AARPColumnists

Disrupt Everything: Recognizing Veterans’ Entrepreneurial Spirit

By November 3, 2017 November 16th, 2017 No Comments

By Ron Mori

November is always a month that reminds me of all the things that I need to be thankful for in my life. I’m especially thankful on Veterans Day, when so many men and women have served our country and so many have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Of course, the Japanese American community has its rich history of Nisei veterans who fought in World War II, and we will always honor their service.

On Oct. 25, I attended the Filipino and Filipino American Congressional Gold Medal presentation ceremony in Washington, D.C., which was attended by more than 380 family members of veterans who fought in WWII. It was a moving and inspiring ceremony to see 21 living Fil-Am vets finally receive the highest civilian honor for their service to our country.

Filipino American Congressional Gold Medal

I heard so many heartfelt stories from family members that came to honor current and fallen heroes from WWII. A common American story was how an uncle or father came back from service overseas and started a business or worked for a couple years and then decided to start a business. “It was a different time in America,” said one Fil-Am Veteran, who is 94 years old.

One thing these veterans had in common with others who would open small businesses was their tenacious never-give-up spirit that helped them survive the ups and downs in starting a new business. While November is widely known as a time our country honors and recognizes the contributions veterans have made to our country, it’s also a moment we acknowledge the impact entrepreneurs have made to our economy.

In addition to Veterans Day, November is National Entrepreneur Month (as well as National Family Caregiver Month). It’s a time we can also acknowledge our veterans who took the leap of faith to open small businesses across the country.

While becoming an entrepreneur is challenging and rewarding all at the same time, tenacity and a leap of faith are sometimes required. As noted, today is a different time than 75 years or even just 10 years ago in America.

Perhaps, now is the time. If you’re a veteran, or anyone who’s interested in getting your business started but don’t know where or how to get started, here are few things to consider: Make a plan, and attend trainings, workshops or webinars.

To get started, register now (www.aarp.org/startabusiness) for the free AARP From Passion to Profit, Part 2: Veteran Entrepreneurship Webinar on Nov. 9 at 3 p.m. EST. If you miss it, you can view the Webinar in our archives along with other entrepreneurship tools (www.aarp.org/50plusentrepreneurship). Or, attend an event during SBA Veterans Small Business Week to learn more about becoming an entrepreneur.

Then, talk to an expert. I’m sure you know someone who has experienced the highs and lows of being a business owner. Reach out and request time to chat. Here you can ask about his or her experiences and how he or she got started, particularly if he or she is in your desired industry. Ask the expert about the challenges and successes of being a business owner and being one’s own boss. From there, you can determine if starting a small business is right for you.

Get a mentor. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has great resource partners such as SCORE, a group of retired business executives, which offer persons in business or interested in starting a business one-on-one assistance to help you get and stay on track. SCORE mentors are located in most cities throughout the U.S. and have a proven track record helping entrepreneurs be successful.

Get funded, and don’t feel like you’re alone. Funding is one of the most common road blocks to getting your business off the ground. There are a number of nontraditional ways to get funded through entities such as KIVA, Fundera and Community Development Funding Institutions (CDFI) looking to help your business build and grow. Consider seeking an angel investor(s) and/or fundraising through GoFundMe or other online “crowdfunding” sites to get people interested in supporting your business.

Don’t let failure stop you. Studies show that many businesses fail in the first five years. This may not apply to you, so don’t let that discourage you. Launching a small business takes risk and fortitude to see your dream become a reality. Be committed to moving from idea to “open for business.”

Seek out others’ small businesses. The challenges and rewards of self-employment are partly due to the support of fellow business owners. Take a moment on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 25, to support small businesses. Remember, their survival depends on you!

Ron Mori is the co-president of the Washington, D.C., JACL chapter and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.