Career advocates guide veterans on starting businesses
Tony Mata was in the Army for 21 years, and for a number of those years, he managed his unit's recycling facility in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. When it came time to retire, he was offered a plant management position and took it. The owner of the...
Tony Mata was in the Army for 21 years, and for a number of those years, he managed his unit's recycling facility in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
When it came time to retire, he was offered a plant management position and took it. The owner of the plant retired and offered to sell the plant to Mata, but the bank turned him down for a loan.
Mata ended up getting laid off by the company that bought the recycling facility.
"The military was all I knew," Mata said.
Now, Mata wants to start his own recycling facility in Grand Forks.
Mata has been getting help from the Small Business Association (SBA) and nonprofit SCORE, which helps small businesses with free education and mentorship.
"If I would have known that there was help out there, like the SBA and SCORE, I could have bought that (recycling facility), and I'd be really successful right now," Mata said.
The Grand Forks SBA and SCORE hosted a free two-part seminar on business creation and social media management Thursday, Nov. 8.
The Veterans Business Outreach Center of the Dakotas is one of those resources. The entity that serves both North Dakota and South Dakota offers free training in business plan development, budgeting and logistics.
The workshop was taught by three veterans who started their own businesses, a SCORE mentor and SBA senior area manager Eric Giltner. Two veterans and two non-veterans attended the seminar.
Marlan Helgeson is a Navy veteran and a SCORE mentor. The 82 year-old served the U.S. for eight years. During the Korean War, he and two of his brothers were stationed on the USS Lindenwald.
Helgeson's duty on the ship was the telecommunications, and he said his training in the Navy helped him get hired when he went into the workforce.
"US West hired me right away when I told them about my communications training in the Navy," Helgeson said.
He went on to work for the telecommunications company for more than 30 years and then started his own consulting company in 1990.
By the numbers
Six percent of U.S. adults are veterans, according to the Census Bureau.
And veterans make up 10 percent of small business owners, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Giltner said veterans are less likely to reach out for help when starting a small business than other segments of the population, but there are a lot of resources out there, tailored especially for veterans.
"I don't know what it is, if it is the experiences that they've had or whatever," Giltner said of veterans asking for help.
He said veterans often make the best business owners because of skills they gain while in the military.
"They know how to keep going when things fail, and they are generally really responsible," Giltner said.
Helgeson agreed, pointing out the communications training he got in the Navy. He also said commitment and loyalty are something he learned in the military and then was able to apply in his working life.
Mata said he has met with SCORE mentors four times. They advised him on his business plan.
At the seminar, the counselors explained that he could use insurance as collateral for a loan to start up his business and he made an appointment with an insurance agent the next day.
"It's hard not to be inspired talking to these guys," Mata said. "This is help you're getting for free, and it's millions and millions of dollars worth of knowledge."