Women entrepreneurs continue to struggle even as they try to establish their businesses, according to a recent report issued by the Princeton NJ based Braun Research firm. The report interviewed 800 female veterans who currently own their own small businesses.
Nearly half of those interviewed revealed that they did not have business plans while 30% needed additional financing and capital but did not know how to go about it. There was an additional 30% who know they need to attract new customers but, again, were unsure how to go about it. Other challenges reported by veteran women business owners were handling cash flow and finances as well as understanding and putting into place effective marketing strategies.
Around 55% of the women interviewed, however, said that their military careers were the inspiration for them wanting to break out on their own and that doing so has made the transition from military to civilian life a bit easier for many of them.
Women veterans have been hit especially hard during these recent tough economic times and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans has seen a disturbing increase in the number of homeless female veterans. In addition, the unemployment rate for female veterans is now hovering around the 14% mark.
Female vets hope to inspire others who will follow them to become established entrepreneurs. The stories of women vets who have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to strike out on their own and succeed in business are tales that will astound and inspire:
Wounded West Point Grad inspires women to success
Retired Army Captain Dawn Halfaker launched her company, Halfaker and Associates, after leaving the Army in 2006. The road to becoming a successful entrepreneur, however, wasn’t always so smooth.
The West Point graduate was training military police in Iraq as a First Lieutenant when, in 2004, her platoon was sent out on patrol. Her unit came under attack and the vehicle she was travelling in was hit by a rocket propelled grenade. Her vehicle was blown to bits and Ms. Halfaker suffered not only broken ribs and damage to her lungs but had her right arm blown off as well. It took her well over a year to fully recover and, after she was released from the hospital she felt that there was, suddenly, a huge void in the life.
She began interning in the halls of Washington but found no fulfillment there. After applying for work with several defense contractor companies she found a need to fill and decided to make the leap into entrepreneurship and founded her, now, highly successful consulting company.
What kept her tossing and turning at night, she recalled, was the realization that she did not know what she was going to do. She remembers being focused on what she had been doing before which was training and leading. She recalled her memories of her comrades in arms, and seeing a niche to fill, she was inspired and motivated to try her hand at founding her own business. Her company today is a multi-million dollar enterprise and fully half of her employees are veterans. Ms. Halfaker’s consulting firm works with the military and her focus is on security, both in establishing security policy and with the physical security of military bases as well as consulting on emergency management for bases.
Vet overcomes early struggles to help others
Caussaundra St. John left the Air Force at the tender age of 22 and bounced around until, at age 26, she decided that college may be the route for her and she had her eyes on an eventual MBA. It was a struggle as she attended school, worked two jobs, and was trying to raise two children by this time. She remembered thinking how cleaning gas station toilets can be a huge motivational factor and, as she entered into her 30’s, she had found a place in entrepreneurship and marketing.
In 2011 she attended a conference concerning entrepreneurship for female veterans. She realized early in that none of the instructors at the conference had any military experience and she felt that they really could not relate to the women veterans. In response to that insight, Ms. St. John founded her company, F7 Group, as an answer to that perceived lack.
The company’s focus is on healthcare, employment transition and education. The company also provides intensive training programs in entrepreneurship and provides retreats for female veterans where they begin to understand and hone their military skills and experience into a successful business venture. Her motivation continues to be the realization that she does not want to see other women veterans struggle for years, as she did, in an effort to change around their lives and fortunes.
Purple Heart and a missing husband never stopped the love
Pamela Larson served in the combat engineers in the United States Army and was a track mechanic responsible for fixing the vehicles, known as Buffaloes, when she served with the 54th Engineering Battalion Iraq. Out on patrol, the Buffaloes were responsible for clearing the roads of debris and of those greatly feared improvised explosive devices (IED’s).
Even under heavy enemy fire, she would still leap from her vehicle to get out and tend to the damaged tracks. During one such battle, in 2005, she was shot in the leg but kept going as she and her comrades defended themselves. For her actions, she was awarded the Purple Heart.
She and her husband, Robert, met while in Iraq. He was a Buffalo driver and was severely wounded and suffered a traumatic brain injury when his Buffalo rolled after striking an IED. His brain injury was diagnosed as a concussion and it was not fully realized until he deployed again to Afghanistan. After 15 months, Robert deployed to Germany for his transition home. That was when Pamela began to notice the mood swings and the bout of intense rage. He was treated with anti-depressants and, despite the injury, was sent to Afghanistan again in 2011.
Upon his return, Pamela and their two sons, 3 and 5, were stationed to Fort Jackson in South Carolina. This past October, Robert, who also suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, went missing. Pamela called him several times that day but new something was amiss because her calls were sent immediately to his voicemail.
For eight days she nearly single-handedly led the search and rescue effort until he was safely located.
Soon after her husband’s return from Afghanistan in 2011, Pamela started her company called Teddy’s From The Troops. The company had its first seed when she made two teddy bears for her sons from old, discarded uniforms. She hoped it would help her sons with the transition and deployment challenges. Her kids loved them and she was, soon, collecting old and discarded uniforms, making bears, and marketing them to families who were also suffering through deployment and separation challenges.
Her company has begun to thrive and Ms. Larson lives the company motto that states: “Our mission is to help make separation easier on military families, one teddy bear at a time!”
Article by Kevin Sawyer