How to Prepare for the Upcoming Tax Season

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The coronavirus pandemic led to some temporary changes in tax laws. Most changes apply to the general public, but some have special implications for the military community.

Even within the military, the changes will not have the same impact on everyone. So, it is important to know your circumstances and adapt to the reforms and changes in a way that reflects your finances and lifestyle.

COVID-19-related changes

Provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act may affect your 2020 federal income tax return in the following ways:

  • Expanded advance child tax credit:As part of the American Rescue Plan to help Americans recover financially from the pandemic, the child tax credit for 2021 was expanded to $3,600 for children under the age of 6 and $3,000 for children 6-17 years old. Eligible families will automatically receive monthly payments from July 15 through December 2021, totaling half of the credit. Families may claim the other half of the credit when filing their 2021 tax return.
  • Retirement account withdrawals:The 10 percent tax penalty for an early withdrawal from a retirement account has been suspended in 2020 for those who suffered financial hardship due to COVID-19.
  • Economic Impact Payments:You should have received a $1,200 Economic Impact Payment in 2020 ($2,400 if you are married), plus $500 for each qualifying child. If you did not, or if you received less than the amount for which you were eligible, you may claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your federal income tax return.
  • Charitable contributions: To encourage giving in 2020, the CARES Act allows taxpayers to deduct up to $300 in cash donations to eligible charities without itemizing the contributions.
  • Unemployment benefits:If you are a military spouse who received unemployment benefits in 2020, you will receive a form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments, that states your unemployment income and any income tax withheld. Be sure to report this information on your tax return.
  • Social Security payroll tax deferral:Social Security taxes were deferred for service members from mid-September through the end of December 2020. The deferred Social Security taxes will automatically be taken from your wages from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2021, so will not affect your 2020 income tax filing.

Key tax reforms

Picture your financial and personal events over the last year. Perhaps you are looking forward to having your first child. Maybe the ink just dried on the paperwork for your new home. Take a look at these key reforms and see if they will affect your spending and family circumstances:

Standard deduction: For tax year 2020, the standard deduction is $12,400 for singles or those who are married but filing separately, $24,800 for those who are married and filing jointly and $18,650 for those who file as the head of household.

Personal exemption deduction: Beginning in 2018, you can’t claim a personal exemption deduction for yourself, your spouse or your dependents. This may impact decisions on the itemized deductions and dependents you claim on your tax return.

Itemized deductions: Beginning in 2018, the following changes were made to itemized deductions that taxpayers can claim on Schedule A:

  • Your itemized deductions are no longer limited if your adjusted gross income is over a certain amount.
  • You can deduct the part of your medical and dental expenses that is more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.
  • Your deduction of state and local income, sales and property taxes is limited to a combined, total deduction of $10,000 ($5,000 if married and filing separately). As a military member, your state of legal residence and the state in which you own a home will determine how much this change impacts you.
  • Under the new rules, unreimbursed business expenses, including auto, travel, meals, entertainment and home office expenses, are no longer deductions.
  • For debt incurred after Dec. 15, 2017, the deduction for home mortgage interest is limited to interest on up to $750,000 ($375,000 if you are a married taxpayer filing a separate return) of home-acquisition debt. This new limit doesn’t apply if you had a binding contract to close on a home after Dec. 15, 2017, and closed on or before April 1, 2018. The prior limit would apply in that case.
  • Beginning in 2018, you cannot deduct interest on a home equity loan or line of credit unless it’s for buying, building or making substantial improvements to your home.
  • The limit on charitable contributions of cash increased from 50 percent to 60 percent of your adjusted gross income. However, for tax year 2020 only, the limit is 100 percent of your adjusted gross income.

Child tax credit: With the exception of the temporary expansion of the child tax credit for tax year 2021, as of 2019, the maximum credit is $2,000 per qualifying child. The maximum additional child tax credit is $1,400. Also, the income threshold at which the credit begins to phase out is now $200,000 ($400,000 if married and filing jointly).

Credit for other dependents: A credit of up to $500 is available for each of your dependents, such as an adult child with a disability or an elderly parent who does not qualify for the child tax credit. In addition, the maximum income threshold at which the credit begins to phase out has increased to $200,000 ($400,000 if married and filing jointly).

Education: As a result of the new tax codes, you can use funds from your 529 education savings plan to pay for private K-12 educational expenses at secondary public, private or religious schools with a limit of $10,000 per student per year.

Reserve service members: Reserve service members are able to deduct unreimbursed travel expenses to attend drill duty only if it takes place more than 100 miles away from home.

Moving expenses: Members of the armed forces can still deduct moving expenses as long as the move is part of an authorized permanent change of station or PCS. If you’re voluntarily moving, you will join most other taxpayers in no longer being able to deduct moving expenses from your taxes.

Deployments to the Sinai Peninsula: If you previously served in the newly designated combat zone, you may qualify for retroactive tax benefits. If so, you’ll need to submit an amended tax return, or Form 1040X, for the year in which you were there, dating to 2015. You generally have three years from the date you filed your previous tax return to claim the refund.

