Vet-Owned Cinch I.T.’s Mission is to Support Fellow Entrepreneurs

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Side by side images of before and after soldier and now businessman

Richard “Rick” Porter is the owner and president of Cinch I.T.’s fastest growing franchise model. He has an unwavering commitment to helping entrepreneurs make their dreams come true while driving innovation and delivering best-in-class customer service.

A member of the U.S. Army’s Special Operation community, Porter is the recipient of the Worcester Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 and was named one of the Top 10 Best CEOs of 2018.

He is also a board member for the Better Business Bureau of Central and Western Massachusetts and founder of the Cinch Scholarship Foundation.

U.S. Veterans Magazine had the chance to sit down with Porter and learn more about Cinch I.T. below:

How did you find your way into the Info Tech industry after leaving the service?

I joined the United State Army as an old man! At least compared to most of the other recruits. My family encouraged me to go to college and get a degree before enlisting and I thought that was good sound advice. So, after high school, I started college and began working full time for a tech company in Massachusetts. After my service, it was just what came naturally to me. I settled back into the only other industry that I knew.

Why did you create Cinch I.T.?

I am not the founder, but I was employee number 3 and eventually bought 100 percent ownership of the company as the original founder was looking to move on.

Cinch I.T. was founded in 2004 to help businesses owner become more productive and profitable through better technology. Businesses were becoming more reliant on their technology to simply operate. Business owners were also realizing that their technology was either making them money or costing them money.

There was a need for an IT company who could provide these entrepreneurs with the right technology that would give them a competitive advantage in their industries, and one that would be there every step of the way to support that technology to ensure they remained productive.

How important is it to you that Cinch I.T. is 50 percent veteran-owned and operated?

I believe that veterans can become amazing business owners. They possess all the right qualities, such as discipline, a strong work ethic, attention to detail and many more. Specifically, they can excel in franchising because they have spent their entire military careers following a proven system, processes and standards. “Task, Condition, Standard”

As a veteran myself, I have initiated so many military-inspired processes and built a culture around many military ideologies. Our helpdesk, for example, is set up in “fire teams.” The fireteams are capable of autonomous operations as part of the larger unit, the company.

Bringing veterans into the Cinch I.T. franchise system is important to me because they will fit in with our culture from day one and they will easily adopt our proven process. These two factors will lead to a greater chance of success for them as entrepreneurs. We are not successful if they are not!

How has offering Veteran franchises 50 percent off their initial franchise fee created opportunities for other veterans within your company?

Honestly, I don’t believe veterans choose Cinch I.T. because we offer them 50 percent off their initial franchise fees, but I hope that it makes their journey into entrepreneurship that much easier and that they see how much we appreciate their service and sacrifices.

Why do you feel veterans are great assets to the I.T. industry?

Military veterans learn many roles and skills throughout their service, such as strategic planning, logistics, IT, telecommunications, contingency-planning, risk management, team building, leadership development and character-building. It’s because of this that veterans can quickly master complicated new technologies.

Give a veteran a difficult technical or business problem and they will find the solution. They have the grit and determination to complete the mission.

What are your goals for Cinch I.T. moving forward?

Cinch I.T.’s goal is to expand into most major cities on the East Coast by the end of 2022 while building a strong network of amazing franchise partners who want to grow and thrive together.

Photo Credit: Provided by Cinch I.T.

Veterans Business Battle invites entrepreneurs to participate in 2022 competition

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veteran entrepreneur doing business presentation

HOUSTON- Rice University’s business competition geared for military veterans will take applications from new entrepreneurs. Applications are open for the 2022 Veterans Business Battle, an event that gives military veterans an opportunity to pitch their business plans to a panel of investors for a chance at investments, business partnerships, and prize money. In recent years, finalists received more than $4 million of investments through the program. Early-stage businesses and existing companies needing growth capital are both encouraged to apply.

This year’s event will extend networking opportunities to other business startup founders who want to attend sessions led by previous Veterans Business Battle winners.

“We’re looking forward to giving veterans the opportunity not just to share their ideas and get financing, but learn from other past winners the lessons about entrepreneurship they’ve lived through while growing their businesses ” event co-chair Reid Schrodel said.

Veterans Business Battle will award a combined $30,000 in cash prizes to winners at the event. The cash will be split between a $15,000 prize for first place, $10,000 for second place and $5,000 for third place. The event is hosted by Rice Business Veterans Association, a student organization for military veterans at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business.

To apply, applicants must submit a business plan on the competition website, www.vetbizbattle.org, by Feb. 15. Businesses must have an honorably discharged veteran or active duty founder and equity holder who is actively running the venture.

