Charles McCaffrey, director of the Veterans Business Outreach Center at Community Business Partnership, led The American Legion’s Boots to Business workshop. Photo by Noel St. John/The American Legion

Legion helps veterans become entrepreneurs

About 30 transitioning veterans and servicemembers attended a Boots to Business Reboot Workshop Feb. 24 at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., where they learned about fundamental tools and strategies for launching a start-up business.

Charles McCaffrey, director of the Veterans Business Outreach Center at Community Business Partnership based in Springfield, Va., led the one-day workshop during The American Legion’s Washington Conference. Participants received an entrepreneurship workbook with eight training modules; a feasibility planning booklet; business ownership book; and a resource guide for leveraging the nuts and bolts to great business planning.

“Sometimes it can be a firehose of information — I don’t want them to be overwhelmed,” McCaffrey said. “It’s a scary proposition to leave your job and try and generate income on your own. There’s no way to alleviate that but I at least want to diminish it a little bit and help them get started.”

Boots to Business is designed to help participants understand the steps, stages and activities related to launching and growing a business. This also includes understanding how entrepreneurship might align, or not, with their own personal strengths and life goals, according to McCaffrey.

“Even though the economy is recovering, it’s still very difficult finding jobs,” he said. “There’s that whole transition into steady income whether it’s through employment or entrepreneurship. So we try to ease folks back into that, but also to make those connections with folks who have already transitioned. It’s all about not trying to do this on your own.”

As the lead instructor of Boots to Business, McCaffrey said he wanted participants to leave with an understanding of:

• How to start and proceed.

• Network with one another because they are and/or will be operating microbusinesses with no competitive advantage.

• Reassurance that they can become successful entrepreneurs.

“This is some great information and all these new businesses need to start out with classes like this to understand the fundamental principles of business,” said Army veteran Emmett Roberts, who started his own strategic solutions company in October 2013. “When you understand those fundamental principles, you can kind of better develop a course of action that you need to make your business successful.”

Roberts, who was among 30 veterans who participated in the workshop, said the Boots to Business program serves as a great foundation for those looking to build their business from the bottom up.

“They care. They just want you to be successful. They will give you the kind of information that’s going to break things down to your level of understanding,” Roberts said. “They will actually help you build your business plans. They will help you define your marketing goals. They will do a combination of things to help you get to where you want to go.”

For aspiring entrepreneurs like Barbara Heinlein seeking a start in the software/IT industry, she appreciates the wealth of information the workshop provides.

“Charles does a good job of giving out a lot of good information. This endeavor sounds to be very promising,” said Heinlein, a retired Air Force veteran. “I am looking for those nuggets of information that will allow me to start my business in an easier fashion.”

Heinlein, who has been an American Legion member since 2006, said networking is very important as veterans don’t usually get to experience comradery in the workplace. Boots to Business is a program like no other, especially for fellow soldiers looking to start life anew, she said.

“I believe strongly in what (the Legion does),” said Heinlein. “It is wonderful that The American Legion works with the SBA (Small Business Administration) so that they can provide veterans this kind of opportunity.”