Alimony or maintenance payments: If you make alimony or maintenance payments, you will no longer be able to deduct them from your taxable income, and the recipient will no longer have to claim the payments as income. This went into effect for any divorce or separation agreement signed or modified after Dec. 31, 2018.

Estate tax exemption: The estate tax exemption for 2020 is $11.58 million, so an estate valued at less than the new threshold will not be taxed when the owner dies.

Investment fees: You can no longer deduct investment fees from taxes. If a major part of your financial strategy includes investments, and you have substantial investor fees, you will be paying more in taxes.

Penalty for not maintaining minimum essential health coverage: Beginning in 2019, the penalty amount was reduced to zero.

Source: MilitaryOneSource

Manly Bands Partners with Jack Daniel’s and the Armed Services YMCA To Reunite Military Families This Holiday Season

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Manly Bands recently announced their partnership with Jack Daniel’s on their Operation Ride Home program to help as many as 60 active duty junior service members return home for the holidays this year.

Manly Bands will be donating a portion of every sale from their Jack Daniel’s wedding ring collection to Operation Ride Home totaling up to $25,000.

Manly Bands is the most popular direct-to-consumer wedding ring brand for men and has been a licensed partner with Jack Daniel’s since 2020. The Jack Daniel’s Collection uses genuine aged barrels from the Tennessee whiskey with other unique ring materials such as carbon fiber, meteorite, dinosaur bone and more.

Operation Ride Home was created in 2011 in partnership between Jack Daniel’s and the Armed Services YMCA to help reconnect military families over the holidays. Since it was founded, Operation Ride Home has generated a total of more than $1.8 million in donations and sent a total of 8,583 individual junior-enlisted service members and their families home from all 50 states.

Over the years, Manly Bands has supported military families in many ways including donations to veterans and military families and distributing free silicone bands to active service members. Now, the company is looking to go further by donating up to $25,000 to help finance the cost of travel for US troops returning home.

“Manly Bands has always been a great supporter of our brave military personnel,” said Johnathan Ruggiero, co-CEO of Manly Bands. “This is a special time of year for love and hope, and we believe that there is no better way to share that than to honor the brave men and women who protect our country year-round by helping to bring them home for the holidays.”

The collaboration between Manly Bands and Operation Ride Home will commence on December 1st and run until the end of the month. Every ring sold from the Jack Daniel’s collection will go towards bringing active service members home for the holidays. More information can be found at manlybands.com/pages/jack-daniels-operation-ride-home to learn more about our partnership with Operation Ride Home.

About Manly Bands

Manly Bands is the fastest growing direct-to-consumer e-commerce retailer of men’s wedding rings. We make it easy for couples to order a ring that looks (and fits) perfect on every man. Our rings are crafted in more than 400 unique styles made from dozens of non-traditional materials, such as dinosaur bone, meteorite and authentic Jack Daniel’s whiskey barrel. We’re on a mission to give men the ring that they’ll never want to take off. To see our latest collections, visit ManlyBands.com today.

ABOUT ARMED SERVICES YMCA:  

The Armed Services YMCA is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit that serves currently serving military members and their families. In 2019, we engaged more than 225,000 people in our programs and delivered over 1 million points of services to junior enlisted Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and family members at 200 service centers in 18 states. Whether providing respite childcare for parents in need, summer camps for kids, or assisting with emergency needs, the Armed Services YMCA is a nonprofit with a mission: Strengthening Our Military Family. Visit our website to see how you can join us in supporting military families.

Veteran Story Spotlight: Florida Panthers CEO Matthew Caldwell

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MAtthew Caldwell Florida Panthers owner in an official construction hardhat

By Kellie Speed

Next summer, South Florida’s War Memorial Auditorium will be receiving a $65 million facelift, thanks to the Florida Panthers NHL team. When complete, the 144,000-square-foot venue will be transformed into a sports, entertainment and community recreation hub that will feature a practice facility with an NHL-regulation-sized indoor ice rink dedicated to the community for public skating.

“It’s an incredible project and hits on so many things we believe in,” said Matthew Caldwell, president and CEO of the Florida Panthers. “We wanted to find a way to continue to memorialize the site while also showing people a good time and have them keep coming out. We are in the live entertainment business, and the Panthers love giving back, but we wanted to keep the historic value of it.”

The privately financed revitalization will transform the 1950s-era entertainment venue into a new community recreation hub with a tribute to Broward County military heroes under the veteran-owned NHL team. “There will be youth hockey, figure skating and public skating available,” said Caldwell.

War Memorial Ground breaking crew“We currently run three sheets of ice in Coral Springs – one for the team and two are open to the public. It’s a great connection to the fans and the brand and encourages people to play hockey. This will be a copycat of what we do in Coral Springs but with the added element of live entertainment.”

