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By Debbie Gregory.

A 53-year-old business owner and a 57-year-old service-disabled vet have pleaded guilty to engaging in a pass-through scheme designed to fraudulently land $13.8 million in federal contracts set aside for veteran-owned small businesses.

Jeffrey Wilson and his partner in crime, Paul Salavitch, hatched a “rent a vet” scam that led to the charges.

By listing Salavitch as the person responsible for the day-to-day operations of Patriot Company, a construction business owned by Wilson, they were able to leverage Salavitch’s disabled status to access lucrative contracts that the company otherwise wouldn’t qualify for.

As a result, the company 20 government contracts worth almost $14 million, with some worth as much as $4.3 million apiece.

The fraud was uncovered in 2013, when the Department of Veterans Affairs visited Patriot Company’s headquarters unannounced. Of course, Salavitch was nowhere to be found; Salavitch had a job as a federal employee with the Department of Defense in Leavenworth and did not actively run the company, located in Kansas City.

Salavitch told the Missouri Division of Purchasing and Materials Management that Patriot Company was a “legitimate service-disabled veteran-owned small business,”  knowing that it wasn’t.

Under the terms of their plea agreement, Wilson now faces a sentence of up to 18 months in prison without parole. Salavitch faces up to one year in prison without parole. Both also consented to a civil forfeiture agreement of about $2.1 million.

While thousands of combat wounded and service disabled men and women work hard to succeed in American business, corrupt business owners continue to defraud the U.S. government by falsely claiming they are eligible for these set-asides.

When these fraudsters illegally secure SDVOSB contracts, our nation’s taxpayers and legitimate service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses suffer.

By Debbie Gregory.

As post-9/11 veterans re-enter civilian life and begin transitioning to new careers, many find they’re perfectly suited to becoming a veteran entrepreneur. Here’s a list of some free resources to help start or grow a business:

Bunker in a Box was created by The Bunker, and it’s the ultimate source of thought leadership from top entrepreneurs and veterans around the U.S. The short and simple online mini-course in veterans entrepreneurship is divided into 14 “missions” created around the themes of INSPIRE, EDUCATE and CONNECTION The missions include topics such as confidence to be an entrepreneur, thinking like an entrepreneur, testing hypotheses, and working on a venture as a team, plus many more. Each lesson has a short video from the Bunker team, as well as relevant third-party articles, interviews, podcasts and presentations from prominent entrepreneurs and experts.

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) is a free training program for post-9/11 veterans with a service-connected disability. Offered by Cornell, Syracuse, Florida State, UCLA, Texas A&M, Purdue, UConn, LSU, Saint Joseph’s, and the University of Missouri, the program is sponsored by Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University. The novel, one-of-a-kind initiative is designed to leverage the skills, resources and infrastructure of higher education to offer cutting-edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management. The 30-day, instructor-led curriculum is taught online, followed by a 9-day in-residence session at the university. Participants also receive follow-up support and mentoring after the program. The program runs from March through November each year. While all of the costs are covered for qualified participants, the opportunity is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Since 2012, Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) has been on a mission to assemble and activate an inclusive community that advances veterans and military spouses in their mission to become creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs leading the new economy. PBC’s core program is an intensive 3-day technology entrepreneurship boot camp modeled after the Techstars accelerator to provide educational training and 1:1 mentoring to inspire and advance startup founders. PBC runs this program twice per year, in Texas and Colorado, for cohorts of 50 tech entrepreneurs.

The StreetShares Foundation mission is to inspire, educate and support veteran small business owners. The non-profit foundation gives away $10,000 in veteran business grants to veteran or military spouse entrepreneurs each month. First, second, and third-place awards of $5,000, $3,000, and $2,000 are awarded, and applications may be submitted at any time.

VetToCEO offers a free 7-week online program called “Entrepreneurship for Transitioning Warriors” through a series of modules that cover everything you need to start your business. Lessons are recorded for later viewing in case you miss one. A full course outline can be found here. Veterans can join the program at any time through a simple registration process in a rolling enrollment model. Enrollment is free for veterans and transitioning military members.

Your local Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) is a good resource for training, counseling and mentoring, and also provides transition assistance programs via Boots to Business Program.

The Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP) is hosted by the VA and offers resources on starting, financing, and growing a business, in addition to government contracting opportunities. VEP makes it easier for small businesses to access federal services, regardless of its source—and quickly connects Veteran entrepreneurs to relevant ‘best-practices’ and information.

By Debbie Gregory.

It’s encouraging to see military veterans take advantage of entrepreneurship opportunities available to them, especially when it comes to franchise opportunities. For many, a franchise business offers them the chance to be their own boss, but it comes with an established structure. Someone’s already proven that this works.

According to the International Franchise Association’s VetFran program, approximately 14 percent of franchises are owned by veterans.

Having served, many of these entrepreneurs find that their military experience easily translates into franchise success. Franchisors believe that veterans make for great franchisees for several reasons. Many of the factors that made veterans excel within the military environment make them ideal for franchisees.

The world of franchising represents a marriage between the self-start world of entrepreneurship and the rigorous discipline needed to follow a set of instructions and execute on a proven plan. The ideal franchisee is someone who can take direction and work within guidelines provided by the franchisor, but who can also effectively lead a team and get things done.

