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Veterans View: Small Business Association can assist veterans in starting businesses | COMMENTARY

Each year, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) (sba.gov) serves thousands of veterans, including service-disabled veterans, military spouses and active duty military, reserve and National Guard members as they seek to start or expand small businesses. SBA’s programs empower aspiring and existing entrepreneurs through mentorship, training, access to capital, and government contracting guidance.

The SBA Baltimore District Office serves the state of Maryland, except for Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. Any veteran looking for guidance is encouraged to call or email Darin Winick.

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The SBA has a vast network of resource partners to help small businesses through all stages of development and growth. Each partner offers one-on-one counseling and workshops. Counseling services are free of charge. Workshops may incur a small fee to cover materials. Due to COVID-19, all activities are currently being conducted virtually. Assistance can be obtained through one, all or any combination of SBA resource partners:

· Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC): offers business plan assistance, business concept assessments, mentorship and training to eligible veterans. The VBOC serving Maryland can be reached at 703-768-1440.

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· SCORE: Counselors to America’s Small Business: offers one-on-one mentoring from experienced current and former businessmen and women. Find a mentor near you and view their workshop offerings at score.org.

· Maryland Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Northern Region: works with new and existing small businesses, with a focus on transforming ideas into business plans and developing strategies for growth. Carroll County businesses can call 443-412-2237, ext. 4 to connect with the local office or visit mdsbdc.umd.edu to find a counselor near you.

· Women’s Business Centers (WBC): helps start, sustain and grow successful businesses through training, counseling and access to funding. Services are focused on issues important to female entrepreneurs, but all entrepreneurs are welcome. Visit sba.gov/local-assistance/find/ to locate a WBC near you.

For those preparing to transition from active duty to entrepreneurship, the SBA offers Boots to Business, a two-day entrepreneurial program offered at military installations and now virtually. This program introduces participants to the skills, knowledge and resources they need to launch a business, including steps for developing business concepts, developing a business plan, and available SBA resources. The Boots to Business Reboot program extends Boots to Business to Veterans of all eras, National Guard and Reserve, and military spouses.

In addition, those who complete Boots to Business (or Reboot) can enroll at no charge in the Revenue Ready course, a six-week virtual classroom program preparing participants to take their business idea from concept to an executable business model. Participants will focus on building their business model through a series of virtual learning sessions, assignments and in-depth review by seasoned instructors.

Established small businesses interested in doing business with the federal government can utilize the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). The PTAC can assist with registrations, certifications and assist with specific bids and contracts, as well as performance measurement and procurement contract audits. Visit mdptac.org for more information.

The federal government has a goal of awarding 3% of all federal contracting dollars to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses each year. Service-disabled veteran entrepreneurs may qualify for set-aside contracts under the Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses program. Businesses self-certify through their profile at SAM.gov (the federal government’s registration portal for government contracting).

While not an SBA program, the Department of Veterans Affairs also has set-aside contracts for veterans through their Veterans First Contracting Program. Access to VA set-aside contracts requires verification through the Vets First Verification Program.

Every program offered by the SBA and its resource partners is designed to help small businesses build strong foundations for success. Utilizing these resources and programs helps a business put its best foot forward when seeking capital and attracting customers. Veterans are used to serving others; the SBA appreciates that service and encourages all Veteran entrepreneurs to allow the SBA to serve you.

Darin Winick, economic development specialist and veteran business resource officer in the Baltimore District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration can be reached at 410-244-3377 or darin.winick@sba.gov.

On the first Tuesday of each month, the Times publishes as its editorial a Veterans’ View, an opportunity to draw attention to veterans’ issues as well as to inform and educate the community and all veterans about the multitude of available services.

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