Finalists will be invited to make their business pitch April 22-23 at Rice University. All types of businesses are encouraged. Previous winners have included retail products, a commercial drone business, technology firms and more. Those interested in competing should visit business.rice.edu/vetbizbattle

Veterans Business Battle was established in 2015 by a group of Houston entrepreneurs and Rice University’s Veterans in Business Association. The competition aims to foster entrepreneurship among veterans, grow veteran-owned businesses and give back to veterans seeking to make a difference in the business world. For more information, visit business.rice.edu/vetbizbattle

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, Inc. is pleased to announce the appointment of Chris Ann Phillips as Chief Administrative Officer

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Chris Ann Phillips headshot

She joins Guardian Angels and brings academic and leadership experience in development, marketing, communications, human resource management and diversity, equity and inclusion.

She is a results-oriented leader and nationally recognized advocate in the veteran and disability community. As a U.S. Marine Corps veteran she brings strategic focus to the growth and development of the organization.

Chris joins us from PNC Bank where she served as the Military Affairs Liaison and Enterprise Business Lead for PNC’s Annual Community Mutt Strut – supporting veterans in danger of suicide by raising funds to provide medically trained service dogs across the country. Starting her career with PNC as a Diversity Specialist in HR recruiting, she was instrumental in the design, development, and execution of the veteran hiring strategy for PNC.

For the last 3 years Chris has taught as an Adjunct Professor of Business and Professional Communications at Duquesne University. She has held successful positions with Chrysler Corporation and the Department of Labor as a national sales trainer and regional job developer.

Her civic duties include Pittsburgh Veteran Employer Coalition and the Veteran’s Advisory Board for Duquesne University. She is an active member of the board of directors for Pittsburgh Warrior Hockey and is a highly sought-after mentor and public speaker in the military community.

Guardian Angels logoShe is the recipient of a 2013 PA ESGR Patriot Award and instrumental in PNC receiving the Secretary of Defense Freedom Award. Having twice been named in the nation’s top five finalists for Individual Excellence in Veteran Employment by the US Chamber of Commerce, her commitment and passion to the veteran community is exemplary.

Chris holds master’s degrees in Leadership, Professional and Corporate Communications from Duquesne University and will complete her doctorate from Duquesne in 2022. She has two daughters, two granddaughters and a large family. In her free time, she enjoys reading, entertaining and traveling.

Joining the Guardian Angels executive leadership team at a time of amazing growth and expansion, she will be an integral part of the transformation geared towards furthering the mission and long-term sustainability. Her proven leadership and strategic focus will offer great value to our team and all those we serve.

For information about Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, visit https://www.medicalservicedogs.org/

A Guide to Business Certifications for Small Business Owners

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If you’re a small business owner who belongs to an underrepresented group, you may be eligible for certain business certifications that can help you access more government contracts and private-sector opportunities.

Certifications for groups like women, minorities, LGBTQ entrepreneurs and more promote supplier diversity, which encourages the use of diverse businesses as suppliers. These certifications also come with access to exclusive resources and networks, leading you to new business opportunities.

Here’s an overview of different types of business certifications and how to begin the application process if you’re eligible.

Who offers business certifications?

The following organizations offer many of the business certifications currently available to diverse small business owners:

  • U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA): The SBA is a government agency that provides support and opportunities to entrepreneurs and small businesses. This organization offers certification programs like the Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program, HUBZone Program and 8(a) Business Development Program, which make businesses eligible for certain government contracts.
  • Minority-centered organizations: Some minority-centered organizations, such as the National Minority Supplier Development Council, offer certifications that helped minority entrepreneurs gain new business from the private sector.
  • Other government and industry organizations: There are also certifications that are provided by state and city governments. The contracts they award are smaller and typically only within their jurisdiction.

Why become a certified business?

Business certifications come with various perks and resources that can help your company stand out among competitors and scale your business faster.

  • Access to contracts: The federal government, as well as certain private sector corporations, set aside contracts to be awarded to businesses with certain verified certifications. These contracts are only given to businesses with these certifications in order to ensure equal opportunity.
  • Ability to form joint ventures: Once you become certified, you often can join other businesses within your certification in order to compete for certain contracts.
  • Additional management and technical assistance: Many of these certification programs also offer management and technical assistance to help their businesses grow and succeed.

Types of business certifications

While there are a wide range of business certifications and certifying bodies available to small business owners, here are some of the most well-known types:

8(a) Small Business Certification

The 8(a) Small Business Certification was designed to help create equal opportunities for small business owners who are “socially or economically disadvantaged.” The federal government awards at least 5 percent of contracting dollars for 8(a) businesses and allows them to compete for set aside and sole source contracts.

To be eligible for the 8(a)program, your small business must be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who are economically and socially disadvantaged. Additionally, the owners must manage day-to-day operations, make long-term decisions and have a personal net worth that is less than $750,000 and a three-year average adjusted gross income of $350,000 or less.

