Edmonds Military Wire: Women veterans changing landscape of small business

By Mike Schindler

Regardless of what side of the political fence you sit, it is hard for one to argue against the importance small business plays in America. After all, according to the Small Business Administration, “Small businesses make up more than 99.7 percent of all employers;” and in a time when Americans need work, what better time than now to encourage, build, and support small business entrepreneurship.
Two such organizations are doing just that – and with women U.S. Veterans.

The Oct. 23, 2012 Capital One and Count Me In joint press release announced the ground-breaking initiative. “To help women veterans fuel the growth of their small businesses and create new jobs for veterans and civilians across the country, Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence has partnered with Capital One to develop the Women Veteran Entrepreneur Corps (WVEC). The new training and mentorship program is designed to help established women small business owners who are veterans or spouses/domestic partners of veterans conquer daily business challenges and plan ahead for future growth and success.”

This initiative just may be able to pull off a multi-front win: building businesses with women at the helm that lead to improved employment within communities and helping our women veterans transition more smoothly back into civilian life. Women veteran unemployment exceeds that of their male counterparts – WVEC could very well be the needed step to close the gap.

Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence and Capital One Financial Corporation found, through their survey of women veteran business owners, that “46 percent of U.S. women veteran business owners say that being a business owner has helped them transition to civilian life after military service.” The survey also uncovered that “more than half (55 percent) of women vets said it was their leadership experience in the military that inspired them to start their own business.”

Employers and universities should take note. Your talent pool may shrink if you don’t change your thinking.

The survey noted some specific findings, such as “28 percent say their greatest need is learning about securing new customers, while 24 percent say they need guidance in gaining access to capital,” which is not much different from ANY business owner, regardless of gender.

Bottom line: Women, especially women Veterans, are often overlooked because of our male-dominated bias – Men are the “do it all and fix it all” while women make life look pretty or do “marketing”…so goes the thinking.  And yet, last I checked, when my daughters get hurt, they turn to my wife (their mom), not me – not only for comfort but because she can actually “fix it” and apply the right amount of care at the same time. (And should I ever choose to run for office I now just boxed myself in with this statement – but it’s true.)

America, pay attention to our overlooked talent pool: The U.S. Woman Veteran.

Final note: Count Me In and Capital One will kick off the WVEC initiative with a conference and business pitch competition for women small business owners who are military veterans or spouses/domestic partners of vets on Dec. 3 and 4. The event, to be held at Capital One’s headquarters in McLean, Va., will gather hundreds of women veterans and business growth experts to participate in a variety of panels and workshops, some of which will be led by women veterans. Individuals can register for the WVEC December Conference and Competition at CountMeIn.org.

Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include  “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.”  He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

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