Boots to Business with Barb Carson

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"They are used to building a plan, and they can adjust when things don't go as that plan would have it, so it makes a great skill for a small business owner."


Nov 05, 2016

The skills that veterans attain during military life, transfer well to business ownership. A discussion on the program Boots to Business that suggests entrepreneurship as an option for service members and military spouses. An interview with Barb Carson, Associate Administrator of the Office of Veterans Business Development at the Small Business Administration. Visit the Office of Veterans Development at the SVA on the web, on Facebook or follow on?Twitter. Interview recorded on October 21, 2016.

Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Traynham: After World War II, close to 50% of returning veterans started their own businesses. While the transition back to civilian life can have its struggles, veterans possess specific skills learned in the military that can transfer well to business ownership. Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Robert Traynham. Joining me is Barb Carson. She's the Associate Administer of the Office of Veteran Business Development at the Small Business Administration. Barb, welcome to the program.

Carson: Thank you Robert.

Traynham: We know that transitioning from military life to veteran life can be a bit difficult and a bit challenging. But as I mentioned a few moments ago, the skill set that many, many Veterans have really transitions to ownership overall, no?

Carson: It absolutely does. They are used to building a plan, and they can adjust when things don't go as that plan would have it, so it makes a great skill for a small business owner.

Traynham: And can we talk a little bit more about those skills? What do those skills look like?

Carson: Being persistent, understanding that there are challenges but continuing on, finding the best path forward, building teams so as the company grows, military members are used to working with teams and trusting them with quite a lot. That's an excellent skill.

Traynham: You have a program called Boots to Business that was started in January of 2013. What does that look like, what does it mean, how does it work?

Carson: It means the Small Business Administration is around the world. Where there are service members and military spouses leaving the service, we are there to teach them that entrepreneurship may be the option that they want to pursue. Rather than getting a job or going back to school, they can create their own job.

Traynham: And speaking of own jobs, my understanding is that you're a former business owner or small business owner. How did that work? How did that germinate in your head?

Carson: That was a chance to do something that I really wanted to do while I was overseas. I happened to be a military spouse as well as serving in the Air Force myself. And while in Okinawa, there weren't as many opportunities to serve in that way in uniform, so I started a business with a female veteran friend of mine, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Traynham: So you can speak clearly firsthand about what it means and the pride of ownership, if you will, and best practices with respect to starting a business. Barb, let's talk for a few moments about Boots to Business a little bit more. Are you optimistic that this program will be around the next five or six years?

Carson: I'm incredibly optimistic because of the outcomes we're already seeing.

Traynham: Which is what?

Carson: Out of the 50,000 people that have started, and we've surveyed them, a small survey, to be clear, but 30% of them have already started a business, and this is a very short time frame. As you mentioned, we've only started since 2013. Also, there are more women that are interested in entrepreneurship than we thought we would see. Coming into the Boots to Business program, it's more women than men as far as percentage of the class content would be.

Traynham: And what kind of businesses have you seen that they're starting? Is there a trend? Carson: That is why I'm smiling. No, there's not. They're doing everything, whether it's continuing what they were doing in the military into the civilian sector or it's something completely different. From drone operation to starting a brewery, they're doing it from soup to nuts.

Traynham: What are any lessons learned that you can share with our viewers? Is there anything quite frankly that's not working that you would like to build upon?

Carson: There is. So I get people and veterans, military families interested in starting a business. What comes next? How do I help them grow that business? Access to capital and lending is incredibly important, and that's the challenge I'm facing next.

Traynham: Barb, in the few moments that we have left, I'm verily interested to learn more about the female entrepreneurship. My understanding is that female entrepreneurship is more successful, and it grows much faster than their male counterparts. Do you know why?

Carson: I want to know why, and I'm looking at that with the Department of Labor. But you're right. There has been a 300% growth in women veteran-led businesses since 2007. You also will note that women veterans continue to have a higher unemployment rate. And so I wanted to investigate what it is, why is that, and is entrepreneurship and small business ownership one of the options available that could improve that?

Traynham: Barb, thank you very much for joining us. We really appreciate it. And thank you for joining us for this edition of "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Robert Traynham. Have a great day, everybody. We'll see you next time. Bye-bye.

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