COLORADO SPRINGS — The state of Colorado has just been added to a growing list of states providing resources and opportunities for our veterans and active duty military men and women who want to start their own business. It comes in the form of a $3.5 million dollar grant from the federal Small Business Administration which will be administered through Mt. Carmel Veterans Services Center, one of the most trusted veterans assistance operations in Southern Colorado.
This program is so important providing a tremendous service to the entire state of Colorado and it's massive military presence because one of the most difficult decisions for active duty service men and women and veterans is deciding what to do once their service to country has ended. Classes are being offered right now at military installations across the state, including at Peterson Space Force Base, which we visited recently to get a look at what is happening with those who want to take advantage of what's called the Veterans Business Outreach Center or VBOC. Bottom line, it's deisigned to help those considering a small business startup to get headed in the right direction. I recently spoke with Paul Price with Mt. Carmel who is the point man on the development of the management structure locally of VBOC as the classes are already ramping up, he told me, "the class covers a curriculum of everything from figuring out is there a need for the business you're going to provide, all the way to how do I make this really happen".
Mt. Carmel was the logical choice to run this program for Colorado since it's centrally located, but more importantly, it has a history here of providing so much to the military and veteran community. In fact, when Colorado was just named as a new VBOC state, it was the diversity of services offered at Mt. Carmel that helped seal the deal.
Jon Dix is retired Air Force, I had a chance to talk with him about this new program and how it will be such an important weapon in the arsenal of services provided to local veterans. Jon is a small business owner already, he rents out homes but he still wanted to attend the recent two day class at Peterson Space Force Base and take advantage of the information that is being provided.
He harkened back to those challenging days a decade ago looking for answers on developing a startup business of his own, so he knows how important this opportunity is, "I'd wish that something like the Veterans Business Outreach Center had been around when I first retired because I literally stumbled into many of these things, but through networking and just having one location, that I could call up and say hey, my name is Jon and I'm trying to start my own business."
Surprisingly enough until May 1st of this year our local veterans or active duty personnel had to travel to New Mexico or other states to take advantage of the VBOC program despite the huge military presence here. But that has all changed now, Colorado is one of 28 states offering these services and Mt. Carmel, again, the logical choice to run point because of all the services they already provide, Price told me this new business startup program is icing on the cake, "So the money we've received is allowing us to stand up a shop to provide those services and mentorship and the counseling but also gives them resources to go ahead and start working toward their business."
And through the classes being offered at Peterson, the U.S. Air Force Academy, Fort Carson and Buckley Air Force Base in Denver, these budding entrepreneurs learn about developing that business plan, a feasibility study for the kind of business they are interested in and perhaps most important access to loans and grants to give them the financial backing they need. Jon Dix says his experience has been that after you go through the class not everyone that attends goes on to pursue their own business, he told me,"You get that opportunity to figure out, hey, is this something I want to do, sit through, talk to someone, pick their brain, learns about other resources that are out there." For Paul Price he says the military experience can't be overstated as a starting point for a budding small business owner, "You can see the success stories that are tied to their passion, their teamwork, their perseverance and standing up a business, following the guidelines, staying with it and working as a team."
The key, Price adds, is the collaboration between the local military community and the small business community, all are contributing something to make this work. If you are interested in being a part of this program all you have to do is reach out to Mt. Carmel Veterans Services Center at 719-772-7000, or go to their website, https://www.veteranscenter.org/