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Friday, 11 November 2016 13:19
Boots to Business Transitioning Veterans into Small Business Owners
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce’s Veterans Business Council is helping veterans transition from military to civilian life in numerous ways, such as last week’s Boots to Business Reboot entrepreneurial workshop held at the Chamber’s offices at 28 Clinton Street. The workshop’s instructor, Michael Stout, is a veteran business development officer with the Syracuse office of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which covers 34 counties, including Saratoga. He is also a retired U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major, having served 23 years, including 5 tours in Iraq as well as tours in Afghanistan and in both Djibouti and Somalia in Africa. When he left service, he became a small business owner of a fitness facility in Georgia. “I decided to work for the Small Business Administration because I know how much veterans have given to this country,” said Stout, “and I know I can help them because I have been both a veteran and a small business owner. I want to be a part of that community that helps them start. Small business is what’s going to make this country great, helping it to grow and keep jobs in our community.” Stout explained that there are two programs – the regular Boots to Business for those in process of transitioning out of the military, and the Boots to Business Reboot, which is for veterans of all eras and their spouses, and the Army Reserve and National Guard. The one held on November 1 and 2 at the Saratoga County Chamber’s offices was the Reboot. The Reboot workshop is a free, two-day entrepreneurship training program that provides an overview of resources for veterans to help them start or expand a business. It explains business plans, resources – including financial, and the benefits of networking with other veterans and business owners. In addition, participants are introduced to SBA resources available to access start-up capital, technical assistance and contracting opportunities. Stout is currently in talks with the Chamber about holding future workshops here. Veteran Paul Jancsy took the class to network and gain new perspectives on a business he has owned for three years. Born and raised in Saratoga Springs, he is currently a Major in the New York Air National Guard. He was a major and a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, and has been stationed all over the world. Three years ago, he started a Marco’s Pizza franchise in western Pennsylvania and in Colorado. “One of the things I didn’t do,” said Jancsy, “was network enough or find a mentor, so I could have people I could confidentially ask questions from, and bounce ideas off of. When I saw Mike coming to Saratoga, I thought this was perfect.” One of the things Jancsy appreciates about the program is that it is not just veterans participating, but that there are veterans working for the SBA and the Veterans Business Council. “We all take care of each other, and it’s an honor to serve with them in this different capacity,” said Jancsy. “We’re a family. We take care of each other when we are deployed, when we come home, and when we transition from active duty into civilian life, and this event is part of that.” Jancsy said the best piece of advice he has to give is to tell veterans to start building their networks now, not with just friends and family, but through programs like Boots to Business. “As we transition out, I didn’t know where to look, I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” said Jancsy. “Programs like this, you sit down and have face-to-face meetings with people who have an existing network. It gives you all the options for funding, and points out new sources of funding that didn’t exist when I initially got out just a few years ago. And more importantly, it teaches you how to use them, how to focus your funds, the situational awareness on cash flow and who can help you with that such as bankers, accountants, people like that. It might be basic for someone who went to business school, but for veterans, we never had to worry about that.” But when it comes to military skills that are translatable to business, Jancsy said, “Any veteran will tell you that in the military, you have to allocate resources you are given – some of it limited – to manage the risk and solve the problem. That’s business, that’s being an entrepreneur. You are used to it, and now I can do that on the outside here in the city that I love.” Completion of the workshop enables participants to enroll in a free, 8-week Institute of Veterans and Military Families online business program that is much more in depth. To learn more about Boots to Business and other programs, visit www.ivmf.syracuse.edu , www.sba.gov, or the local Veterans Business Council at www.saratoga.org/pages/veterans-business-council.