After serving five years as a military officer conducting combat operations in Iraq and peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, Caldwell believes his military training helped prepare him with the skills necessary to become CEO and president of the Florida Panthers. “I think it goes back to West Point,” he said. “The military academy, the training I received and the school were all building blocks to helping me learn valuable leadership skills that can’t be taught overnight. If I didn’t have the military experience, don’t believe I would be as confident in my ability.”

MAtthew Caldwell in army uniform side-view shotDuring the course of his Army career, Caldwell was awarded a Bronze Star Medal, an Iraq Campaign Medal and a NATO Kosovo Military Medal.

As a veteran-owned team, honoring past and present military is at the forefront of the organization. From hosting a Military Appreciation Night each year to recognizing a military hero at each home game, Caldwell says he is most proud of their veteran-focused programs. “There are a lot of great things we have done, but I think the best thing is the heroes we recognize at our games with the “Heroes Among Us” Program,” he said. “When you are in the arena, there’s just something about the way we do it that is different. It’s within our DNA and everything we stand for. We interview the veteran and get to know them, bring their family out and show clips. It’s really well done. The veterans just feel it and it’s so touching and heartfelt.”

To see the latest project and construction updates, visit FTLWarMemorial.com or follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @FTLWarMemorial

7 Great Side Business Ideas for Veterans

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Every year, over 200,000 United States veterans return home from combat. If you’re one of those people, you’re likely feeling bittersweet.

On the one hand, returning to civilian life opens doors for your career, but on the other, it’s a huge lifestyle adjustment that will take time.

Honestly, it’s enough to make anyone wonder, “what should I do with my life?” If you’re a calculated risk-taker, entrepreneurship could be your answer.

Let’s dive in.
 
 
Open a private security firm
If you make decisions quickly and like working alone, a private security firm is a natural fit for you. As a private security contractor, you’ll be responsible for defusing and deescalating high-risk situations: something that already comes naturally to veterans. There are two simple ways to get started with private security. You can either contract work from larger security firms or offer your services to malls, businesses, schools and councils in your area.

Become a franchise owner
Is leading people one of your strengths? Then you’re fit for franchising. Owning a franchise is an easy way to start a retail business (provided you start with some capital, of course). Unlike new businesses, franchises already have a customer base and a product line when they open, as they leverage the services offered by the parent business. As a fresh franchise owner, all you need to do is manage the business: something your military past has trained you for.

Work as a government contractor
If you’re still interested in government work but want to be involved in a role that extends beyond the office, you should consider a contracting role. The United States government contracts out enormous amounts of logistics work, including IT work, network security work and administrative work. The government is mandated to contract out 3 percent of those services to veterans like you. If you’re interested in contracting, check out the Small Business Administration’s Boots to Businesses development program.

Get into the personal fitness industry
Very few people leave the military with zero personal fitness knowledge. Just because you no longer serve doesn’t mean your fitness skills are out of date. Leverage those skills, and you can make people fitter while building a business.
There are many ways to start a personal fitness business. You could recruit clients with a letterbox campaign, contract through a private gym or even create a fitness Instagram to show off your skills. Whichever way you choose, keep it unique to you. People are mostly drawn to personality (though they like muscles, too).

Work as a tech consultant
If you’ve got great tech skills, then you’ve got a golden ticket to a great career as a tech consultant. There are many ways to work as a tech consultant — from doing tech audits to running virtual mentoring programs that let you share your skills with small businesses and teams.
To find your client base, ask yourself two questions:
1. What skills do I have?
2. Who needs skills?
Once you’ve found your client base, the next steps are straightforward. Simply build your website, put together a pitch that clients can’t resist, work hard and put yourself out there.

Consider health-care advocacy and emergency services
When weighing up potential side business ideas, never discount your experience. As a veteran, you have a unique perspective invaluable to hospitals, universities and healthcare organizations working with veterans. If you love working with people, take that knowledge and build a business that teaches organizations how to help. You could even become a consultant for veteran services, helping new and injured veterans navigate through the complexities of post-service life. Just don’t forget to brush up on those calendar management skills before you start juggling clients.

Become a workplace trainer
As a veteran, you’re likely an expert in managing challenges like work-life balance, changing sleep cycles and routine shifts. As Americans take over 460 million work trips a year, you could build a business by teaching people how to manage their work lives on the move. If you love group settings, you could even use your knowledge to help businesses build skills-based Employee Volunteer Programs (EVPs).

Why Veterans are Great at Business
According to the American census, veterans own 7.5 percent of 5.4 million businesses. The reason for this is simple: the military teaches skills most business owners have to learn the hard way like self-sufficiency, leadership and the ability to perform under pressure. If you’ve already got those skills, you’ve got some of what it takes to run a successful business. All you need to do now is take one of these ideas and make it work for you.

Source: Score

Best Funding Sources for Veteran Entrepreneurs

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By Eric Goldschein
Few things go together better than veterans and entrepreneurship. Many of the traits that veterans develop during their service — drive, commitment, accountability, organization — help them become effective business leaders when they come home.