Attention to detail, knowledge, and understanding of chain of command and how things work contribute to their success.

Most brands offer a discount to veterans and people with connections to the military, most commonly a markdown on the initial franchise fee, averaging a little more than 18 percent. Discounts are typically restricted to people opening their first franchise.

Veteran-owned franchisees contribute to the economy not only for the franchisee, but also for their fellow veterans: franchisees are 30 percent more likely to hire their fellow veterans than their civilian counterparts.

The largest numbers of veteran-owned franchises are in California, Texas and Florida, which have the first-, second- and fifth-highest military populations.

Remember, doing your homework about the franchise first will help you gain a solid understanding of what to expect as well as the risks that could be involved. With that said, more than 87 percent of veteran-run franchises stayed in business over the past three years.

treat

On June 9, Strategic Threat Management (STM) were awarded the Small Employer of the Year for companies with 200 employees or less from the California Department of Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

The award recognizes their support of veterans in the local community through providing outreach and hiring of veterans. Currently, 30% of employees at Strategic Threat Management are veterans.

“We were honored to be in attendance with real American heroes,” says owner Larry Treat. “Veterans bring a whole different mindset and work ethic to the job. They have been through formal training, they are team players, leadership is instilled in them and you can spot a veteran a mile away.”

Treat himself is a Marine Corps Veteran and feels honored to hire other veterans when he can and provide as much outreach as possible on veteran events, fundraisers and hand out informational packets.

Since forming Strategic Threat Management, Treat says they been involved in numerous events such as the Stand Down on the Delta, held numerous fundraisers and countless donations to organizations.

“We are honored that the local veteran community has accepted us so we feel honored to go to great lengths to ensure we can hire veterans whenever possible,” said Treat.

Strategic Threat Management provides both armed and unarmed security services for both private and public entities and is located out of Antioch, CA.

vamboa article

By Debbie Gregory.

Many veterans exhibit advanced team building skills, high levels of resiliency and strong organizational commitment, traits that contribute to making them successful entrepreneurs. There are numerous resources that assist veteran business owners thrive, including the following:

VAMBOA, the Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, is a non-profit trade association that promotes and assists Veteran Business Owners, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOB) and Military Business Owners by providing networking, collaboration, mentoring, education, certification and advocacy. Membership is free.

American Corporate Partners is engaged in national corporate career counseling for returning military. The non-profit connects veterans to business leaders for mentorship and career advice.

BusinessUSA provides users with an interactive questionnaire that guides them to the most relevant federal, state, and local services, tools, trainings, and opportunities, assisting in starting or expanding a veteran owned small business.

DVBE, the Disabled Veteran Business Alliance, empowers, provides resources to, and works side-by-side with disabled veterans to promote and support them in establishing, maintaining and growing viable business enterprises.

EBV Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities offers training in entrepreneurship and business management to post-9/11 veterans with service related disabilities.

Federal Business Opportunities is a portal for all businesses, not just vet owned, looking for active federal contracting opportunities.

Honor Courage Commitment, Inc. provides resources such as grants, scholarships and a fellowship program to veteran entrepreneurs, designed to build leadership qualities.

Institute for Veteran and Military Families provides a wide variety of resources geared towards military veterans re-entering the workforce or looking to start their own businesses.

National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC)  is the nation’s leading third party authority for certification of veteran owned businesses of all sizes.

National Veteran Small Business Coalition supports veteran owned small businesses by promoting policies that encourage participation of veteran owned businesses in federal contracting opportunities.

Patriot Boot Camp  focuses on helping active duty military, veterans and their spouses build technology companies. The three day event provides participants with free education, training and mentorship.

Small Business Administration (SBA) provides a multitude of assistance to veterans in their local communities, including Veteran Business Outreach Centers, Boots to Business,

SDVOSBC , the National Center for Veterans Institute for Procurement, Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC), and Leveraging Information and Networks to Access Capital (LINC) .

Streetshares brings together business owners in search of funding and investors looking for both financial and social returns.

21 Gun Salute Initiative supports service-disabled veteran owned businesses with the goal of reserving 3% of contracts for service-disabled veteran owned small businesses.

VetBiz is a VA website that provides information about the Center for Verification and Evaluation’s verification process for veteran owned businesses looking to gain eligibility for the VA’s Veterans First Contracting Program.

VetBizCentral is a veteran run site that assists veteran and active duty military entrepreneurs through training and counseling, networking opportunities, mentoring and advocacy.

Veteran Entrepreneur Portal provides access to a number of business tools and services, from business education to financing opportunities.

Veteran Fast Launch Initiative provides mentoring and training, along with free software and other services, to military veteran entrepreneurs.

Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship  provides resources, courses and mentorship to female veterans who have started businesses or are looking to do so.

Vetrepreneur Mentoring provides mentoring services to help veteran entrepreneurs with everything from contractor registration to website creation.

Victory Spark is an accelerator program focused on startups led by U.S. military veterans. The program includes a 12-week mentor-driven Lean LaunchPad Program, along with grant funding for entrepreneurs who complete the program.

 

 

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