COLORADO SPRINGS — This week is a time to celebrate and support those who have served because it's National Veterans small business week. It's happening November 1-5, and support is being offered to local veterans who want to start their own business and veterans who already have their own business.
"We have a lot of veterans that are starting their businesses, that are growing their businesses here or are retiring and coming back and starting their businesses," said Aikta Marcoulier, the executive director of the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center.
Marcoulier says veteran-owned businesses make up 13% of businesses in Colorado, which is higher than the 9% average nation wide.
"This week is all about them and we are providing lots of free educational support throughout the week, and we're here to support our veterans," said Marcoulier.
Support is being offered like training, resources, and networking opportunities online and in-person. One of the veteran business owners taking part in the activities is Todd Baldwin, the owner and founder of Red Leg Brewing Company.
"I think a lot of people who are transitioning out of the military look at the great opportunities that Colorado Springs and the entire Pikes Peak region gives us," said Baldwin, who served in the U.S. Army for 10 years. "I get that question a lot, like what traits military folks have to be an entrepreneur?"
He opened the business about four years ago and even added a $10.5 million expansion which opened in January 2021 and included an outdoor music venue, event space and food hall. He says being in the military lends to a lot of those values to being an entrepreneur.
"What the military teaches you is that backwards planning like, 'alright, here's where I want to get to and how do I get there?' And being an entrepreneur is a lot about that and these risks," said Baldwin.
For him, this week means a lot to the veteran business community.
"It's a big week not only for the community of Colorado Springs, because there are so many businesses run by veterans here and obviously the military community here is so strong," said Baldwin.
Marcoulier also said the pandemic changed the entrepreneur world. She mentioned when there's an economic downturn or uncertainty, more people are reaching out to them for help to start their business, including veterans.
"We've seen a lot of people who are retiring or getting out of the military and saying 'I'm ready to be my own boss, what can I do?' said Marcoulier. "We're heading into the holiday season and many businesses are owned by veterans who've served our country and we should do that right back and serve them."
Veteran entrepreneurs looking to start a business or grow their existing business are also invited to the 14th annual Veterans Small Business conference on Thursday at the Pinery on the Hill. The conference is happening from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Registration for the conference is $10.
The Pinery on the Hill is located at 775 W. Bijou St. in Colorado Springs. For more information about this week's events, click here.