Entrepreneurship is mission possible for military families|
by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs
7/15/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- In today's job market, sometimes the best job is the one self-created.
For 12 years, the Small Business Development Center, or SBDC, has hosted workshops at the Maxwell Airman and Family Readiness Center to help spouses and service members start small businesses.
Representatives provide guidance on developing business plans, conducting market research and seeking loans and grants. Information is applicable to start-ups and existing businesses.
"You have to make sure you have all the pieces in place to make your business work," said Yolanda Wilson, the SBDC's account business executive. "You have to be accountable for your own business."
Developing a business plan helps entrepreneurs know if they are ready to start a business.
"Make sure you do your research before launching," Wilson said.
With some research, business people can outline expenses, learning how much capital is needed to start the company and what will be needed monthly to stay in business.
Entrepreneurs should be honest when examining their finances.
"Your financials should tell a story of how you'll begin and where you'll be one year from now, three years from now," said Thomas Taylor, the SBDC's procurement specialist. "If your numbers are not right in your business plan, everything else will be useless."
When developing a business, entrepreneurs need to analyze the market to see if their business can succeed.
Wilson encourages them to define and understand the target market, understand what motivates the customers and identify their unique value.
Knowing the competition is another important element. "Look to see who else in your area offers the same product or service you are," she said.
Depending on the type of business, a nonprofit agency may be a better fit than a for-profit format. An entrepreneur can still set the guidelines but also can accept grants.
As the procurement specialist, Taylor helps small businesses apply for government contracts. Entrepreneurs can better plan for success knowing what types of contracts are available and which types of businesses are needed.
"[As service members] you're in the best position to know if the government is buying your service," he said.
A variety of financing options are available. For example, the Small Business Administration's Patriot Express program offers loans to eligible military members and their families.
The SBDC, funded by the Department of Defense, is offered locally through Alabama State University. Wilson, and Taylor can be reached at 229-4138 or at the office at 915 S. Jackson St. in Montgomery.
For guidance on business plans, loans and grants, laws and regulations, visit www.sba.gov.
The Census Bureau offers statistics for market research. Visit www.census.gov for information.
Local bankers and business owners offer free advice on www.score.org. SCORE also hosts workshops and offers on-on-one guidance.