Los Angeles, CA – As of September 2017, there were more than 1.8 million women veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces with 143,211 of them living in California. More than 60,000 those veterans call Los Angeles county home.
Women who have served in the military face many challenges upon leaving and often feel isolated, financially dependent on others, and dismayed by their career prospects. Business ownership is a path to increased income without having the burden of functioning in a civilian workforce that may not empathize with their military experience
Resources do exist for women veterans who want to be business owners. However, when CAMEO (California Association of Micro Enterprise Opportunity) looked in the Los Angeles area, we found a need to outreach to this formidable community to foster the entrepreneurial spirit and develop local resources.
CAMEO hosted our first CAMEO’s WOVEN summit in 2014 at the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall in Los Angeles with keynotes by senior executives from the SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development in DC, inspirational stories from successful, decorated women veterans, and training in negotiating, marketing and business development.
Heidi Pickman, Associate Director of CAMEO, said, “The expression of gratitude from those involved compelled us to partner with Melanie Rae, founder of Guided Business Plan, to launch an ongoing community-learning program.”
CAMEO’s WOVEN (Women Veteran Entrepreneurs Network) fuels economic independence among military-connected women by facilitating professional alliances, ongoing mentoring and entrepreneurial guidance. We are a free peer support group that meets biweekly online and in-person to help launch and grow small businesses owned by military families.
Alicia, a United States Air Force (USAF) veteran, is an Arizona-based member who opened a store-front for her micro-blading and skincare salon. As an aircraft mechanic, her skin broke out and she found a solution that gave her near-flawless skin so she studied cosmetology and opened Exclusive Beauty. “After several discussions with CAMEO’s WOVEN members, I know that I’m not taking advantage of my full potential.”
Other success stories include:
- Avis, USAF, participated in a VWISE conference after attending a meetup and practiced her pitch with us. She won $5,000 for her clothing line for women affected by cancer.
- Joshica, USAF, has been featured on Etsy.com twice as a best seller for her beauty products. Through WOVEN she has been introduced to beauty industry leaders who have offered to mentor her. She served in the US Airforce within supply chain/logistics management which included storing, moving and tracking supplies, equipment and personnel.
More than 20,000 veterans will retire each year. They are looking to start their next chapter after devoting decades to their military careers. CAMEO’s WOVEN is well positioned to reach, guide and inspire the next wave of veteran-owned businesses as well as those separating after a shorter service period.
CAMEO is California’s statewide network made up of over 230 organizations, agencies, and individuals dedicated to furthering microbusiness development in California. Annually, CAMEO members serve about 21,000 very small businesses with training, business and credit assistance and loans. These firms – largely start-ups with less than five employees – support or create 37,000 new jobs in California and generate a total of $1.3 billion in economic activity.