Capitol Post grows veterans into vetrepreneurs

Elizabeth Howe
September 12, 2018 - 7:28 pm

Photo courtesy of Capitol Post

Since its beginnings in 2013, Capitol Post has helped 43 veterans start and grow their own businesses. The nonprofit offers a range of programs and resources to support veterans at any stage of the business-building process.

“Our mission is to train and inspire military veterans and spouses to think and act like entrepreneurs,” said Emily McMahan, Capitol Post executive director. McMahan graduated from West Point in 2001 and immediately reported to the Pentagon’s military police unit after 9/11. She deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq before returning to D.C. and entering the start-up career field as a military spouse.

Many of the programs and resources Capitol Post offers focus on education. This includes both educating veterans on how to get their businesses up and running, but also on how to enter the civilian workforce and transition into a civilian career as an entrepreneur.  

“We have several programs focused on helping veterans grow businesses,” McMahan said. “We also have programs on the career side — helping folks figure out how to use entrepreneurship to figure out what they want to do with as they transition out of the military. We use entrepreneurship as the foundation for those starting businesses but also in figuring out the bigger picture of ‘what do I want to do.’”

The bulk of this education comes through one-on-one counseling, described as “triage,” where business owners come in to the Capitol Post offices, work with mentors to figure out what the problems are and start building a road map for the business. However, there are other programs designed to assist at different phases of the business-building process.

“For some folks, those that are typically in the idea phase of getting their business started, we have a nine-week startup school,” McMahan said. “We take folks through the basics of starting a business and trying to figure out if the model is scalable and sustainable. It culminates in a pitch competition.”

In addition to education, Capitol Post focuses heavily on connecting.

“Veterans don’t have great networks when they get out of the military, and so much of starting a company is about being able to ask questions and work through some of the gaps that you might have either through experience or academic knowledge,” McMahan said. "So I think it’s very important that we do this — so we can fill those gaps that veterans naturally have when they’re transitioning.”

To help connect veterans with entrepreneurs, Capitol Post hosts forums, happy hours, coffee meet-ups and musters that shine the spotlight on the veteran entrepreneurship community.

“As a country, it’s imperative of us to show that when somebody serves, there are opportunities after that service, and I don’t know if that sentiment is felt right now,” McMahan said. “I am a mother with small children, and I would be honored if they went into the service. But I don’t think that same sentiment is felt throughout the country with respect to future generations. I feel like if we get this right, parents like me will know there are opportunities in front of future generations if they serve.”

If you're a veteran, spouse, entrepreneur or donor interested in getting involved, check out Capitol Posts's resources page.

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