It’s well-known and documented that transitioning (or returning) veterans consistently encounter more barriers to employment than do their civilian counterparts. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics currently reports first Gulf War veteran unemployment at almost 10%. Compare this to roughly 6% civilian unemployment for the same demographic, and the problem becomes more than clear.
Hence, it’s of little surprise that veteran entrepreneurship is on the rise, with the Small Business Administration reporting that nearly 2.5 million veterans maintained majority ownership in small businesses throughout the US, representing almost 10% of all businesses in the US.
Two veteran entrepreneurs and former recruiting executives are locked and loaded to help veteran entrepreneurs, or “Vetrepreneurs,” with their aspiring businesses. Hal Fischer, a 10-year Air Force veteran and a former founder of MilitaryStars and partner with Orion International – two leading military-to-civilian employment organizations – has more than championed veteran employment since his transition from the Air Force.
He’s teamed up with 10-year Army veteran Dean Bundschu, also a former Orion International executive who previously secured private sector employment for transitioning military members, to form StartupVeterans, an entrepreneurial program and veteran business community that will now serve as the training grounds for aspiring and existing veteran startups.
This is not the first time Fischer and Bundschu have partnered on a successful entrepreneurial venture, but rather the next evolution in a long-running progression that perpetually finds them at the convergence of both helping veterans and starting businesses. The pair previously founded tech startup PrepChamps that was awarded the 2007 FastTrac Tech Company of the Year. They’ve since partnered to provide executive-level sales and marketing consulting services to companies throughout the US.
With StartupVeterans, they combine their cumulative experience and professional acumen, and are delivering it in one comprehensive channel to the veteran community, working toward the ultimate goal of increased and sustainable veteran entrepreneurship.
“If we can help veterans become successful with their businesses, those business owners will reach that next level and go out and hire other veterans,” stated Fischer. “My belief is that if we help enough of these veterans grow their businesses, we can combat the high unemployment rate within our veteran community…We take care of our own.”
And while this is indeed a positive step for veterans, Fischer and Bundschu are startled at the fact the only 20% of veteran-owned businesses – nearly 500,000 of them – actually grew to the point of hiring other veterans. Indeed, what’s only recently come to light is that veteran businesses are going under almost as quickly as they’re starting up, with a recent Forbes article noting that only 7% of veteran-owned businesses are still open after 10 years.
“Veterans innately possess the core skills needed to become successful entrepreneurs. But building a sustainable business is not easy,” stated Bundschu. “This is exactly why I sought out a program that would give me a foundation and provide me with experts that I could go to for support when I started my first business.”
Bundschu entered into the Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrac program, which in addition to providing entrepreneurial training, “introduced me to an entire network of successful entrepreneurs, future mentors, and partners.”
With the full understanding and appreciation for the expertise offered by the entrepreneurial development course, the StartupVeterans course curriculum was developed by the largest entrepreneurial foundation in the United States. Designed to help entrepreneurs refine their business ideas to determine the initial feasibility and long-term sustainability of their concepts, the program combines instruction from experienced “Vetrepreneurs,” one-on-one business mentoring, peer-to-peer learning, as well as the resources needed to help aspiring entrepreneurs produce all the elements of an effective business plan. In short, it gives them a startup business “GPS.”
“We give them a structured training process, coaching, mentorship, and a mastermind that gives them a track of progression from start to finish…a proven formula for success,” stated Fischer.
StartupVeterans is currently taking applications for their inaugural startup program commencing July 20, 2015. Aspiring and current Vetrepreneurs should visit: http://www.startupveterans.org/program to learn more.