Winning Battles for Vetpreneurs

There’s a lot of support awaiting veterans taking the plunge into business, says Pavelek. “Far too few veterans are aware that everyday Americans are eager to show their gratitude by buying from veterans, that the federal government is required by law to buy from veteran-owned firms, that more than 150 of the top 500 public corporations have special programs dedicated to buying products and services from veteran-owned small businesses, and that state and local governments have passed laws to buy veteran,” he says.

Take Johnson & Johnson and Comcast, which were named among the “10 Best Corporations for Veteran-Owned Businesses for 2012” by the National Veteran-Owned Business Association. Veronica Manuel-Gilbert, Johnson & Johnson’s director of Enterprise Supplier Diversity, says a top-down emphasis on improving the company’s supplier diversity program only makes the future look brighter for veteran-owned businesses. She notes that Johnson & Johnson has improved business analytics to provide better identification of veteran-owned businesses, and continually seeks specific areas where small and veteran-owned businesses can participate.

In 2011, Comcast spent $60 million with veteran-owned suppliers, typically purchasing furniture, product installations, logistics services, and construction. “In addition to our long-standing supplier diversity program and commitment to cultivating partnerships with veteran contractors,” says Ajamu Johnson, senior director, Supplier Diversity and Strategic Procurement at Comcast Cable, “we support veterans in our workforce, programming, and community investment initiatives.” A Joint Diversity Advisory Council of about 40 business and community leaders advises senior executive teams at Comcast regarding diversity efforts and initiatives, including enhancing relationships with service-disabled veteran-owned businesses.

Skin in the Game
The greatest hurdle facing would-be entrepreneurs, along with convincing family that they can still pay the bills, is finding startup capital, says Pavelek. Luckily, veterans have an active SBA program to help them find capital: the Patriot Express Loan, available to veterans and their spouses. From the program’s July 2007 inception through mid-September of this year, more than 9,200 Patriot Express Loans have been made, totaling an approved value of nearly $779 million. Veteran-owned businesses typically borrow in the range of $150,000.

(Continued on next page)