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“Boots to Bootstrapping” program designed for war vets

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By all reasonable standards, America’s returning war veterans should be able to find civilian employment as soon as they’re ready for it.


By all reasonable standards, America’s returning war veterans should be able to find civilian employment as soon as they’re ready for it.

Many of the country’s men and women in uniform, after all, come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as from other hot spots around the globe, with specific technical training, management experience and problem solving skills. What’s more, they, along with their families, made numerous sacrifices. So, they trade their fatigues for assorted civvies, still youthful yet matured, glad to have served, looking forward to their slice of the American pie.

But what they too often must confront today is a jobs market in the tank, notes Fred Jacobsen, a U.S. Air Force veteran of Viet Nam now living in Apollo Beach. “Florida has been particularly hard hit by the recession,” he points out, “with the result that lay-offs are plentiful and jobs are scarce. For the vet, it’s akin to leaving one combat zone for another. The gear is good to go, but there’s no inoculation program. ”

There is, though, an antidote, Jacobsen says: “The best alternative to no employment is self-employment.” And creating a new job by finding a niche to be served begins with working through the business planning process, he adds.

Jacobsen now is conducting a series of workshops aimed at helping war veterans of every era - WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan – actually produce their own business plans to determine the true market for a service or product, to use in requesting funding assistance and to guide development of the fledgling enterprise into prosperity. The workshops are the first phase of a multi-phased program Jacobsen calls “Boots to Bootstrapping.”

The next workshop is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, September 20, in one of the SouthShore Regional Library conference rooms. There is no charge for participation. However, Jacobsen suggests that entrepreneurs who want to create a new business and develop a plan for it bring with them a loose-leaf notebook with paper and a reliable writing instrument. Those who have access to a computer can download the business planning template from the business plan writing section of the Small Business Administration website that can be used to designate categories as the individual business plans are built.

Over a period of weeks, the “Boots to Bootstrapping” workshops cover a comprehensive range of planning elements, Jacobsen notes, from pinning down a precise description of the company or organization to ultimately creating the executive summary that gives readers and investors a clear, concise overview of the prospective operations.

In between, such elements as choice of service or product, detailed market analysis, organization and management of the proposed enterprise, promotion, communications and sales endeavors involved plus the financing required all are explored and defined, says Jacobsen, whose career became credit management with large California corporation following his military discharge.

While detailed and realistic business plans are necessary for both profit-making and not-for-profit operations if they are to endure and prosper, they also “are a daunting task for anyone to take on alone,” Jacobsen emphasizes. One of the advantages of the workshop environment, he adds, is the “collaborative spirit that develops and then characterizes everyone’s efforts.” War veterans, in particular, he says, appreciate the “let’s help each other fill in the blanks” concept and workshop attendance is limited to 10 veterans who have received the National Defense Medal recognizing their service during times of armed conflict.

Jacobsen says that in addition to conducting the business planning workshops, he is looking into a second phase of the “Boots to Bootstrapping” program involving a micro-lending system to assist start-ups. A third phase could be establishing a physical location including office and light industrial space where new enterprises can be nurtured in their initial stages, he adds. “The objective would be to take the vet’s hobby out of the back bedroom or the garage and turn it into a profitable business,” the former credit manager says.

“When I was discharged after Nam,” he notes, “returning veterans were not embraced in welcome but there were plenty of jobs available for us. Today, it’s the opposite; we welcome the troops coming back with pride although we have few work opportunities for them, forcing them to leave the state and sometimes the country. What we can do, however, is help them transition from boots on the ground to bootstrapping a business.”

The “Boots to Bootstrapping” website address is www.bootstobootstrapping.org Jacobsen, who also makes presentations on the bootstrapping program to local veterans’ groups, can be reached by telephone at 813/298-6028.

Copyright 2011 Melody Jameson

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