how to adapt, particularly when faced with adversity. But they aren’t superheroes. They could use a helping hand—be it by a prospective employer, a nurse, a clerk, or a citizen on the street.

“There’s so much work to be done as far as helping our troops,” Graham said. “I’m just honored to be of service.”

Naval Veteran And Successful Franchisee Swaps Brands: Adds Top-Rated Mobile Flooring Business To His Portfolio

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Keith Yound stands outsinde in front of his work vehicle

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Keith Young was already a successful franchise owner with FirstService Brands, the leading North American brand in the property services industry. So when he sold his CertaPro Painters of Central Houston franchise after 10 years, he didn’t have to look far for his next opportunity. The 48-year-old Young stayed within the FirstService Brands family and became a franchise owner with Floor Coverings International, visiting customers’ homes in a Mobile Flooring Showroom stocked with thousands of flooring samples from top manufacturers.

Young is also a U.S. Navy veteran, who has put an emphasis on hiring veterans in the past and plans to continue that practice with Floor Coverings International. “I will be hiring a sales associate before the end of 2019,” Young said. “Military veterans make very successful franchise owners and employees since they know how to follow a proven system and take responsibility for achieving their objectives,” Young shared.

“Having 10 years’ experience as a painting contractor delivering at a consistently high level of service was the perfect background to set me up for success in the flooring business,” said Young. “I was ready for a new challenge and was already aware of Floor Coverings International since it is owned by the same parent company as CertaPro Painters. I wanted to stay in that family and that gave me a high level of confidence in the brand.”

In Floor Coverings International, Young found a company that has tripled in size since 2005 by putting a laser focus on consumer buying habits and expressed desires, its impressive operating model, growth ability, marketing, advertising and merchandising. Floor Coverings International further separates itself from the competition through its customer experience, made up of several simple and integrated steps that exceed customers’ expectations.

ABOUT FLOOR COVERINGS INTERNATIONAL

Floor Coverings International is the #1 Mobile Flooring Franchise in North America. Utilizing a unique in-home experience, the mobile showroom comes directly to the customer’s door with more than 3,000 flooring choices. Floor Coverings International has 150-plus locations throughout the U.S. and Canada with plenty of opportunity for continued expansion in 2019. For franchise information, please visit flooring-franchise.com and to find your closest location, floorcoveringsinternational.com.

Sisters Transform Military Materials Into ‘Beautiful’ Bags — and Use the Profits to Help Vets

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Emilly Nunez and Bestsy Nunez pose with Emily carrrying an army green signature military bag

When Emily Nunez Cavness was in college seven years ago in Vermont, she and her sister, Betsy Nunez, launched a plan to start a business that turns excess military gear into handbags.

Their company, Sword & Plough, employs veterans and gives a percentage of profits to military charities.

The idea germinated when Emily — then a senior at Middlebury College — attended a lecture that prompted her to think about how to use recycling as part of a business model. The daughter of an Army veteran and herself an ROTC student at the time, Emily gravitated toward a theme connected to the armed forces.

“What in my life is often discarded and could be turned into something beautiful with a purposeful mission?” she asked herself at the time, according to the company’s website.

“I immediately thought about military surplus materials,” Emily tells PEOPLE. “Then I looked around the room and saw that everyone had bags by their side.”

That, she says, was her a-ha moment.

“I thought to myself, ‘We could take these extremely durable materials that have such unique stories and turn them into fashionable bags that anyone would want to use,’ ” she recalls.

Betsy soon signed on as chief operating officer, and the two formed Sword and Plough in 2012, when Emily was 22 and Betsy, 24. Now, they run a thriving mail order business selling bags, jewelry, and accessories.

The bags start out as tents, sleeping bag covers, leather, hardware, canvas, nylon, and old uniforms. The materialsSignature tote blue and army green tote bag pictured are shipped out to veteran-owned or operated manufacturers around the country, where they are turned into the final products. Because they are made out of military grade materials, the bags hold up well to wear, tear, and the elements, the sisters say.

Staying connected to the military community is important to the sisters.

“One of the best parts about Sword & Plough is meeting and working with such inspiring and talented veterans,” Emily says.

Continue on to People to read the complete article.

He Certified Choppers As Ready To Fly In The Navy; Now He’s Taking Those Skills To Home Inspections

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Jack Zaczek stands in front of his home inspection vehicle wearing a blue shirt and khaki pants

Buying or selling a house is an exercise that can be fraught with anxiety. Sometimes you need a calming influence, or more importantly, a voice of reason when it comes to making what is one of life’s big decisions.

In that situation, you want to turn to someone like Jack Zaczek, 48, who owns a Pillar To Post Home Inspectors® franchise, the brand to which more than three million families have turned to for 25 years to be their trusted advisor when buying or selling a home.

Zaczek is a retired veteran who spent more than 20 years in the Navy. Attention to detail and a sense of calm in times of stress are hallmarks of any veteran, and Zaczek certainly has the credentials. He retired as Navy Chief and was an Airframe and Flight Control Technician, certifying H60 Sea Hawk Helicopters safe for flight during eight – yes, eight – deployments to the Persian Gulf in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom campaigns.

“The attention to detail the Navy taught me inspecting aircraft directly contributes to the high level of attention I give each home inspection I perform,” said Zaczek who serves homebuyers and sellers throughout Duval, Flagler, St. Johns, Putnam and Nassau counties in Florida.

While Zaczek has the requisite mindset required to be a successful home inspector, he also has the knowledge. Before joining the Navy in 1997, he worked in construction building custom homes in Oregon. “Pillar To Post is the perfect fit for me. I love the profession and take great pride in my own home,” Zaczek said. “Being a home inspector gives me the opportunity to help out and be involved with my community.”

Pillar to Post Home Inspectors is a popular franchise brand among veterans like Zaczek. The franchisor is a member of VetFran, a program of the International Franchise Association that helps vets purchase franchises and it has achieved 5-star status in that program, the top ranking possible. In 2018, one-third of new Pillar To Post Home inspectors franchisees were military vets. “Pillar To Post Home Inspectors has been ranked as the No. 1 home inspection franchise, and I’m proud to be a part of this winning team,” Zaczek said.

Tampa-based Pillar To Post Home Inspectors®, the largest home inspection company in North America, has consistently ranked as the top-rated home inspection company on Entrepreneur Magazine’s annual Franchise500®, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is enjoying its 19th year in a row on that list.

A professional evaluation both inside and outside the home is at the core of Pillar To Post Home Inspectors’ service. Inspectors input data and digital photos into a computerized report that is provided to clients in a customized binder for easy reference, allowing homebuyers or sellers to make confident, informed decisions.

About Pillar To Post Home Inspectors®
Founded in 1994, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is the largest home inspection company in North America with home offices in Toronto and Tampa. There are nearly 600 franchises located in 49 states and nine Canadian provinces. The company has been named as Best in Category in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise500® ranking for 19 years in a row. Long-term plans include adding 500 to 600 new franchisees over the next five years. For further information, please visit pillartopost.com. To inquire about a franchise go to pillartopostfranchise.com.