ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Military veteran exhibitors had a chance to showcase their businesses or resumes to hiring companies and agencies during the first Veteran Entrepreneur Day held at the APG North (Aberdeen) recreation center. The program was hosted by Team APG and coordinated by Startup Partners, Inc.

The event included workshops and information on available loans, business plans, presentations and other topics designed to assist veterans in their business endeavors. In addition, other veteran entrepreneurs spoke on their experiences and lessons learned.

The keynote speaker was the CEO of Veteran Compost, Inc. Justen Garrity, an Iraq War veteran from Aberdeen, who recently received the Harford County Entrepreneur Award.

Garrity said that he had a difficult time finding a job, despite the valuable job skills he obtained while serving in the Army five years. He decided to take matters into his own hands by starting his own business, in compost production. Today, Veteran Compost is the only permitted food waste composting site in Maryland, turning food scraps into high quality compost. Veteran Compost also provides job opportunities to veterans and their Families.

"As veterans it is pretty daunting to step out from what we have known in the Army and go into the business world, but there are a lot of things we learn in the military that make us great entrepreneurs," he said. "We are adaptive leaders."

Garrity added that veterans have developed mental toughness or resiliency, and self discipline; traits that are needed in the business world.

"People in the military have an extra gear for dealing with issues, dealing with fatigue and working in a stressful environment," he said. "You have a different threshold than the average person."

Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. James Ervin said that with the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, the Army will get smaller over the next five years, which means more veterans will be looking for jobs. Today, almost half of those serving are between 22 and 30 years old. Currently, America has the largest population of young veterans since the Vietnam War.

"More than 130,000 Soldiers will leave the Army this year, and more than 500,000 by 2017. This means that a lot of young Soldiers will be transitioning out of the military and, with our support, into civilian communities and jobs," he said.

Ervin added that individuals can do their part by encouraging businesses to hire veterans or military Family members. They can also tell organizations that hire veterans about the National Resource Directory, www.nationalresourcedirectory.gov/, so service members and their Families can access information about their services. Individuals can also give back by volunteering with organizations that assist veterans and their Families.

"Soldiers bring exceptional training, values and experience to their civilian jobs. The talents we develop in the military make us valuable additions to any organization," he said.

Army veteran Gail Schnell, CEO of Schnell-Tech Solutions, an Information Technology Consulting and Contracting Company, said that she enjoyed having the chance to network with other veteran business owners during the event. Schnell recently won the Women Veterans Rock! Rising Star Award.
"There are not many women veteran business owners," she said. "I am used to being a minority; I am not going to let that deter me. I want to continue to be a leader and hopefully a role model to other women."