Florida group helps veterans start businesses


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) A Florida business group is helping veterans start businesses.

The group, Veterans Florida, started this year after receiving $1 million in funding from the state. It offers veterans starting a business seven bi-weekly meetings followed by a continuing mentorship.

Homer Boone, a veterans outreach manager for CareerSource Central Florida, said veterans have a camaraderie that translates into easy communication with each other.

The Orlando Sentinel (http://bit.ly/2nhUnON) reports that Small Business Administration data shows veterans’ share of new businesses has been decreasing in recent years. It was more than a third of all new businesses in 2007, but only a fifth of new businesses in 2013.

Veterans Florida hopes to fill the gap with mentorships and other programs.

“Most business owners fly by the seat of their pants,” said Edward Sanchez, 34, an Army veteran who wants to start a business selling T-shirts to children. “With our military background, we lay out a plan and then work out that plan.”

Some veterans said their background helps them in business.

“It helps you problem-solve in situations where it’s not life or death,” said John Burns, who owns a tech-firm. “You go back to those times and remember how you got through a particular situation and you adapt.”

Veterans also have an advantage in that many already have government clearance for government-contracting jobs.

Veteran Ruby Homayssi said a group like Veterans Florida is needed because of stereotypes that some people have of veterans.

“You mention the word ‘veteran’ to some people and they are afraid they will fly off the handle,” said Homayssi, a 72-year-old veteran who served in the Navy and wants to open a tea room. “But vets are well grounded, well disciplined and they know what they want to do.”

Making vets aware of the programs remains a challenge, said Boone, who served in the Marine Corps.

“There is still work to do, but we are getting better and have come a long way,” Boone said.

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