Winning Battles for Vetpreneurs

The agency’s vast network comprises 68 District offices and 15 Veterans Business Outreach centers; the latter provide counseling and training to thousands of veterans annually. The SBA also partners with SCORE, whose 13,000 volunteers, 40% of whom are veterans and the majority of whom are former or current CEOs, provide counseling to veteran entrepreneurs. Veterans also have nationwide access to 100 SBA Women’s Business Centers and nearly 1,000 Small Business Development Centers, many of which are at colleges and universities.

U.S. Army Sgt. Nicole Baldwin served two tours of duty in war zones after 9/11. She was deployed as a unit supply specialist to Iraq during 2003—2004 and to Afghanistan during 2005—2006. She went on the first all-female convoy into the streets of Bagram to visit a local midwives hospital. After her first tour of duty, Baldwin, 28, enlisted in the Individual Ready Reserve and attended Houston Training Schools to become a licensed aesthetician. Inspired by the herbal remedies her grandmother made to heal facial burns Baldwin had suffered as a child, she wanted to create an all-natural, organic skincare line. Returning to Afghanistan in 2009, Baldwin worked as a civilian contractor until earlier this year, but she kept working on her goal. “I literally had to do all my research and correspondence with my design team, chemist, and lender through late-night e-mails and phone calls,” she says. Because of her experience in the harsh, dry, Middle East climate, Baldwin selected active, moisturizing ingredients for her products: Amazonian babassu oil, which deeply hydrates the skin without leaving an oily residue, and botanicals from traditional Chinese medicine, which reinforce the skin’s natural defenses against oxidative stress.

Baldwin officially started BIAO Skincare on Aug. 1 in Houston using $10,000 of her own money and a $50,000 small business startup loan from PeopleFund, the second-largest microlender in Texas. BIAO is an acronym for beautiful inside and out.

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