This isn’t news to veterans: According to the SBA, one in four post-9/11 veterans wants to start their own business. They understand how effective they can be as business owners. The hard part is obtaining the funding to start, and grow, their ventures.

Anyone who has explored the concept of starting a business knows how crucial startup and working capital funding is to a business’s prospects of success. Without enough funding, businesses can’t cover cash flow gaps, make smart investments or scale efficiently to meet rising demand.

While bootstrapping your business is a noble goal, there comes a point where your personal savings won’t be enough to keep your business afloat until it is profitable.

If you’re a veteran seeking additional funding, the following options are your best bets.

Loans for Veteran Entrepreneurs

Business loans are a common way for business owners to obtain financing. There are a variety of loan products available on the market today, from traditional term loans to lines of credit to credit cards.

Here are a few business loan options that are particularly good choices for veterans to explore:

1. SBA loans
The SBA has a number of loan programs, in which the federal agency partially guarantees bank loans to small businesses. The SBA 7(a) loan and the SBA CDC/504 loan are both popular loan programs that offer long term loans, at low-interest rates, to highly qualified business owners.

SBA loans are not exclusively for veteran business owners, but the SBA Microloan program disperses loans through community lenders, many of which seek to fund disadvantaged entrepreneurs, including veterans. If you are a new veteran business owner who needs up to $50,000 in startup funds, there may be no better loan on the market than an SBA Microloan.

Additionally, the SBA’s Military Economic Injury Loan program is available to current and veteran military reservists whose small businesses were negatively affected when they were called into active duty. If you fit this description, you can use this low-interest loan to get things back up and running upon your return.

2. StreetShares
StreetShares is a lender that is owned and operated by veterans, with a mission of funding business loans for fellow veterans. They do this by connecting veteran business owners with investors who can fund loans for up to $100,000.

The application process is fairly quick, and turnaround on a loan can take as little as one business day.

3. Online lenders
It can be difficult for small businesses to qualify for a bank loan without the help of the SBA. In recent years, a new type of lender has emerged: Online lenders, which provide funding more quickly and readily (i.e. with less stringent application processes) than banks and credit unions.
If you have an immediate funding need, or your personal or business credit is lacking, a loan through an online lender may be the solution. The repayment terms will be less generous — higher interest rates, less time to repay the loan — but it can be a good first loan option for veteran entrepreneurs.

4. Franchise-specific Funding
Companies such as UPS, 7-Eleven and Little Caesar’s provide special benefits and discounts to veterans seeking to open a franchise under their banners. This can include points off the initial franchising fee, discounts on equipment orders, free marketing supplies and more.

Equity Financing for Veteran Entrepreneurs

Another avenue for securing financing is to offer equity in your business in exchange for funding. If you have major funding needs (typically more than $1 million), are comfortable giving up part ownership of your business and seek advice and mentorship along with financing, equity financing may be the way to go.

You can connect with equity investors and venture capitalists on your own, or seek equity financing through several veteran-focused organizations:

• Hivers and Strivers: Entrepreneurs that graduated from a military academy can get early-stage investments from this angel investment group.
• Veteran Ventures Capital: A combination investment fund and consulting firm that assists businesses with veteran leadership.
• Task Force X Capital: A B2B technology investor focused on veteran entrepreneurs.
• 1836: This venture makes direct investments in veteran-owned businesses that operate in the lower middle market, focusing on companies in Texas and the Gulf Coast.

Grants for Veteran Entrepreneurs

Understandably, many entrepreneurs are interested in the concept of free money to invest in their business. That’s why business grants are so sought-after.
There are a few business grant programs specifically for veteran business owners. They include:
1. VetFran Business Grant Fund
Veterans who open franchises through the IFA VetFran program will also qualify for a $10,000 grant, which you can use in conjunction with other funding.
2. USDA Veteran and Minority Farmer Grant
Small business grants through the Department of Agriculture’s 2501 Program are available to veterans opening agricultural operations.
3. StreetShares Commanders Call Veteran Business Award
Along with their loans, StreetShares offers a $5,000 grant to veterans or military spouses who own their own businesses.
There are also a number of non-veteran-specific small business grants that you can explore, offering various amounts of funding that veterans may qualify for, including:
• Rural Business Enterprise Grant
• FedEx Small Business Grant
• Eileen Fisher Grant for Women
• Chase Mission Main Street Grant
• Visa Everywhere Initiative
• LendingTree’s Small Business Grant Contest
• Wells Fargo Community Investment Program

Crowdfunding

It’s also worth mentioning that crowdfunding has grown into a legitimate option for many business owners seeking additional capital. You can use reward- or donation-based crowdfunding, as well as equity and debt crowdfunding.

Develop a campaign and goal for mainstream sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, or use veteran-focused platforms such as MilitaryStarter, or Help Fund A Veteran. The stakes are relatively low — if you fail to make your goal, just try again or move on to other options.

Not every veteran with dreams of opening their own business does so — and a lack of funding is often the reason why. Don’t let financing issues stop you from pursuing your dream business and putting your skills to work for your community and society-at-large. Look into one of the above options and see what works for you.

