Veterans Business Outreach Center program celebrates opening with ribbon cutting
The VBOC is offering services across the state from its location in Southcentral Alaska
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - With a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony, Thursday marked the grand opening of a program dedicated to a long-term goal: offering continued resources to veterans, service members, and military spouses who specifically want to start, grow or rebuild a small business in Alaska.
The Small Business Administration, whose administrator is on an official visit to Alaska this week, has 28 organizations currently participating in the “cooperative agreement,” serving as outreach centers. Through these centers, the SBA is trying to connect vets and their families to workshops, training, counseling, and mentorship opportunities in each of the regions the centers exist, which includes various areas across America.
The centers are also meant to guide these current and future business owners through the SBA’s resource partner network and help with referrals to community partners, lenders, and other programs as well.
“We have a shared location right now,” Alaska VBOC Director Traci Willett said, explaining that the main center is Downtown Anchorage for now. “We share it with the Women’s Business Center, and we are looking to move at some point, but we can see clients in that building, or we can meet clients where they are comfortable.”
Participants can work through a five-year business plan, for example, with help from the VBOC as needed. However, much of the programming is tailored specifically to veterans.
“Alaska has a proud, proud military history,” said Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom, who was at the ceremony on Thursday. “We have nearly 21,000 active duty military personnel based in Alaska right now, and many of these servicemembers choose to retire here. And we love that.”
Boots to Business, which is a business and entrepreneurship track of the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program, is offered on military installations across the country, according to the SBA. The Boots to Business extension — known as the B2B Reboot — works in alignment with Boots to Business but from accessible, off-base locations. Both are things with which the SBA VBOC programming is meant to assist.
“My wife and I attended the B2B class on JBER in July,” Justin Hart said, owner of HTK K-9. “And since then have launched and started our own non-profit, HRT K-9, training service animals for veterans.
“We’re in the early stages, so we’re working with VBOC to tighten up our business plan and get our fundraising started.”
The hope is that the center will not only encourage and inspire people to work on their own entrepreneurship endeavors, but that those connected with the military will seek out the VBOC to help them actually get going on those goals.
“I have walked in our clients’ shoes, and that drives my personal commitment to this program,” Willett said. “When I started my business, I was unaware of the tools and resources that were available to veterans and spouses such as myself. Today, we’re changing that narrative and making sure our clients don’t have to do this alone.”
Business counseling and mentorship opportunities are both online and in person. People can learn more about business planning, financing a business, marketing, social media use, and human resources and hiring. The VBOC programming also maintains it has ample business tools and resource referrals it implements, to connect vets to mentors, refer participants to partners and other programs, assist with federal certification programs, and more.
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