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Texas Academy Helps Veterans Launch Small Businesses

U.S. Army,
The Texas Veterans Commission is accepting applications for its Veteran Entrepreneurship Program Academy, which helps veterans start small businesses.

The unemployment rate for veterans dropped a bit in 2014, but still, veterans are more likely to be unemployed than non-veterans.

The unemployment rate among women veterans, for example, was 8.5 percent in 2014, compared to 6.2 percent among non-veteran women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

A program from the Texas Veterans Commission is trying to change that, by teaching veterans and their spouses how to be small business owners — something Duncan McGhee loves to do.

"I have to say that if the state knew what a great job I have, they wouldn’t let me do it," says McGhee, who's with the Texas Veterans Commission. He’s a veteran himself, and he’s owned several businesses over the course of his career. He mentors veterans who go through the Veteran Entrepreneurship Program Academy, helping them understand how to target their market, measure their expenses and how taxes affect their income. These are skills Jennifer Haines didn't have in the past.

"Being in the military, I think the biggest disadvantage that you have is that we are behind the game of everyone else," Haines says. 

Haines was in the military from 1999 until 2005. She went through the academy last year. McGhee is one of her mentors. Haines runs a beauty services business called Sacred Lotus in San Antonio that she started last month.

"The number one thing I absolutely love about what I do is the appreciation from my clients. The smile on their face -- they feel so much better about themselves," Haines says.

Austin-based PeopleFund partners with the Veterans Commission to offer loans to veteran entrepreneurs. Amber Cooney with PeopleFund says veterans are ideal business owners.

"They’ve been in some of the most stressful situations imaginable. So they’re very good business leaders, networkers, and they really want to make a difference," Cooney says.

Applications for the next Veteran Entrepreneurship Academy are due Nov. 16. The classes begin in Dallas in February 2016. To learn more, visit the Texas Veterans Commission’s website.

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