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Transitioning service members trade boots for business entrepreneur options

By Verda L. Parker | Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany | August 23, 2016

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“What do you want to be when you grow up?” was the first of several questions posed to transitioning service members attending the Boots-2-Business Workshop held at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany’s Lifelong Learning Center, recently.

 

“The Boots-2-Business Entrepreneurship Workshop is one of the Transition Readiness Program’s training tracks provided by the Small Business Administration for service members, who are interested in business ownership or other self-employment as a career option,” Robin Gray, program manager, Transition Readiness Program, Marine and Family Programs, MCLB Albany, said.

 

According to Gray, Bill Boone, entrepreneur outreach specialist, University of Georgia, Small Business Development Center, is credited with being the catalyst for developing the program and for bringing it to Georgia.

 

Boone, U.S. Navy retired, who opened the Boots-2-Business Workshop, shared some of the details of his transition from active-duty service member to life in the civilian business arena and the benefits offered to SBDC clients.

 

“If you’ve been around South Georgia long enough, you’ve heard of the (University of Georgia) Extension, what they do and how they help growers and producers,” Boone said. “We do the same thing, except we do it for businesses, and we do it for free. If you’re a client of the (Small Business Development Center), it doesn’t cost you any money.

 

“To work with us, the client has a business plan -- and we will help you write that, a marketing plan and to learn more about the business world,” he continued. “What you really need to know if you’re going to open your own business is that you need to be a client of the SBDC.

 

“After talking (with) many of you, you already know what it is that you want to do,” he recapped. “You know in your mind. Here’s the business; here’s the competition; here’s what it’s going to cost me. We help you refine that and put it on paper.

 

“Boots-2-Business is a national program run by the (Small Business Administration), funded by the SBA,” Boone explained. “We were a natural choice to teach how to start your business; how to run your business, how to prosper in your business. When they came out with the program, we got the job.

 

“We do it at every military base in Georgia quarterly,” he continued. “The Boots-2-Business trains over 25,000 veterans per year and that’s a pretty big deal. It’s a good program and I’m glad that you’re here.”

 

Wrapping up day two of the workshop, Hester Taylor Clark, founder, Hester Group, spoke to the service members about how she started and developed her home-based business into a nationally recognized federal contractor.

 

“As I thought about it last night,” Clark said. “Whenever I have an opportunity to speak to anyone about small business and entrepreneurship, I tell what I did wrong, because that’s really the best way to help people who are starting out.

 

“I am absolutely no different than anyone else in terms of starting,” she stressed. “I just had an idea 18 years ago. (There’s) always a story involved and, because I’m a storyteller at heart, I’ll tell you a story of Hester Group.”

 

From there, Clark outlined details of some of the failures and the successes she faced along her journey to her company’s growth, after which she posed a question to the group.

 

“Are you in business or are you working for yourself?” she asked. “I need you all to think about that. I didn’t know the answer to that at the time, because I had never thought about it.

 

“There is a very different path to take depending on that answer,” Clark emphasized. “And, either one of those answers is correct, because you have to make the determination for yourself. I took the path of running a business.”

 

Clark gave the workshop attendees a list of startup business strategies and options to consider, including several websites to guide them in the planning as well as decision-making processes before, during and after opening their business.

 

At the end of her session, Clark engaged workshop participants in an open dialogue and a question and answer period.

 

Gray urges transitioning service members, who may be considering opening their own business, to register to attend future Boots-2-Business Workshops.

 

Other facilitators on the University of Georgia’s SBDC lineup were Nathan Arnold, Rob Martin and Heather Sharpe.

 

To view additional photos of the event, visit MCLB Albany’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marine-Corps-Logistics-Base-Albany/512695405469372.
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