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By Debbie Gregory.

For many veterans, entrepreneurship has proven to be a viable next career path as the experience, discipline, and work ethic learned in the military provides a competitive edge for starting a business.

The Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program is currently accepting applications for the pilot program, which will launch its first phase in March. The statewide initiative offers qualified veterans the opportunity to receive an accelerated entrepreneurship education at no cost.

Veterans Florida, a non-profit created by the Florida Legislature to attract and retain veterans, selected the University of West Florida, through its Florida SBDC Network and Military Veterans Resource Center, to administer the program.

In order to meet the program requirements, veterans must have been either honorably discharged, current National Guardsmen or Reservists, or active duty within one year of separation.  Also required is Florida residency, and of course, a strong interest in entrepreneurship.

The first phase of the program consists of an eight-week online class,which will provide participants with a strong business foundation.

The next phase consists of six days (over three consecutive weekends) of on-site training at one of the five participating institutions of higher education: The University of West Florida, University of North Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida Atlantic University, and Hillsborough Community College. All travel expenses will be covered for participants.

The final phase of the program consists of six-months of ongoing mentorship with Florida SBDC Network business consultants.

The Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program is funded through a $1 million appropriation by the Florida Legislature.

“Veterans possess many of the skills necessary to be successful entrepreneurs,” said Bobby Carbonell, Executive Director of Veterans Florida. “The technical and financial skills provided from this program, along with the motivation, confidence, attention to detail and problem solving skills they bring, will ensure veterans achieve their vision of the American Dream, owning their own business.”

Space is limited. The deadline to apply is March 15, 2016. For more information, and to apply, please visit www.FloridaVetBiz.org.

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Owning your own business, being your own boss – it’s the American dream. You can see it every Friday night on Shark Tank, or in commercials for Small Business Saturdays. It’s no surprise that military veterans make excellent entrepreneurs because of the skills they gained while serving. And in a challenging economy when jobs for military veterans may be scarce, a great option for veterans is to start their own business.

Entrepreneurs can be at the helm of a mom & pop corner store, or a major corporation like Enterprise Rental Car or Starbucks. But just because you have many of the required skills to be an entrepreneur, that doesn’t guarantee success.

A military veteran benefit for entrepreneurs comes in the form of a boost from the VA when starting or growing a business. While everyone knows that a major veteran benefit is education for veterans, many may not know that the VA will pay for other programs. Education for veterans offered by Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), the most comprehensive small business assistance network in the United States, is one such program.

Entrepreneurship training through the SBDC allows eligible service members and veterans to use VA education benefits to take courses they offer. SBDCs can help you plan your veteran finances with business plan development, procurement, market research, lending assistance and more.

Those who are eligible to receive reimbursement for approved entrepreneurship courses include those eligible for any of the following VA Education Programs:

  • Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty
  • Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve
  • Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program
  • The Post-9/11 GI Bill

For additional information on using your military veteran benefits with SBDCs, visit the VA Entrepreneurship Training Web page.

To locate course offerings near you, or view training opportunities on the web, contact the Small Business Development Center directly athttp://www.sba.gov/sbdc/ or by phone at 800-8 ASK SBA.

oshkosh

By Debbie Gregory.

Last week, Lockheed Martin Corp. officials announced that they have filed a lawsuit against the Pentagon over the U.S. Army’s decision to award a $6.75 billion contract to Oshkosh Corporation.

The contract is to build a replacement for the Humvee combat vehicle.

The Army plans to buy about 55,000 of the multipurpose vehicles for its troops and the Marine Corps through 2040, spending an estimated $30 billion. Oshkosh in August was awarded the initial order for about 17,000 JLTVs, which are more heavily armored than the Humvees they will replace.

“After careful consideration of all options, Lockheed Martin decided to file a complaint with the Court of Federal Claims concerning our Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) contract award process,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “We look forward to working with all parties involved on the next steps.”

A hearing was scheduled for Friday before Judge Charles Lettow. Lettow granted Lockheed’s motion to seal its complaint against the contract award. Lettow also sealed a Lockheed motion for an injunction in the case, but has not yet ruled on that move, court papers show.

