KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Some military members transitioning from the U.S. armed forces will soon have a new boss -- themselves.
Thanks to the Boots to Business Program, sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, transitioning veterans have the opportunity to follow their dreams of entrepreneurship as they transfer back to the civilian sector.
"B2B is an entrepreneurial education and training program offered by the Small Business Administration as part of the Soldier for Life -- Transition Assistance Program," said Lew Lewis, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Transition Services manager. "The program provides transitioning service members and military spouses an overview of the business-ownership process, opportunities and challenges, what it means to be an entrepreneur and military skills and attributes that transfer over to entrepreneurship."
B2B began in 2012 through a joint initiative between the Department of Defense and SBA and later expanded through a contract with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families Program at Syracuse University, New York, in 2014. The university has offered the "Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans" since 2007, which took B2B to transitioning veterans worldwide through the work of IVMF Executive Director J. Michael Haynie, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Air Force veteran.
"The principal reason why veterans make good entrepreneurs is the skills they learned in the military are transferrable to an entrepreneurship setting," said Todd Moss, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises at Syracuse University and B2B instructor. "Skills such as problem solving, team management, flexibility, resiliency, reliability and mission-focus are all a part of being successful in the military and entrepreneurship."
There are a number of tools the program provides service members, such as creating a value proposition, conducting market research and understanding their economic model, Moss explained. These are brought together in a business model canvas, which shows how the different parts of a business model fit together to deliver a customer-focused value proposition.
July 4 will mark the end of his 25-year military career and the beginning of a new business venture for Sgt. Maj. Andy Kochan, a senior aircraft manager with the 21st Theater Sustainment Command. Kochan dreams of starting an eco-friendly transportation company in San Antonio that would start with electric delivery vehicles and later expand to aviation.
"It would be a green company that uses electric delivery vehicles, and I want to take it a step further and produce electricity on my own so that I don't even have to tap into the grid," said Kochan, who is also a pilot. "I thought of the aviation business five years ago while I was deployed. I discovered all those gaps in capacity and infrastructure in many overseas locations, but because the entry point into the aviation business is so high from the funding perspective, I thought there might be some other ways where I could do that as far as the transportation company."
Kochan also learned that starting a "green" company will benefit the environment as well as provide him a business tax break.
"Environmental awareness has always been a big part of my life. I strongly believe in improving the environment and leaving as little behind as we can," the sergeant major said. "I thought what better way to positively contribute to our environment than by taking a few trucks off of the road and replacing them with electric trucks that put no carbon emissions into the air."
The B2B class built a solid foundation for Spc. Jalisa Bryant and her husband Carvin who plan to start a real estate business when she separates from the Army in November.
"We inherited some property in North Carolina, but we didn't want to live there," explained Bryant, a human resources specialist with the 30th Medical Brigade. "So, the idea came to us that we should rent it."
Once inspiration was planted, their business idea grew into buying, selling and renting houses, she said.
"We are moving to Florida, so we thought we could start our business in North Carolina and expand it down to Florida," said Bryant, who is eager to start their new enterprise in a few months. "My hope is that ten years from now, this business will become our primary source of income."
B2B helped Bryant answer questions and learn what resources are available for start-up businesses, she said. "When you start a business, there are a lot of questions you might have, so having someone who can provide you with answers is great."
For Capt. Amanda Darling, establishing a not for profit organization to assist high school seniors with their after-graduation choices was born from her sister's experience.
"I've noticed people who are about to graduate or have graduated high school are sometimes misinformed or lack information to help them with their next steps," Darling said. "I learned from my sister, Briana -- a rising sophomore at Ohio State University, who didn't really understand the spectrum of opportunities that were out there."
As a result, Darling is pioneering a non-profit transition program giving people different pathways for success after high school, she said.
"Whether their pathway is trade, apprenticeship, military, post-secondary education or public service, I want to provide an opportunity for them to meet mentors who have experience in each of those sectors and teach them how to break into those areas," she said.
As her second time attending the B2B program, Darling said attendees receive in two days what Syracuse University students study in an entire semester.
"You get only two days with the instructors, so you drink the information from a fire hose and then go back home and digest it," said the captain. "Two days barely scratches the surface, so I've also reached out the instructors after the fact to ask questions, and they've opened up their networks to me as well."
After the two-day course, attendees can also register to take several online courses available through the SBA, Moss said. They are also introduced to the broader suite of services the IVMF made available for veterans transitioning out of the military at www.ivmf.syracuse.edu.
"The program benefits military members by helping them to understand that their military service is excellent preparation for pursuing entrepreneurship," the professor said. "In fact, veterans start businesses at about three times the rate of non-veterans. So, take advantage of the numerous opportunities to learn more about entrepreneurship. The skills you learn will be beneficial to you regardless of your new career choice after you transition out of the military."
For more information about the B2B program or upcoming classes, visit the SFL-TAP Office in Kaiserslatutern located in Bldg. 3205 at Kleber Kaserne or call DSN 541-1400 or commercial 0611-143-541-1400 or visit their office in Baumholder located in Bldg. 8670 at Smith Barracks or call DSN 531-2610 or 0611-143-531-2610.