A veteran using entrepreneurship against social stigma

Jim (pictured left), along with a fellow soldier in Vietnam.
 

As a Combat Veteran I have battled stigmas that assume failure for individuals with PTSD.


There are a lot of issues in the world right now; I think we can all agree on that. Although news tends to show the provocative, the dysfunctional, and the alarming, there are a lot of inspiring and positive stories unfolding around us. Take James for example. James is a Veteran of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and a lifelong entrepreneur. After speaking with James and hearing his story, I was compelled to share the work he is doing for other Veterans in his community. As James explained, “Combat veterans come back with issues. They may be high risk takers, they may be on adrenaline and not even really know they are. They're not interacting right, so they don't fit into the regular employment arena. I didn’t know, but I was one of those veterans." The VA (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) offers a variety of services for veterans and servicemembers to help with the transition back into the workforce. This includes Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E).

 

What is Vocational Rehabilitation?

The VA Vocational Rehabilitation, also known as Chapter 31, aims to “help with job training, employment accommodations, resume development, and job seeking skills coaching. Other services may be provided to assist Veterans in starting their own businesses or independent living services for those who are severely disabled and unable to work in traditional employment.”


To gain these services, you must first apply through the VA (Found here), however this can often be challenging and overwhelming to those just starting out. Many programs require you to have capital before starting a business which turns into the “chicken and egg” dilemma. James went through this and is on a mission to help others through this process.
 

My favorite activity is providing consulting services to combat Veterans. One Veteran is building a peer-to-peer counseling business to help Veterans with PTSD. Rather than relying on government financial support, they are starting businesses. They are making a profit and lowering costs for public behavioral health systems. Watching them succeed is awesome.


Since returning, James has started multiple social enterprises that help others with housing and job security. We first saw James when he took out his first Kiva loan to help launch his latest company, Veterans Business Services (VBS), which started in 2013 with the hope to provide a “help desk” for Veteran entrepreneurs seeking, acquiring, and/or developing small business. Although the VA offers Vocational Rehabilitation to Veterans, it is known for being a challenge to get through.

James recognized this and has been on a mission to help Veteran entrepreneurs ever since. “We wanted the business model to be self-sustaining from commercial revenue and be replicable. Our original Kiva loan tested market strategies to corporations and educational institutions who bought advertising on our website. The test worked.”

 

When I see the younger veterans experiencing the same things, especially combat veterans, I’m able to relate to them, and I guess that is what my passion is...trying to help them.


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James has now been abele to reach his $10,000, to refine operations and training systems as VBS. Veterans Business Services is now accepted by the VA, as well as being featured in their operational manual as a top resource. James hopes to mentor other entrepreneurs through self employment and aims to creare an awareness in society that Veterans are more than their PTSD. They are bold. They are compassionate. They are entrepreneurs.

Are you a Veteran wanting mentorship on an idea?
Visit
www.veteransbusinessservices.us/ for more information.


Have a business that you’d like to grow?
https://www.kiva.org/borrow

 


About the author

Nicole Pannuzzo