The government’s answer is due by February16th.

Oshkosh Vice President John Urias said he believed the court will uphold the Army’s selection.

Oshkosh Corporation, based in Oshkosh, WI, was ranked the 48th largest American defense contractor for 2015 by Defense News. Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, MD, ranked first.

Urias stated that he had confidence in the Army’s procurement process, which he said included “exhaustive testing and evaluation to ensure our troops get the best vehicle.”

Because Department of Defense spending has been shrinking, competition for military contacts has tightened in recent years. While the number of contract protests filed with the GAO rose 5 percent in 2014 fiscal year, successful protests fell from 17 percent in 13 percent.

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Many military veterans are successful entrepreneurs because of the leadership qualities honed during their service. There are numerous resources available to help veteran owned businesses as they start up and grow.

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association (VAMBOA)  http://www.vamboa.org

VAMBOA, a non-profit trade association, provides for the development, growth and prosperity of Veteran Business Owners, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOB) and Military Business Owners of all sizes. VAMBOA’s future expansion includes establishing regional chapters throughout the country.

StreetShares  https://streetshares.com/

StreetShares is a social-lending marketplace that connects small business owners with investors. On the StreetShares marketplace, business owners pitch their stories directly to retail and institutional investors, who then place bids to fund a portion of the business owner’s requested loan.

21 Gun Salute Initiative  http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/232955

The General Services Administration’s program to support service-disabled veteran owned businesses is known as the 21 Gun Salute Initiative. The 21 Gun Salute was created with gratitude for the injured soldier turned businessperson. The Salute is an action plan to meet and exceed the 3% contracting goal with the nation’s service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

 American Corporate Partners  http://www.acp-usa.org/

This non-profit organization offers veterans tools for long-term career development through mentoring, career counseling, and networking opportunities.

The Bunker http://bunkerlabs.org/

The goal of the Bunker is goal is to launch and accelerate veteran-owned businesses, channel the energy among veterans to become entrepreneurs and business owners, and create a new forum for high-performing veterans to meet and collaborate.

BusinessUSA  http://business.usa.gov/

The BusinessUSA Veterans Resource tool is an interactive guide to help veteran business owners find the most relevant federal, state and local tools to help start and grow their businesses.

Boots to Business  http://boots2business.org/

Boots to Business is an entrepreneurial education and training program offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as part of the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP). The curriculum continuum includes steps for evaluating business concepts, the foundational knowledge required to develop a business plan and information on SBA resources available to help access start-up capital and additional technical assistance.

EBV Foundation  http://www.ebvfoundation.org/

The EBV National Program offers cutting-edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management to post-9/11 veterans with service-connected disabilities as well as to military family members who serve in a caregiver role to a veteran with a service-connected disability. The program is offered at no cost. The foundation provides grants to graduates of the program and help with business plan development.

FedBizOpps  https://www.fbo.gov/

The Federal Business Opportunities website provides a portal for businesses looking for active federal contracting opportunities. While not restricted to veteran owned businesses, it can still be a useful resource for finding opportunities.

Honor Courage Commitment, Inc.  http://www.honorcouragecommitment.org/

HCC provides resources and empowerment to veteran entrepreneurs including grants, scholarships and a fellowship program designed to build leadership qualities. HCC trains and positions military veterans to become successful entrepreneurs, business and community leaders by maximizing veteran talent.

Institute for Veteran and Military Families  http://vets.syr.edu/

A program of Syracuse University, IVMF is the first interdisciplinary national institute in higher education focused on the social, economic, education and policy issues impacting veterans, and provides a wide variety of resources for military veterans. There are numerous resources for veterans re-entering the workforce or looking to start their own businesses.

National Veteran Business Development Council – NVBDC – www.nvbdc.org

The National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that will act as the certification body for Veteran Owned Businesses (VOB) and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOB) to ensure that credible documentation exists of a business’s Veteran status, ownership and control. The NVBDC shall certify the validity of the VOB or SDVOB business seeking opportunity in the Supplier Diversity initiatives made available to veteran owned businesses.

