One veteran leading the charge in the small business sector is Chelsea Mandello. After serving as a photojournalist in the Navy for seven years, Mandello started Troopster, a small business dedicated to helping people quickly and efficiently send fresh care packages to their loved ones in the military. With help from her local Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC), Mandello has built her business into a thriving enterprise.
Because of their time in the military, veterans like Mandello enter business ownership with many of the qualities essential to entrepreneurial success, like resiliency, resourcefulness, and organization. We encourage veteran business owners to use the following strategies to further enhance your existing acumen and build lasting businesses:
Learn entrepreneurship best practices. As a former service member, you are adept at learning new skills rapidly and applying them expertly and precisely. You can do the same in the small business sector by taking advantage of the SBA’s educational resources. Start with Boots to Business, a two-day education and training program that helps aspiring transitioning service members and veteran entrepreneurs learn the fundamentals of business. Next, build on that foundational understanding of business best practices by taking online courses through the SBA Learning Center on topics ranging from social media marketing to pricing strategies.
Leverage your network. Consider seizing online and in-person networking opportunities specific to veteran small business owners. LinkedIn groups or Meetup groups for veteran entrepreneurs can be an ideal forum for finding key business connections within the veteran community.
Connect with a mentor. Learn from the experience of someone who already has years of successful small business ownership under their belt. You may consider tapping your network to find someone who is the right fit – or you might turn to an SBA resource partner, like your local VBOC or SCORE. These organizations will match you with an experienced mentor who can help you navigate scenarios and challenges you haven’t yet faced. Mandello, for example, took advantage of her local VBOC’s mentoring services when launching Troopster. She says that, “Without [SBA] mentorship, I don’t think we would’ve come this far this fast.”
Plan, plan, plan – but be ready to pivot. From your days in the military, you know the importance of planning – but you’re also highly adaptable and resourceful. Channel this balance between structure and flexibility into your business venture. While it’s essential to have a living business plan that lays out your general path forward, it’s also important to be able to roll with the punches and modify your plan as needed.
Find a cause or mission. Veterans are often naturally mission-oriented. Finding a way to contribute to your local community or the broader military community – like Mandello did – will help you stay motivated and fulfill your tendency toward altruism.
The skills you learned in the military already give you a leg up in the small business sector. Now, gain a further edge by leveraging SBA small business tools, resources, and guidance. Follow us on Twitter at @SBAgov for more tips and ideas. We look forward to serving you!