Larry Stubblefield, Associate Administrator for the Office of Veterans Business Development at the SBA, strongly encourages veteran entrepreneurs to utilize the programs and resources of his office before trying anything else. Stubblefield and his team are responsible for formulating, implementing, administering, and promoting policies and programs that equip veterans, service members, and military spouse owned small businesses with counseling and education, access to capital, and contracting opportunities.
He also has firsthand military experience, retiring after 30 years as an enlisted soldier and active-duty officer in the Army.
“The message [of this year’s National Veterans Small Business Week] was come to the SBA before you go out and try whatever you’re going to try alone. A lot of times we’ll find veterans will establish a business or try to grow their business, and we have resources that can help them do that — to include helping them with contracting opportunities, access to capital, business training, mentorship, and so forth,” Stubblefield said.
Business mentors exist across thousands of locations, “leaning forward in the foxhole” ready to help, Stubblefield says, and he advises veterans leverage the experience of those looking to help.
“The SCORE mentors are former business owners, executives … they are someone who can sit down with you because they’ve crossed all the hurdles,” he said.
Stubblefield added that the SBA exists to guide entrepreneurs through the business cycle, and the Stewarts are an example of how these resources can help entrepreneurs adapt what they have to current challenges.
“We’ve had quite a few success stories of business owners who found, regardless of what’s going on, there’s always an opportunity. [Landmark Finish] basically was into furniture and cabinet making and they pivoted to making protective shields for offices and universities and businesses. They’re sailing right along and their orders are off the charts,” he said.
The SBA conducted a series of listening sessions at the height of the pandemic where it came to light that broadband connectivity and access to capital are the current top challenges of business owners. SBA has a section of its website devoted to programs for the latter problem at https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs.