By MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price

The Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC), a program available through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), provides free business resources to veterans interested in launching or expanding a small business. The program includes entrepreneurial development services including business training, counseling, and resource partner referrals.

VBOC volunteer Rich Laria operated a small medical equipment business while serving in the Army Reserve. “I hope my experiences can help veterans who want to get involved in entrepreneurship. That’s why I volunteer for the VBOC,” say Rich. “I was learning as I went—and I learned a lot! I wish I had these types of resources then,” he admits.

“I was commissioned in 1971 and I was fortunate I didn’t go to Vietnam. I owe a lot to those 58,000 who never made it home and those who served before and after me,” adds Rich. “Having the opportunity to volunteer now is my way of giving back to those veterans who served and have done so much for our country.”

For veterans returning from service, business ownership enables them to apply many of their military skills. “An entrepreneur has expertise, drive, and determination. This is what we find with many of the veterans we work with—they have the skills, the drive, and the determination. They just need some specific guidance to steer them toward entrepreneurship,” says Rich.

“One thing I learned in the military is that veterans understand strategy and tactics. It’s a matter of taking what they’ve learned in the military and transposing those skills over to the civilian world,” he adds.

Entrepreneurship provides a viable option for those transitioning back into the civilian world who may be afraid of starting a new career—or picking up from where they left off. With guidance from the VBOC, they can learn how to leverage their skills and see things from a new perspective. They can also receive guidance about how to get started.

Rich’s first tip “Go into a business you love.”

For veterans who want to launch new businesses, he finds their biggest challenge is figuring out how to get their business started. “They have all kinds of skills but business skills are a little bit different because when you’re running a small business, you wear all the hats. You’re the operations manager, the marketing manager, the finance manager, etc.” explains Rich.

“The VBOC provides guidance about what it takes to be an entrepreneur and we walk veterans through how to write a business plan, focusing on four basic areas to help them define their goals and aspirations, decide on the product or service they’ll offer, target their clientele, and determine whether they need seed money,” he says.

The VBOC not only helps those who want to start a business, but also those who want to expand their businesses. The organization pairs veterans with mentors who align with veterans’ business goals, sometimes directing them to other resources with the SBA, the Connecticut Small Business Development Center, and SCORE.

Rich says the biggest challenges are letting veterans know the VBOC’s services are available and identifying the veteran-owned businesses throughout Connecticut. He encourages veterans just starting out as well as those who are expanding their business to learn more about the VBOC resources. “We’re here to help,” he says. “And we’d like to help as may veteran-owned businesses as we possibly can.”

 Learn more about the Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) |