Unemployment among Post-9/11 veterans is 10.9 percent nationally — much higher than then national average. That has inspired a group of retired local executives to offer veterans free help to start their own businesses.
The volunteer organization, Pinellas SCORE, is holding a free Veterans Business Expo Oct. 6, 2012 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Marriott Clearwater, 12600 Roosevelt Blvd. in Florida.
Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. at the door. It’s open to any veteran, active-duty military and spouses who are interested in starting their own company or have an business idea they want to explore.
“I learned in the military that I wanted to be my own boss at some point,” said Julie McAdoo, a former Air Force C-130 navigator. “They taught a lot of leadership skills and I saw a lot of examples of leadership both good and bad and I wanted to put them in practice for myself.”
She and a neighbor started Refresh Your Nest Cleaning Services six months ago. House cleaning is competitive, but it seemed a good fit for McAdoo, a stay-at-home mom.
She’s using her military experience as a marketing tool and to train her four employees.
“We’ll run drills,” McAdoo said. “It’s kind of like a timed drill. I’ll say here’s a room and here’s a checklist of things I need done in this room. I’ll give you 20 minutes. Let’s see how it goes.”
McAdoo is in it for the long haul. So, she started networking. At the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce, she met Pinellas SCORE counselor Jack Grise. He taught her how to close a sale, something McAdoo said she did not learn when earning her MBA.
“There’s too many people that make a presentation and don’t ask for the order,” Grise said.
Grise is a Navy veteran who wanted to do something for “today’s” veterans who are facing a tough job market. He started the veterans’ initiative at Pinellas SCORE. It has several components like the Expo, accelerated entrepreneur training through St. Pete College and even “start-up” funds or grants for qualified veterans who want to start a business.
Grise said census data showed that more than 100,000 veterans, ages 18 to 54, live in the Tampa Bay region. That’s the age range that a Small Business Administration survey showed that up to 40 percent have thought about being self-employment or starting their own business.
Pinellas SCORE’s incoming chairman, Cliff Sullivan, said veterans also can attend their workshops for free and several are timely like internet marketing and using social media.
“SCORE has moved into the 21st Century,” Sullivan said. “ In addition to person to person mentoring, we also do online mentoring.”
Veteran Jack Slaydon turned to Pinellas SCORE for help with his company, Healthy Heritage Grass Fed Beef. After leaving the Coast Guard, he worked for a big food producer before deciding to start his own business.
“When I started my own company, I expanded so much I needed some help,” Slaydon said. “I called some colleagues in Miami and they referred me to SCORE because SCORE helped them in the past and they’re now operating successful businesses. 100
Slaydon currently sells a wide variety of hormone free, grass fed meats at fresh markets throughout the Tampa Bay area. SCORE is helping him restructure his company.
“Anything that comes up, I have a personal mentor I can call,” Slaydon said. “You can contact them anytime you have a problem. They give you answers that will directly help you with your business and that will help you get to the next level.”
Counselors from Pinellas and Hillsborough SCORE will be available at the Veterans Expo to listen to veterans’ business ideas and give advice. Experts covering accounting, law, web design and marketing will be there to offer free advice and discounted services.