Source: Score

Becoming a Verified SDVOSB and DVBE Business Program Details

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SDVOSB: Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business – This is a term used by the federal government to designate a company that is owned (at least 51 percent) and controlled by a veteran with a Service-Connected Disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The business also must qualify under the SBA’s Small Business Standards for their particular industry.

DVBE: Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise – This term is used by the State of California, public utilities and many private corporations to designate a company that is owned (at least 51 percent) and controlled by a veteran with a Service-Connected Disability rating of at least 10 percent from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Additionally, the veteran must reside in the state of California.

If the definitions of SDVOSB and DVBE above sound very similar, that’s because they are. However, there are some very key differences in the requirements:

  • SDVOSB requires a VA Disability Rating of 0 percent, while DVBE requires a VA Disability Rating of 10 percent.
  • DVBE requires the veteran to live in the State of California.
  • SDVOSB requires the business to meet the federal small business requirements for their industry.

SDVOB/DVBE Certification Information

“Certification” is a term that gets used frequently in the small business world, but is often misunderstood. The goal surrounding certification is two-fold:

  1. Help you determine if certification is right for your business. While we generally recommend getting certified, ultimately, it may not be necessary for your business needs.
  2. Help you find your way through the certification process. Certifications range from “self-certification” where you check a few boxes, all the way to full-blown audits of your business filings and financial information.

Is Certification right for your business? Depending on the customers you are trying to reach and the products/services you provide, certification may or may not be right for you. A good place to start is to ask yourself these questions:

  • Do large corporations or government agencies purchase my goods or services?
  • Does my company have the necessary insurance, bonding and administrative capabilities to perform work for the government or large corporations?

If you answered “YES” to these questions, getting certified will likely open up new opportunities for your business.

Finding your way through the Certification Process: If you plan on doing business with the federal government, being certified as an SDVOSB can open many set-aside contract opportunities for your business. The Federal SDVOSB certification comes in two parts:

  1. Self-Certification via SAM (System for Award Management): If you are a service-disabled veteran who owns at least 51 percent of your company and controls day-to-day operations, you can self-certify online by selecting the correct representations and certifications in your profile at SAM.gov. It’s that easy.
  2. CVE Verification via the Department of Veterans Affairs:This certification, also known as “Verification” requires the business owner to submit many business and personal documents including tax returns (3 years), Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, meeting minutes and various other documents in order to verify that the service-disabled veteran actually “owns and controls” the business. If you want to do business with the VA or take advantage of the “Veterans First” legislation, you will need to complete this process. For more information, please visit va.gov for more information.
  3. DVBE Certification:If you and your business are located within the State of California and you have at least a 10 percent Disability Rating, you may qualify for the Department of General Service’s Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE) program. This is a valuable certification if you are looking to do business with state agencies or public utilities. For more information visit caleprocure.ca.gov/pages/sbdvbe-index.aspx.
  4. New York State SDVOB Certification:The Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Act allows eligible veteran business owners to get certified as a New York State Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business (SDVOB). The 6 percent goal encourages and supports eligible SDVOBs to play a greater role in the state’s economy by increasing their participation in New York State’s contracting opportunities. This program is open to all SDVOB’s nationwide. For more information visit ogs.ny.gov/veterans.

Source: VIB Network

Latina CEO Breaks Down Gender Barrier In Engineering And Provides Employment Solution For Military Spouses

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By Shelley Zalia, Forbes Women

Erica Beal is the founder and CEO of AVIVV, a professional services engineering firm serving the energy and utility industry. In March 2021, her company became the first engineering firm to be a certified military spouse-owned enterprise in the United States, adding to its distinction of being woman and minority-owned.

I recently caught up with Beal via Zoom while she was on location at a job site to hear how she successfully launched her company right before the pandemic, and how she is setting an example for not only Latina women and military spouses — but for all women. If you can see her, you can be her.

Married to a U.S. Navy SEAL, with two young sons, Beal grew up in Texas in what she described as a very lovely, biracial family; her mother is Mexican-American and her father, Anglo-American. The first in her family to pursue a degree, she praised her parents for the sacrifices they made and the tremendous work ethic they instilled in their children.

“My dad was in oil, gas and construction and never took a sick day. He was there when the sun came up. My mom, a Latina career woman, worked for a Fortune 500 company, starting as an admin and became a national account manager (before receiving her business degree years later). She showed me how to break through barriers.”

Beal met her husband in college and together they began a new life in San Diego. She always had a love for construction and began to look for employment with no local friends or networks to help with leads. After opening their electric bill, she called the 1-800 number and asked, “How do I get a job there?”

A simple question that led to her 16-year career in the energy utility sector. Starting as a temp, she worked her way up, learning a range of functions including audit, procurement, supplier diversity, energy efficiency and finance. Inside, she had always felt her “internal entrepreneur” nagging her to go off and start something; she just didn’t know when she was going to take that leap.

