Small Business Resources – You Are Not Alone

Veteran Writing Services, LLC logo In March of 2014, I founded and became Chief Executive Officer of my own business, Veteran Writing Services, LLC. I was fortunate to attend a program for women veterans within Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management. The Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) program gave me the tools, training, and guidance to transform what I had been doing part-time into a full-time successful woman, veteran-owned small business.

Recently, several people have asked me advice about starting and managing a small business. So, I decided to share some resources I’ve used over the past year. I know there are many more out there, but I’ll stick to those with which I have personal experience. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my first year in business is this: you are not alone, if you know where to look.

Small Business Administration (SBA)

SBA covers the gamut from those first starting in business and developing business plans to those wishing to grow their businesses through loan programs and other initiatives. SBA’s vast resources including specialized training programs such as the “Encore Entrepreneurship for Women,” for women over 50 interested in starting their own businesses. I signed up to receive SBA e-mail updates (top right of site), and attended numerous free SBA-affiliated programs, a few of which led me to learn more about programs listed below.

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)

SBDCs assist small businesses and entrepreneurs through free business consulting and low-cost training services. Hosted by universities and state economic development agencies, SBDCs are located throughout the U.S. I met a representative from the Maryland Small Business Development Center at a Small Business Resources Day event, followed up with a counseling appointment, and walked out of the office with an achievable Action Plan. Call it coincidence, but I also added brand new clients to my list that same week. Sometimes, it helps to get an advisor’s perspective – particularly when he or she understands and can relate to your small business challenges, as my counselor did. It doesn’t hurt to have a monthly appointment to keep check on progress, too.

Women’s Business Centers

There are over 100 Women’s Business Centers in the national network, overseen by the SBA. My experience has been with the Maryland Women’s Business Center which provides workshops, business counseling, resources, and small group sessions. For example, I attended a certifications workshop which included presentations from the Women Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), SBA, and the State of Maryland’s Office of Minority Business Enterprise. I learned more in that three-hour workshop than I had in more than 20 hours researching on my own how to obtain small business certifications.

Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP)

PTAP exists to help small businesses compete in the government marketplace. If you hope to sell your product or service to the government, this group can help you understand the requirements of contracting with federal, state, and local governments. With more than 300 free training events available (both live and via webinar) and over 200 educational articles and documents – PTAP is a great place to shop for answers. My fantastic PTAP business counselor shares her 20+ years of government contacting experience to help me navigate my small business through bureaucratic waters.

So, good luck to those considering starting your own businesses. And don’t forget to share what you learn to help those starting behind you!

 

 

The Man – or Woman – in the Arena

Motivational speaker and business leader Mary Kelly asked, “What is the best coaching advice you remember? In sports, business, life?”

I answered, “My Navy dad used to remind me of ‘The Man in the Arena’ quote. In other words, it’s easy for others to criticize when they are not in the thick of it. It has always stuck with me.”

Earlier in the week, I had also referred to this same quote by former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt in response to a different question.

Then last night, looking through some old memorabilia, I came across a piece of paper my father sent me when I was stationed in Korea in the late 1980’s.

The Man in the Arena

The writing below the quote says, “This is a quote from Teddy Roosevelt. Fawn Hall told Congress they should read it.”

I figured there had to be a reason this quote appeared three times in one week. Was I needing a reminder? Was it a post-Father’s Day thought? Something else?

My cousin told me family research revealed our great-grandfather was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Sergeant Majors with the Rough Riders. Maybe that explains it.

Whatever the reason, I felt compelled to share the sentiment of “The Man in the Arena” with others. If you have something to add to the conversation, please do!

 

My Rock from Bali

Eddy Ormond in Bali

 

Today I feature a guest post from my brother, Eddy Ormond, from his recent trip to Indonesia. Eddy assisted me in writing my two books, and I’ve been encouraging him to write for the past few years. And he’s doing it! I hope you enjoy his story, and his storytelling ability.

My Rock from Bali

By Edward Ormond

One time I thought I was going to die was when I was bodysurfing in Bali. The water looked calm enough with just a few small breaking waves, so with each wave I tried to ride, I swam out further to find a wave with more power. Soon I was further out than I had planned.

Before starting out, the Balinese man who rented lounge chairs to us crossed his arms and pointed to two red flags in the water indicating I should not swim between them. I understood that. So, I left my non-swimming Chinese friend to lounge beneath the umbrella as I set out to swim near a man who was teaching his daughter how to surf. I figured if I stayed near them, I was safe.

Soon, I began to tire, as the current was really very strong. I dug my toes into the sand as I realized I had drifted dangerously close to the red flag area. I did not know what was in there – coral reefs, rocks or a rip tide, but I was struggling to swim in the opposite direction to get away from it. Soon, the water was above my head and my toes left the ground as I battled to swim against the current and away from the flags. I looked for my surfing buddies, but they were gone. I was alone.

I waved to my friend on the shore. He waved back. I remembered he couldn’t swim, so I waved again just to alarm him of my peril. He nonchalantly waved back again. I panicked. Didn’t he see I needed help? I weakly raised my arm and made a beckoning motion to tell him to come closer. He simply waved back again. NO! “Come closer,” I signaled again. Now I just needed the moral support as I might be going under the third time. He waved again! This time it might be goodbye.

I looked around and saw no lifeguard chairs, no one nearby, nor any sign of rescue. I saw only one choice. I had to risk the dangers that lurk between the red flags and let the current push me into the red zone and hopefully ashore. I relaxed into a dead-man float and indeed, the current brought me to where I could put my feet safely on the sand and tiredly walk ashore.

I dragged myself to the lounge chair and plopped down. “Didn’t you see me drowning out there?” I questioned my Chinese friend.

In a “Confucius say” way he answered calmly, “One should never go swimming alone.” Drat! He was right. I had been so carried away by being on the foreign beach that I neglected some basic safety rules. Not to mention, he could not swim! I tried to release my pent up feelings by silently chanting “xiqi (shee-chee), huqi (who-chee) ” or “inhale, exhale” in Chinese, while concentrating on a man nearby who was sweeping the beach clean of all debris, including shells and pebbles.

Sand was weighing down my shorts so I stopped my meditation, got “back on the horse” and went into the water again to rinse myself. I had wanted to pick up a shell for my friend, Linda, but as I mentioned they swept the beaches there to keep them pristine. Then it happened. A fist-sized rock rolled over my foot with the incoming wave. Tickling my ankle, it tumbled backwards with the undertow – my undertow. I had to have it! I scurried after it and quickly grabbed my prize. Holding it down to my side, I promptly brought my secret prize to the chairs and showed it to my scowling friend who asked, “Why do you do such a thing?”

“This is my rock from Bali!” I cried. “Whenever things get bad, I will look at this rock and remember life could have been worse because I could have drowned here today. And when I worry about things too much, it will remind me to drop the rock, so, like today I will not drown.”

Thank you, Eddy, for sharing your true story, and please keep writing!

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