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SBA launching entrepreneurship classes for vets

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The U.S. Small Business Administration is launching a new educational program to help veterans reinvent themselves as entrepreneurs.

The SBA this month will launch its "Boots to Business" initiative at Joint Base McGuire.

The two-day program will teach the basics of starting a business to veterans transitioning out of the service. In addition to the 16 hours of classroom training, veterans will have the option of completing an eight-week online course.

Al Titone, New Jersey District Director at SBA, said there are 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses in the country.

"The fact is that transitioning service members are natural entrepreneurs possessing the training, experience and leadership skills to start businesses and create jobs," Titone said.

Edward Haddock, the SBA's veterans affairs officer and one of the teachers of the course, said while veterans do have technical skills, discipline, and a drive to succeed, they also face challenges when starting a business. For instance, he said veterans are used to structured environments.

"When we look at entrepreneurship, a lot of those structures are absent," he said. "So we have to look at creating and building those from the ground up."

He said the free market environment can be a strange change for people who have spent many years in the military, thus they may need help learning skills like market analysis and sales.

Titone said veterans are 45 percent more likely than the general population to be self-employed. Haddock said that's largely because veterans who retire after 20 years in the service have the security of full benefits for the rest of their life.

"So with that veteran's benefit of health care, they don't have to worry about that (health care) and they can go in and take that risk that essentially nonveterans wouldn't be able to," said Haddock, an Air Force veteran who started two businesses while still in the military.

The course was developed in association with Syracuse University and the Department of Defense's Transition Assistance Program.

This month's classes, which start April 22, are fully booked. SBA will hold an additional two days of classes Aug. 1-2 for recently separated veterans. Haddock said more classes will be offered on a quarterly basis if there's enough demand. Those looking for more information can contact Carol Spencer at the Joint Base McGuire Military and Family Support Center at (609) 754-3154 or visit www.sba.gov/bootstobusiness. Those veterans who have been separated from the military for more than 20 days can contact the New Jersey Veteran Business Outreach at www.njvetbiz.com or (973) 353-3429.

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