The D.C. Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs is stepping up their game for vetrepreneurs

Lauren Warner
December 11, 2018 - 1:24 pm

Photo courtesy of Lauren Warner

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Fighting against a decade's worth of inept veteran care, The D.C. Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs is continuing to prove their dedication to the veteran community with a Veteran Startup Accelerator program. 

Their two-week crash course in veteran-specific business creation covers the basics: from an introduction to the regulatory process and business plan development to finance, accounting and marketing. Built into six courses, the course is taught by C.J. Meenan from Open for Business Ventures, who has partnered with MOVA to provide the curriculum for the program.

Image courtesy of the DC Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs

 

"We noticed a lot of veterans with a strong desire to self-employ but no idea where to start," explains Sharod Wade, Outreach Specialist for the Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs. "Our resources are so fragmented and most of them don't communicate so we decided to centralize the resources and create a one-stop-shop."

What started as a small business forum created by Ely Ross, Director of MOVA, with the intent of giving veteran small business owners a place to voice their concerns, developed into monthly veteran business stakeholders meeting, that brought credibility to the veteran business owners in the District. It became clear that the lack of support from the local government along with a lack of educational resources were the two biggest issues for the community. Since the creation of the stakeholders' meetings, MOVA has connected with WeWork and Capitol Post and the desire to help the veteran community has spread like wildfire. 

"Veterans look at self-employment as a solution to the question of employment," says Wade. "What they overlook is the fact that self-employment is the answer to so many other things, housing, family dynamics, managing their mental health and physical health demands among them."

This entrepreneurship program is open to service members, veterans, spouses, caregivers and immediate dependents of veterans and service members. 

"There's been a shift in how veterans separating from the military view self-employment, they are realizing they have to be more proactive and we're here to support them through that transition," says Wade.

The culmination of the course, a pitch contest, will award the top four start-up plans with funding for their business ventures. Wade emphasized that though the program ends after two weeks, the help does not. In addition to having perpetual access to the online curriculum, program attendees can also receive small business counseling from the DC Small Business Resource Center. 

Image courtesy of Open for Business Ventures

Not only is the vetrepreneur program a business accelerator, but MOVA is also intent on addressing all of the other obstacles veterans face to ensure they're successful as business owners. From VA disability and medical board problems to housing and transportation, MOVA is declaring themselves the central hub in assisting the District's veteran population. 

"We are here to close the gaps because there's a need for more than what the city provides," continues Wade. "We're definitely not going to hand a veteran off to an unknown entity, we're handing you off to vetted connections in our network."

D.C. has a veteran population of over 27,000, and Wade intends to do more than just provide employment opportunities, he believes the first step is instilling hope and confidence back into these transitioning veterans. 

"It's our responsibility to prove to veterans that we have the resources to help them," says Wade. "If we're not connecting resources and holding agencies accountable than we are going to miss opportunities to connect with veterans."

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