If you meet these certifications, you can apply to become an 8(a)business by registering on the SBA’s website. Once you complete the application, you will receive a letter informing you of your approval or rejection. If you were approved, your certification lasts for a maximum of nine years. However, you’ll be subject to annual reviews in order to maintain your standing in the program.

HUBZone Business Certification

The Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) is a program with the goal of growing businesses in historically underutilized areas by awarding them at least 3 percent of federal contract dollars each year.

To qualify for the HUBZone program, your small business must be located in a HUBZone, have at least 30 percent of its employees living in a HUBZone, and be 51 percent owned and controlled by U.S. citizens, a Community Development Corporation, an agricultural cooperative, a Native Hawaiian organization or an Indian tribe.

You can apply for your HUBZone business certification on the SBA’s website. While there is no limitation to the length of how long a business can have a HUBZone certification, they will have to recertify for the program once a year. Additionally, an examination of your business will be required every three years.

Women-Owned Businesses Certifications

If your business is majority-owned and operated by one or more women, you may be eligible for the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business program.

This program was created to aid female business owners by awarding them contracts within specific industries where women are underrepresented. A minimum of 5 percent of contracting dollars are given to woman-owned businesses each year by the federal government.

There are two types of woman-owned business certifications offered by the National Women’s Business Council: Woman-owned small business (WOSB) and economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business (EDWOSB).

To qualify as a WOSB, your small business must be for profit and 51 percent owned and operated by women who are U.S. citizens and work within the business full-time.

If you’re looking to qualify as an EDWOSB, your business must meet all of the above requirements for a WOSB, as well as the economic requirements of an 8(a) certified business. If you already have an 8(a) certification, you can also apply for an EDWOSB certification as well. You can apply for both woman-owned business certifications through the SBA’s website.

Minority-Owned Businesses Certification

The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) is an organization that is committed to integrating Minority Business Enterprises (MBE) equally in the public and private sector. This organization provides MBE certification for minority-owned businesses.

The NMSDC network consists of over 12,000 certified MBEs that are connected to over 1,400 large corporate members. Not only is it a significant certification within the NMSDC, but being MBE-certified helps in government circles to gain federal contracts as well.

To qualify for MBE certification, your small business must be 51% minority-owned and operated, and the owners must be involved in daily management. The NMSDC defines a minority as “an individual who is at least 25 percent Asian, Black, Hispanic or Native American.” This is established and proven through a combination of screenings, interviews and site visits.

If your business meets these criteria, you can apply to be an MBE through the NMSDC’s website. Once you’ve submitted all the required documents and paid the application fee, you’ll get an email and letter if you’ve been approved. If your application was not approved, you may submit a letter of appeal.

“Becoming a B Corp requires your company to have a positive social impact.”

B Corp Certification

A B Corporation is a for-profit business that is driven by a social mission. These companies use their profits as a means for positive impact for their employees, communities and the environment. They are certified by the SBA and are overseen by the B Lab, a governing body that ensures B corps are meeting their standards for impact.

Becoming a B Corp requires your company to have a positive social impact. For a business to certify as a B Corp, they must complete the B Impact Assessment (BIA) and meet the legal requirements. The BIA evaluates the applying company and their impact on their employees, consumers, community and the environment. Once you complete the BIA, you’ll pay a fee. Once approved, your certification will last for three years, after which you’ll be subject to a reassessment to determine if your company still means the criteria.

Veteran-Owned Business Certification

As a veteran of the United States Armed Forces, there are two different certifications you can apply for if you’re starting a business. The Vets First Verification Program is a federal government program that grants certification for Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSB) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB). With these certifications, you’re granted competition for certain contracts that are set aside for veterans and veterans who became disabled while in the act of service.

To qualify for these certifications, you must be a small business that is at least 51% owned by one or more service-disabled veterans who manage the business daily. To apply for SDVOSB, you also must have a service-connected disability.

For business certification in the private sector, the National Veteran Owned Business Association’s Certified Veteran’s Business Enterprise (VBE) is a program that offers certifications as a marketing tool for businesses that want to work with VBEs. Like its federal government counterpart, your small business must be at least 51 percent owned by one or more service-disabled veterans.

LGBT Business Certification

The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) created a certification program to help entrepreneurs in the LGBTQ+ community have greater access to contracting opportunities. The Certified LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE) certification gives businesses an opportunity to network and mentor with other LGBTBEs, provides access for scholarships and opens businesses up to special discounts from LGBTQ+ owned and allied partners.

To apply, your small business must be 51 percent owned, operated, managed and controlled by a person or persons who identify as part of the LGBT community, operated in the U.S. and independent from any non-LGBTQ+ business enterprises. You also must pay an application fee and are subject to a site visit evaluation. The certification lasts for two years once it is granted.

Source: NMSDC

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 wedding ring sitting on table with bottle of Jack Daniels in the background

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

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

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.

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