A huge force in my life right now is the plan to build my own veteran-owned small business, backed by those near and dear to me, but ultimately driven by my own passion and focus. There is a deep-burning desire that I fed as I left the service to build something I could call my own, wholly and fully.
It started small as I found blogs of world-travellers and successful business owners, and stoked into a red-hot furnace as I researched more and found success stories. I realized that while my career had given me a fertile ground to grow specific skills in, for the most part I’d been fighting my natural talents. Why the hell shouldn’t I focus on those talents, those interests, and make truly useful goods for like-minded people? If I only live once, I better make it a damn good one rather than crushing myself with the typical nine-to-five grind pouring myself into mind-numbing, soul-crushing databases.
Let me pause here and state upfront that I’m not some disillusioned rose-tinted dreamer; this will not be easy, this will not be straightforward. But if it works, oh boy will it be worth it.
It’ll be mine. I’ll define the hours, I’ll define the goals, I’ll define success. And it’ll breath and soar or sputter and crash based solely on my own hard work.
For awhile anyway.
See while the plan is to build a small business my desire is to build more than a brand, more than just sell things and make money. I want to build a community where people come together to grow and to learn. I’m looking for those who are self-made, do-it-yourself types, people who thirst for freedom and liberty, cultivate their own self-reliance and responsibility, and want to live a full life with tales to be told with friends and family. I want to expand beyond retail and partner with atypical businesses, and expand my own competencies to offer unique professional services. I hope that I can one day hand it off, so the brand will live on its own regardless of who is at the helm.
It’s not a straightforward road, but again I’m thankful first and foremost for my support network. In addition, I’m thankful for the resources so readily available. Being a veteran opens a few more doors, and while I’m careful not to abuse the label, I also won’t shy from any help freely given.
My ground level resource has been the small business development center (SBDC). I learned about the SBDC when I took the Boots 2 Business two-day seminar on base. They assigned me an advisor when we started down this path while in California, and I sought their help again when we arrived here in Texas. Our advisor in California was great, and while she had no background with the military, educated us immensely on the industry of soft goods and apparel. She had connections and input, and really helped shape our company concept.
Working with my second advisor was…not quite ideal. He was well intended, but did not quite understand my vision, and his own professional background seemed to color his suggestions. Thankfully he was able to put me in contact with another advisor, one who came from the retail industry.
Our third advisor’s been an excellent fit for the company, and has leveraged the SBDC assets to really help us out. He’s also quite encouraging of the company vision and model, which I think it essential to a small business. Everyone has a word of caution, I just roll with it.
Not all SBDC operate the same. Not all small business assistance groups are SBDCs. Be aware that some operate from federal funding, while others operate based on loans they’re able to sell. Do your due diligence and pick the right one for you. Our local SBDC has a resource librarian who has helped us crawl the inter-webs and databases in search of suppliers for us.
I’ve had my company name chosen for quite some time (more on that in the coming days, I’m very excited about it) so I chose to register it first as an assumed name (“Doing Business As”) with my county clerk. It cost less than $10. I’m filing for the LLC currently, which based on my research seems to be the best fit for the company initially*. We are a small company, and I want to work with existing American companies to produce our designs rather than doing so in-house.
After that, I took a quick trip to my local postal resource center and setup a business address with them. It’s not a PO Box, but similar in concept. This creates distance between personal and business matters. There are other options I’ll pursue moving forward, such as renting a commercial space of office and warehouse, but we’re not there yet.
At the present time, I’ve been tirelessly searching for local prototyping resources. Through Craigslist I may have found our apparel and soft good manufacturer. I’ll check out the local renaissance festivals and fall festivals for local artisans. I need a hard goods machinist, but may have found an option for that as well.
There is much to do, and less time to do it in.
NOTE: I am not a lawyer, or your counselor, nor your religious leader or parent. I’m just a man recording my story. I hope you can learn from my trials and errors, but none of this is to be taken as professional advice. If you follow my path and fall flat on your face, you’ve no one to blame but yourself.