Federal Program Helps Veterans Transition from Service to Startup
WASHINGTON: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the 200,000th graduate of the Boots to Business (B2B) program. This milestone re-emphasizes the long-standing importance of military-connected entrepreneurs to the nation’s economy and celebrates 11 years of B2B instructor achievements nationwide and overseas.
“SBA’s Boots to Business program is about strengthening our aspiring military entrepreneurs, especially now as they are contributing to the record rate of new business applications we’re experiencing under President Biden’s leadership,” said SBA Administrator Isabel Guzman. “The Boots to Business program is set up to provide transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses with an introduction to business fundamentals to help them successfully make the jump from service to startup with the full resources of the SBA. We are proud to celebrate our 200,000th graduate and continue our leadership in connecting our military entrepreneurs with valuable resources so they can pursue their business ownership dreams after serving our country.”
B2B is part of the entrepreneurial track of the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Boots to Business Reboot (B2BR) offers the same curriculum as B2B to veterans of any era, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses without access to a military installation. The 200,000 graduate count grows weekly and includes participants in B2B, B2BR, DOD’s TAP Online Learning Management System, and SBA’s Military Spouse Pathway to Business, an entrepreneurship course for military spouses that launched in July 2023.
The 200,000th trainee took the B2B course at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas on January 16, 2024. The severe winter weather in the area caused the entire post to run on a two-hour delay. However, the course instructor said the strong qualities of the military community shined through. “Despite the inclement weather and tricky driving conditions, veterans and military spouses showed their adaptability and resilience and arrived for class anyway,” said Mitchell Fitzpatrick, B2B instructor, and Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) director. “These skills, cultivated over their years of service, are the same ones that will give them a leg up on the competition as business owners.”
It’s common for many B2B participants to navigate their entire life’s puzzle while they take the course. They may be focused on moving arrangements, housing, children’s schooling decisions, or steady income. “Many may not circle back to entrepreneurship for months, or even years, after the course conclusion,” said Fitzpatrick. “That’s why I continuously remind them that the VBOC and SBA resource partner network are always here for them. Whether they want to start or grow a business, there are so many resources out there to assist in that journey. My main message to students is this: you’re not alone and you should never hesitate to reach out. If you’re on the fence about business ownership as a post-military route, taking B2B is a great opportunity to walk out of the course with new tools in your post-military service toolbox and mentors you can reach out to at any time.”
In addition to the B2B milestone, SBA’s Boots to Business Revenue Readiness (B2B RR), hosted by Mississippi State University, graduated its 3,000th trainee in November 2023. B2B RR is a six-week course in developing a business plan. Through interactive virtual classroom discussions, participants refine business models into business plans. Since the program’s start seven years ago, veteran, service member, and military spouse graduates have used the course material and feedback from instructors to move on to the next phase of their business ownership journey.
Shannon Arick of West Point, a graduate of the B2B training said, “One thing I learned in the military is that the possible success or failure of a mission may come down to good, solid training. It is the same in business. Boots to Business Revenue Readiness gave me a firm understanding of the steps that lead to having and, more importantly, maintaining a successful business.”
Over 1,200 B2B and B2B Reboot classes were offered in person and virtually in Fiscal Year (FY) 2023. In addition, the B2B curriculum was updated in FY 2023 to include updated modules, new exercises, and more. B2B, B2BR, and Pathway to Business courses are offered through SBA district offices, resource partners, and grant partners. To see the current B2B course schedule, visit sba.my.site.com.