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Military OneSource provides options to military spouses, family entrepreneurs

  • Published
  • By C. Todd Lopez
  • DOD News

The Department of Defense, in partnership with other federal agencies, has options available to help budding entrepreneurs within the military community start and maintain their businesses.

Most families in the U.S. — military families included — want two breadwinners in the family to make ends meet. However, given the unpredictable nature of military life, traditional employment might not be an option for some military spouses. For them, starting their own business as an entrepreneur could be the best way to provide a second income that can move with them from one duty assignment to another.  

Military spouses, service members and veterans from the National Capital Region who have an eye for running their own business met Monday at the Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia, during the "Military Entrepreneurship Summit" to learn more about entrepreneurship.  

Ronald Keohane, DOD's assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, spoke on behalf of DOD and said that living a military life, as a service member or as a military spouse, requires many of the same character traits as being an entrepreneur.  

"The title of the event today is 'From Service to Success'," Keohane said. "Your discipline to assess, mitigate, and manage risks; your leadership and a desire to make your mark in the world are all hallmarks of both military service and entrepreneurship."  

Military spouses also share key traits with successful business owners, he said.  

"If you're a military spouse, your risk tolerance, problem-solving and adaptability are well matched for entrepreneurship," he said.  

Patricia Barron, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy said entrepreneurship is an ideal opportunity for military spouses as a way to ensure their families have a dual income.  

"Just because you're married to someone that wears a uniform doesn't mean that you don't deserve a dual-income family environment, and that you shouldn't be a person that could use your talents and skills to bring extra resources to your family," Barron said. "The Department of Defense takes that very seriously. We want to support and empower military spouses to live out their career dreams and their employment options."  

One way the DOD supports military entrepreneurs is through the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program. Through SECO, the Defense Department offers an "entrepreneur coaching package" to military spouses.  

"This is with professional, no-kidding career coaches that are really focused on that entrepreneur journey that you're going to take, and they walk you through it and they help you with creating a 90-day plan for your business," Barron said.  

Also, part of the entrepreneur coaching package, Barron said, is an assessment to help would-be business owners gauge their own readiness.  

"They're going to assess where you are. You're actually going to start by taking something called the Entrepreneur EDGE Assessment that kind of gives that coach the opportunity to see where you're at," she said. "And from [there], they'll start walking you through the process."  

Career coaches, through the SECO program, also help spouses with a variety of business needs from developing a marketing plan and researching laws, regulations and permits to managing finances and taxes. They also help budding entrepreneurs get access to partner organizations such as the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and non-profits that serve the military-connected entrepreneur community.  

The SBA and the USPTO were partners with DOD at the summit.  

Interested spouses can access the program at the Military OneSource website.   

Ashish S. Vazirani, who currently performs the duties of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said on Friday, in advance of the summit, that opportunities for entrepreneurs like those available through Military OneSource, through the Small Business Administration or the Patent and Trademark Office are an important part of DOD's mission to take care of its most important asset: its people.  

"Taking care of people is a priority for us at the Department of Defense and certainly ensuring that our service members, their spouses and their family members can achieve their professional goals as well as their financial goals, is critically important," he said. "We're just fortunate to have the opportunity to partner with our agency partners such as the [U.S. Patent and Trademark Office] and the Small Business Administration to make sure that service members and family members have the resources available to them to give them the tools that they need to find success, or ... continued success through entrepreneurship."