National Veteran Small Business Coalition  http://www.nvsbc.com/

This organization works to ensure that veteran owned small businesses are given first consideration for federal prime and subcontracting procurement opportunities. Members receive access to resources related to federal contracting.

Patriot Boot Camp  http://patriotbootcamp.org/

Patriot Boot Camp is an accelerator program focused on helping military veterans and their spouses become successful technology entrepreneurs. Open to all active duty military members, veterans and their spouses, the main program is a 3-day event that provides participants with free education, training and mentorship.

SBA Contracting Support for Small Businesses  https://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/contracting

The SBA offers resources for service-disabled veteran owned businesses looking to procure federal contracts. The SDVOSBC program allows procuring agencies to set aside contracts specifically for veteran owned businesses.

VetBiz  http://www.vetbiz.gov/

The VA’s VetBiz site provides information about the Center for Verification and Evaluation’s efforts to verify Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) and Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs).  SDVOSBs and VOSBs who want to participate in the VA’s Veterans First Contracting Program must be verified by CVE in order to be eligible for VA contract set-asides.

VetBizCentral  http://vetbizcentral.org/

VetBizCentral is a veteran run site that assists veteran and active duty military entrepreneurs in the formation and expansion of their businesses through training and counseling, networking opportunities, mentoring and advocacy.

Veteran Business Outreach Centers  https://www.sba.gov/offices/headquarters/ovbd/resources/362341

The SBA provides assistance locally through Veteran Business Outreach Centers. The centers assist veterans in locating resources in their local communities, such as such as business training, counseling and mentoring.

Veteran Entrepreneur Portal  http://www.va.gov/osdbu/entrepreneur/

As part of the VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal provides access to a number of business tools and services, including starting and expanding a business, acquisition support, strategic support and more.

Veteran Fast Launch Initiative  https://www.score.org/vetsfastlaunch

The Veteran Fast Launch Initiative is a package of free software and services combined with SCORE’s mentoring program in order to help accelerate the ability of veterans and their families to start and succeed as small business owners.

Vetrepreneur Mentoring  http://vetrepreneurmentoring.com/index.html

Vetrepreneur Mentoring provides mentoring, guidance and expertise to help veteran entrepreneurs with everything from contractor registration to website creation.

Victory Spark  http://gan.co/members/view/victory-spark

Victory Spark is a program of the larger Global Entrepreneurship Collective, Inc. umbrella. Specifically, Victory Spark focuses on servicing U.S. Military Veteran-led startups. The program includes a 12-week mentor-driven Lean LaunchPad Program, along with grant funding for entrepreneurs who complete the program.

V-Wise  http://whitman.syr.edu/vwise/

An entrepreneurship project of the Whitman School of Management, Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-Wise) provides resources, courses and mentorship to female veterans who have started businesses or are looking to do so.

The U.S. House recently approved H.R. 1694 and passed it on to the Senate for consideration. The legislation, drafted by Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-PA, would include veterans in the Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program.

“The Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act is a bipartisan, common sense way to update legislation that redresses the exclusion of veteran small businesses at no cost to the taxpayer,” said James Oxford, chairman of the American Legion’s Veterans Employment and Education Commission. “The American Legion encourages the Senate and the White House to level the playing field for these veterans by turning Rep. Fitzpatrick’s legislation into law.”

“This legislation is necessary to provide parity for the nearly 1 million veterans who are small business owners seeking government contracts,” Oxford said. “Veterans should not be placed at a disadvantage in competing with other government procurement programs.”

According to the Small Business Administration, veterans own 380,395 construction firms, 64,542 manufacturing companies and 414,519 businesses in the professional, scientific and technical services. Currently, only half of the states meet their DBE goals. Adding veteran small businesses to this program would increase the pool of eligible firms at the states’ disposal.  For states that already meet their goals, this bill does not affect them or the small business contractors they employ.

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