“I was lucky because my husband came home,” said Beal referring to her spouse, a decorated military officer. Over the course of his 21-year active duty career, their family has endured multiple, months-long combat deployments. After his last he said, “‘I’m tired, my body is tired, it’s time for me to help support you back.’ I had to have his commitment to make this leap as a family, we’re a unit.” That was the fuel she needed to found AVIVV (which means “growth” and was suggested by her sons) in September 2019.

Launching a business a few months prior to the pandemic may have proved disastrous for some, but Beal pivoted quickly and with positive results. She’s in an essential business — people need electricity and they need reliability. Her instinctive calling has been to help other military spouses by reducing the roadblocks they face when trying to sustain careers on the move. A report from the White House released last month shared that unemployment among military spouses remains at a staggering 22%, a number that has barely budged in ten years.

“There’s a void and we have to do something about it,” said Beal. “There’s a very qualified workforce that wants to get out there.” The construction industry is a big opportunity for military spouses and those transitioning who are not aware of how deep the need is for infrastructure projects.

Read the complete article originally posted on Forbes.

Why Do Veterans Make Great Business Owners?

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Once their service ends, veterans often expect to start a new career. In many cases, the same skills and characteristics that helped make them successful in the military, such as ambition and a drive to succeed, make veterans uniquely suited for entrepreneurial endeavors like business ownership.

Franchising is a path toward business ownership that requires strong leadership skills, so veterans are often some of the most qualified and successful prospective franchise owners. According to the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative (VetFran), a strategic initiative of the International Franchise Association and the Franchise Education and Research Foundation, at least 97 percent of franchisors believe veterans would make excellent franchisees; 70 percent have brought on a veteran franchisee or employee in the last year alone.

“The skills veterans develop through their military experience are integral to pursuing a new career,” said Tim Davis, former president of The UPS Store, Inc. and former U.S. Marine Corps captain and Gulf War veteran.

Leadership. Work ethic. Discipline. These qualities are exactly what help more than 200 veteran The UPS Store franchisees succeed.

  • Working as a team: The success of an organization relies on its members working together and a recognition that the business is greater than the sum of its parts. Many veterans learn to rely on their fellow service men and women; franchise owners must embrace teamwork at multiple levels, from employees of the local franchise to the franchise’s national and regional leadership team.
  • Executing a plan: Although a franchise owner typically has access to a proven business model and ongoing support, executing the plan is the franchisee’s responsibility. Putting the pieces together and developing a working business plan requires an entrepreneurial approach similar to the military training veterans received.
  • Thriving under pressure: Things don’t always go according to plan, and service members possess the training and discipline to remain calm in pressure-filled situations. For best results when navigating situations like disgruntled customers or employees, a level-headed approach often prevails.
  • Working hard to accomplish a goal: Not all business owners have the level of commitment and work ethic necessary to accomplish their entrepreneurial goals. Service members are trained to understand the requirements of a mission and work diligently to achieve them.

Financing a Franchise Dream

Through its participation in VetFran, The UPS Store, Inc., makes it easier for veterans to attain their post-military professional goals.

For example, its “Mission: Veteran Entrepreneurship” program offers nearly $300,000 in financial incentives to assist qualified U.S. military veterans in opening their own franchise locations. In addition, the first 10 eligible veterans to submit a complete buyer’s application packet and initial application fee by Nov. 11 will receive a waiver for their franchise license fees.

Before You Buy a Franchise

Becoming a franchise owner is a big decision, which means it’s important to thoroughly research potential opportunities and carefully review all the available documents. In most cases, you will have an interview with the franchisor, which is not only a chance for him or her to assess your abilities but also for you to ask questions like these that can give you more perspective.

  1. How mature is the brand?

Some franchise systems are backed by a nationally renowned brand name and decades of franchise experience. A mature brand with a proven track record of success can be especially beneficial for a first-time business owner.

  1. Will training be provided?

A good franchise will be committed to helping you succeed by providing the tools and training necessary to get you started on the right foot. The best franchise opportunities will offer a comprehensive training program that covers more than just basic operational procedures, but also provides ongoing assistance. Ask if there is a support team you can reach out to with questions. Also find out how the brand’s franchisees work collaboratively to learn from one another and help each other succeed.

  1. How stable is the industry?

It’s impossible to guarantee the success of a business regardless of the state of the economy. However, some industries are more recession-resistant than others. Those that offer essential products and services that remain in demand or those that flourish due to tough economic conditions are typically among the best franchise opportunities. If you’re exploring opening a franchise business as a means of controlling your own employment and financial security, consider an industry that can thrive even in the face of market volatility.

  1. What type of marketing, advertising and promotion do you provide?

While you can generally expect to receive marketing assistance and grand opening guidance when first opening a franchise business, the type of marketing and advertising support provided beyond that can vary greatly among franchisors.

  1. What is the total short and long-term financial commitment?

Discuss all initial and ongoing fees in depth with the franchisor before committing to buy. You will also need enough operating capital to support the business until it breaks even. The franchisor should be able to give you an idea of how long it typically takes franchisees in the network to become profitable.

