LSBDC helps vets launch small businesses _lowres

Melissa Daigrepont

Veterans picked up tips on how to start a small business during the Louisiana Small Business Development Center’s ReBoot program held July 17 in Hammond.

Sandy Summers, assistant director of the LSBDC, said the event touched on many of the logistics necessary for opening a small business.

“We kind of started off the day with the qualities of an entrepreneur and the amount of time it takes to start your business,” Summers said. “Then we went into the market research, basically talking about needs and demands for different products. You have to do the market research to make sure what you’re doing is feasible for this particular area because what works in Colorado is not going to work in South Louisiana necessarily.”

Summers said the program aimed at capitalizing on some innate characteristics of veterans to help them succeed in business.

“They fit a lot of the characteristics of a successful business owner, so we kind of wanted to build on that personality and give them the tools and the resources they need,” Summers said.

According to Melissa Daigrepont, a Navy veteran and Economic Development Specialist and International Trade Officer from the U.S. Small Business Administration, who coordinated the event, the class was originally offered to Louisiana military members transitioning to civilian life, but because of the large population of veterans in Louisiana, a reboot of the class was created.

“It’s very similar to our Boots to Business program which is offered on a military installation. This one is in town because veterans and their families wouldn’t be eligible to go on base and take this course,” Daigrepont said.

Daigrepont said she feels the skills taught in the class are invaluable to veterans because of her personal experience with small businesses.

“Both my parents were small business owners when I was growing up, so I know the trials, tribulations and also the merit that can come from owning and building something of your own,” Daigrepont said. “Veterans have the skills necessary to be good business owners, they just need some tools, resources and direction to avoid some of the first time small business owner mistakes that a lot of people make.”

Robin Keller, communications director of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, said representatives from her office talked to veterans about programs that support veteran-owned small businesses.

“The LAVETBIZ program is an entrepreneurial program set up to support veterans who own their own small businesses and are seeking contract work with the state of Louisiana,” Keller said. “The program gives vets and disabled vets extra consideration and extra points when they are seeking contract work with the state.”

Summers explained that during lunch time at the workshop a panel of veteran-owned business owners talked about how they got started, what their challenges were and some of the resources they used to overcome them.

Summers said it was “not really a presentation but more of a conversation about, ‘I’ve been there, done that, here are my suggestions and pointers.’ It’s always good to see someone who’s been through the same experience doing well.”

Keller said the services of veterans are invaluable to the community.

“Veterans provide a unique skill set both in the work force and as business owners because they possess the fortitude, the focus and the commitment it take to be successful,” Keller said. “They bring a lot of discipline to the workforce and the business community.”

Summers said she believes the qualities of many veterans are essentially synonymous with those of a small business owner.

“They’re risk takers. I mean, they’ve basically risked their lives for our country. They’re kind of wiling to push the envelope, and that quality is needed for a business owner. You have to really persevere and go through a lot of challenges,” Summers said.

The LSBDC is keen on supporting veterans because of all they sacrifice to serve our country.

“A lot of times they leave a stable situation as far as employment goes, and they may come back to a situation that is not as stable as it was in the past,” Summers said. “We’re proud of them, and we really want to help our veterans because they’ve done so much for our country.”

The workshop and other services offered by LSBDC are free and available to residents of Tangipahoa, St. Tammany, Livingston, Washington and St. Helena Parishes.

To get information on other programs put on by the Small Business Development Center, go to www2.lsbdc.org or call the center at (985) 549-3831.