Florida SBDC Network Recognizes Veteran-Owned Businesses

FSBDCN Headquarters: This November, the Florida SBDC Network is proud to recognize the accomplishments of veteran-owned businesses across the state.

According to research by the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, veterans are 45 percent more likely to start a business than individuals with no prior active duty experience. For many veterans, the leadership experience, discipline, and work ethic gained while serving in the military provides a competitive edge for business ownership.

As of 2007 (the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau), there were more than 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses in the United States. Florida ranked among the top three states with the highest number of veteran-owned businesses with 176,727, or 8.8 percent of all businesses in the state.

These businesses, like Pensacola-based SunFarm Energy and Tampa-based 3T-Innovations, play an important role in Florida's economy.

SunFarm-EnergySunFarm Energy
For Doug Herrick, his experience in the United States Navy was excellent preparation for business ownership.

"The military provides fantastic professional training," he said. "It teaches you leadership, accountability, and discipline. These are all traits that business owners need in order to be successful."

After earning his wings as a naval aviator, Herrick spent nine years active duty, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Leveraging his military experience and background in sustainable construction, Herrick founded Pensacola-based SunFarm Energy with colleague Donald Long in 2011.

SunFarm Energy designs and installs solar photovoltaic systems (PV) for commercial and residential use. Using solar panels, PV systems unlock the sun's vast energy by converting it through a series of steps to electricity.

Working with the Florida SBDC at the University of West Florida, Herrick has gained sound business advice and resources.

"The FSBDC has had a tremendous impact on my company," Herrick said. "I highly recommend going there and seeing what they have to offer."

In the military, communication is key. To function effectively, military command and personnel rely heavily upon an extensive communication network to relay information among forces. As a Tactical Communicator in the U.S. Army for the 82nd Airborne Division, 75th Ranger Regiment, and 1st Special Forces Group, Francisco "Frank" Valencia learned to think on his feet in working on and deploying all tactical communications used in the field by light infantry and tactical units.

Today, Valencia leverages his military training to help companies carry out their mission by providing customized information technology solutions through his Tampa-based company, 3T-Innovations. Thanks to the assistance of the FSBDC at the University of South Florida, 3T has made valuable connections and experienced steady contract growth.

According to research by the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, more than one million service men and women are expected to leave the military between 2011 and 2016. For veterans interested in entrepreneurship, there are a host of resources available, including no-cost professional business consulting through the Florida SBDC Network.

"This November, and every month, we remember the sacrifices made by our country's veterans," said Michael Myhre, Florida SBDC CEO and Network State Director. "At the Florida SBDC, our mission is to provide the technical assistance and resources veteran-owned businesses and entrepreneurs need to make it easier for them to grow and succeed in their business ventures."