  1. Do you offer funding, incentives or deals?

The costs associated with opening a franchise business can be a significant factor in finding the right opportunity. Some franchisors offer financing options, as well as special incentives for veterans, women and minorities; certain business models; or opening a location in specific geographic areas.

Source: globenewswire.com

From Readiness to Revenue: Smart Tips for Military Transition

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By Dr. L.H. Taylor: President/CEO of Veterans Business Partnership

The prospect of becoming a successful entrepreneur is exciting and exhilarating. Becoming your own boss, doing your own thing, taking the risk and enjoying the spoils is where the action is. After all, what could be better than controlling your own destiny?

For veterans and spouses, the journey to entrepreneurship can be equally exciting and at the same time, perplexing and challenging. Transitioning from military readiness to the revenue game could be analogous to aspiring to become a big star in Hollywood. The glitz and glamor; the lights and action; and the excitement of big money can be intoxicating. The vision of the bells and whistles may block their view or fog up the rose-colored glasses through which they view this new paradise. Then comes the reality of it all; not everyone makes it to Hollywood.

One of the most challenging questions regarding entrepreneurship is, “where to begin.” The answer to that question could very well determine success or failure for many transitioning service members and their spouses. Fortunately, there is an answer to that question.

Get a Head Start
First, let me suggest that a two-year head start on career transition is not unthinkable for those who have not done so already. The secret for transition success starts with the local installation Transition Assistance Program (TAP) office. The DoD TAP program has teamed up with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to offer exceptional entrepreneurship training to transitioning personnel courtesy of twenty-two regional Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs) across the country.

Over the course of the suggested two years, a veteran or spouse can take part in the two-day SBA VBOC Boots-to-Business (B2B) training as many times as they desire. Beyond the two-day TAP-VBOC presentation, SBA sponsors a robust array of (free) follow-on training, that includes counseling, and mentoring to jump start these future entrepreneurs. The VBOC offerings under TAP are the place to start the transition journey to entrepreneurship. VBOCs then, will reach out to community partners such as Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), and Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE) to assist according to where a client is in their journey.

Military members and their spouses are more than adept at and equipped with the skills and temperament for becoming successful entrepreneurs. The big “however” is that nothing advances the cause of entrepreneurial success more than advance planning. Many of my clients who ultimately succeed are the ones who have researched their ideas and invested sufficient time and energy to do the homework necessary to get their enterprises off the ground. The ones who do not, are generally not as successful, or fail to launch their dreams. VBOCs are designed to help get start-up entrepreneurial initiatives off the ground. For qualified veterans and spouses, their services are free.

Entrepreneurship is an exciting proposition. It is a pathway to self-expression and freedom to control one’s life. On the other hand, entrepreneurship can be extremely demanding, perhaps exhausting, and sometimes disappointing when things fail to go as planned. Entrepreneurship is not just the act of starting a business, or just about being in control of your own destiny. It is not a one-off point in time when you open the doors to your business and start to rake in the money. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle; it demands full-time care and feeding. It transcends every aspect of one’s life. It is a twenty-four-hour, seven-day-per-week proposition. It becomes a living, breathing member of your life.

Before you take the plunge, contact your local VBOC for support. VBOCs work closely with their community counterparts and can help determine when additional support might be needed.

Take a smart tip from a veteran entrepreneur turned VBOC Director, contact your nearest Veterans Business Outreach Center, introduce yourself, share your dream and start your exciting journey toward successful entrepreneurship.

Good luck!

Source: Veterans Business Partnership

From Combat to Cattle: A Retired Army Ranger’s Story

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By Kellie Speed

Former Army Ranger Patrick Montgomery never could have imagined his business as an online Wagyu beef retailer would become an overnight success for their hot dogs.

When the combat veteran left the military in 2014 and went to the University of Missouri to pursue a degree in Animal Science to become a veterinarian, he instead decided to buy a farm. Montgomery is now the owner and founder of KC Cattle Company of Weston, Missouri, which offers melt-in-your-mouth, perfectly marbled, hormone and antibiotic-free Wagyu steaks as well as pasture-raised Berkshire pork and even burgers, brats and hot dogs.

“I wanted to bridge the gap between agriculture and the consumer and the appeal for me was working outside and owning a ranch,” he said. “No one really knew what Wagyu was yet, and I figured I was young so I gave it a shot. One of the biggest things I noticed along the way was there were a ton of protein options for consumers to pick through, but with Wagyu, you can really tell a palatable difference. I wanted people to have a unique eating experience. It has been interesting and fun to see people learn what we are all about.”

A few years ago, Food & Wine gave KC Cattle Company a top nod for its Wagyu hot dog, saying it was “basically like eating a steak in a bun.” Shortly after that article was published, they quickly sold out of every single product on the site. “That was crazy,” Montgomery reflects. “Hot dogs were our worst seller and then the article came out and it was the #1 article on Apple news. We only had about 40 packages of hot dogs in stock when the article came out and they were our worst seller. Over the next few weeks, we sold about 7,500 packages of hot dogs. We used to think we were a Wagyu steak company but now our number one seller is hot dogs [laughs]. Strips and ribeyes are next up in popularity.”

