6 tips for starting a successful business from these female military veterans who did it

Laveta Brigham

Starting a business is always challenging but it’s harder than it should be for military veterans — and particularly for female veterans. Female veteran-owned businesses make up just 15.2% of the 2.52 million veteran businesses, according to Census Bureau Statistics. About 97% of those have no employees. Also, only around […]

Starting a business is always challenging but it’s harder than it should be for military veterans — and particularly for female veterans.

Female veteran-owned businesses make up just 15.2% of the 2.52 million veteran businesses, according to Census Bureau Statistics. About 97% of those have no employees.

Also, only around 15% of all veteran-owned firms are minority-owned.

“Those statistics are staggering, yet they highlight the flagrant gender gap, with respect to pay and the persistent challenges that women entrepreneurs face when sourcing capital for their businesses,” said Chassity Jackson, a U.S. Air Force Veteran and CEO of the clothing line Battle Beauties. “The lack of accessibility to capital and manufacturing resources were the most difficult challenges for me as an emerging entrepreneur.”

Founder of Battle Beauties Fashion, Chassity Jackson, during a reenlistment ceremony on Eglin Air Force Base, Florida with the Air Force Thunderbirds.

Photo: Tech. Sgt. Andrew Leonhaard

It’s important for female entrepreneurs to learn the fundamentals of business, said Patricia Frame, a fellow U.S. Air Force Veteran and founder of the consulting firm Strategies for Human Resources.

Too many female veterans “go into government contracting because they think their veteran status will get them work quickly and that often is not what happens,” Frame said. “So, getting a solid business plan and learning about financial matters is vital.”

Jackson and Frame recently took part in the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and CNBC + Acorns Invest in You’s “Rebuilding Better: A Virtual Town Hall for America’s Small & New Business Owners” for advice from financial and entrepreneurial experts.

Both U.S. Air Force veterans have learned a lot about the challenges that come with starting a business. Here is their advice on launching a successful business:

1. Start with a focused strategy

2. Secure funding

3. Networking

4. Figure out what makes your business unique

Founder of Strategies for Human Resources, Patricia Frame, speaking at the Alexandria VA SBDC seminar.

Photo: William Reagan

5. Be willing and ready to adapt to change

The coronavirus is the perfect example of how unforeseen events can upend your business, your industry – and the entire economy. Entrepreneurs have learned that they must adapt if they want to survive. As we’ve seen, many businesses have already been forced to close due to the pandemic – and there will be many more to come.

A business successful in pivoting their business strategy is Gargiulo Produce in Hillside, N.J., that was selling fresh produce and other food items to restaurants and cruise ships before the coronavirus pandemic.

“When this crisis hit and we started opening our doors again for retail, it brought the company full circle. In the respect that we now, again, are going direct to consumer,” said Monica Gargiulo, director of business development for Gargiulo Produce.

It was a quick pivot to help their family business survive. That quick thinking, selling direct to consumers was so successful that they actually had to hire more workers during the pandemic – while many other businesses were laying off workers or going out of business. And, they decided to keep that part of the business – even when restaurants started to reopen.

It’s also a good idea to keep operations running lean – you never know when the next disruption will hit. Keeping operations as lean as possible will allow a small business to operate longer in the event of a crisis. And, it could be the difference between staying afloat – or going out of business.

“The best thing any entrepreneur or business owner can do to prepare for the unexpected is ensure they have sufficient cash reserves to sustain them should revenue dry up suddenly,” Falcone said. “Finally, business owners should be informed about and prepared to take advantage of PPP [paycheck protection program] loans and other relief programs available.”

6. Stay optimistic

Entrepreneurs should focus on what they can control, instead of factors outside of their control. Take the time to take a look at the market dynamics in the industry of your small business and be ready to seize opportunities for growth where they exist.

Jackson wearing pieces from her very clothing brand that embraces curvy women.

Photo: Battle Beauties Fashion

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