How would Montgomery say his military experience as a member of the Army’s 1st Ranger Battalion helped launch his career? “I think every veteran can speak to the transition out of the military not being an easy one,” he acknowledged. “You have a camaraderie in the military and then you get out into the civilian world and lose that. What’s missing most are those most kindred friendships you made sharing stories of crappy experiences overseas. You feel sort of lost when you come back home.

“It is important to me to make time to speak to people, who reach out to us maybe asking how we got our start or how we got capital or something like that,” he explains. “We like to link folks together and it’s an opportunity for veterans interested in entrepreneurship.”
Since its inception, the veteran-run company has been committed to veterans through employment, mentorship and donations. “Some people don’t want to hire veterans because they think they are broken individuals and can’t do anything after they get out of the military, but I wanted to provide an opportunity just for veterans,” he said.

This year, KC Cattle Company received the FedEx Veteran Business of the Year award for 2021.

“We have been a partner with Fed Ex the last two years and used to solely ship with them because their core values aligned with ours,” he said. “It was great to receive this award. You know you work hard, but it’s kind of cool when you get recognized for it.”

For more information, visit kccattlecompany.com.

The Types of Government Contracts & What You Need to Know

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When it comes to running your small business, one of the greatest assets you can acquire to help you succeed is a government contract.

The U.S. government is the largest customer in the world. It buys all types of products and services — in both large and small quantities — and it’s required by law to consider buying from small businesses.

The government wants to buy from small businesses for several reasons, including:

  • To ensure that large businesses don’t “muscle out” small businesses
  • To gain access to the new ideas that small businesses provide
  • To support small businesses as engines of economic development and job creation
  • To offer opportunities to disadvantaged socio-economic groups

There are a multitude of contracts that can be obtained and further searched into using Sam.gov, but here are a few of the different types of government contracts that could help fund your small business:

Set-aside contracts for small businesses:

To help provide a level playing field for small businesses, the government limits competition for certain contracts to small businesses. Those contracts are called “small business set-asides,” and they help small businesses compete for and win federal contracts.

There are two kinds of set-aside contracts: competitive set-asides and sole-source set-asides.

Competitive set-aside contracts:

When at least two small businesses could perform the work or provide the products being purchased, the government sets aside the contract exclusively for small businesses. With few exceptions, this happens automatically for all government contracts under $150,000.

Some set-asides are open to any small business, but some are open only to small businesses who participate in SBA contracting assistance programs.

Sole-source set-aside contracts:

Most contracts are competitive, but sometimes there are exceptions to this rule. Sole-source contracts are a kind of contract that can be issued without a competitive bidding process. This usually happens in situations where only a single business can fulfill the requirements of a contract. To be considered for a sole-source contract, register your business with the System for Award Management (SAM) and participate in any contracting program you may qualify for.

In some cases, sole-source contracts must be published publicly, and will be marked with an intent to sole source. Potential vendors can still view and bid on these contracts. Once the bidding process begins, the intent to sole-source may be withdrawn.

Contracting Assistance Programs:

The federal government uses special programs to help small businesses win at least at 23 percent of all federal contracting dollars each year. There are different programs for different attributes of a small business, such as:

8 (a) Business Development Program: Small Disadvantaged businesses.

Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program: Women-owned businesses

Veteran assistance program: Veteran-owned businesses

HUBZone Program: Historically underutilized businesses

SBA Mentor-Protégé program: Sets up your business with an experienced government contractor

Natural Resource Sales Assistance Program: Provides natural resources and surplus property to small businesses.

Joint Ventures: Allows businesses to team up and acquire government contracts (more info below)

Joint Ventures:

Two or more small businesses may pool their efforts by forming a joint venture to compete for a contract award. A joint venture of multiple small businesses still qualifies for small business set-aside contracts if its documentation meets SBA requirements.

Small businesses that have a mentor-protege relationship through the All-Small Mentor-Protege program can form a joint venture with a mentor (which can be a large business). These joint ventures can compete together for government contracts reserved for small businesses.

A joint venture can also bid on contracts that are set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned, women-owned, or HUBZone businesses, if a member of the joint venture meets SBA requirements to do so.

Resources

If you still have questions or are looking for additional information, visit sam.gov or sba.gov. No matter what your situation is, there are many opportunities available to help your small business succeed.

Source: U.S. Small Business Administration

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Upcoming Events

  1. Joint Base San Antonio Veteran Job Fair
    December 16, 2021
  2. NatCon 2022
    January 6, 2022 - January 8, 2022
  3. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  4. AEC Next Technology Expo & Conference, International Lidar Mapping Forum, and SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    February 6, 2022 - February 8, 2022
  5. CCME Annual Symposium
    February 7, 2022 - February 10, 2022