But never before have so many entrepreneurs in this demographic been able to come together to share, teach and lend support on business ownership to their brothers and sisters in arms.
San Diego’s second annual Military, Veterans, and Spouses Entrepreneur Summit, taking place on Saturday, Sept. 15 at Liberty Station Conference Center (2600 Laning Road), will host more than 400 guests looking to start or expand their privately-owned businesses.
The goal of this event, according to Maurice Wilson, event producer and executive director of National Veterans Transition Services Inc., is camaraderie and providing extensive resources to help veteran’s stay connected and be inspired.
“When a veteran entrepreneur starts a business, they feel like they’re alone and there’s no one out there to help them,” said Wilson. “This summit gives them a chance to connect with other people who speak their language. We want to create a format where we can bring everybody in, from start-up businesses owners to government entities, for a day of sharing, learning and growing.”
This will be the largest gathering of veteran entrepreneurs in SoCal to date. From 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., attendees will learn about launching their own business, financing a company, doing business with the government, and franchising their brand. There will also be opportunities to network with local veteran entrepreneurs, like Andrew Adrian of LendIt, as well as nationally renowned speakers, including a keynote by Liz Perez, deputy secretary of Minority Veterans California Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Not only is this event for veterans, active duty and military spouses, but it’s being put on and hosted by veterans, active duty and military spouses,” said Lara Ryan, chair of the Summit Planning Committee. “It’s people who understand similar cultures, similar contexts, similar ways of thinking and doing business, coming together to share tips and tricks and lessons learned in the business world.”
According to Ryan and Wilson, roughly 25 percent of transitioning veterans choose to become entrepreneurs. Even Ryan’s husband Mike, a Navy serviceman of 23 years, plans to retire next year and join his wife in the business sector, or what Wilson calls the “veteran entrepreneur ecosystem.”
“By nature, veterans are problem solvers,” said Wilson. “In many cases, military members are given a mission without many resources, so they have to get out there and be creative, overcoming obstacles, making do with whatever. And when you’ve been in that world for so long, a nine to five job just isn’t going to cut it.”
Ryan, who has been a financial advisor for military and veteran non-profits over the last 10 years, added: “Your talking about a group of people who are very devoted to a greater good and larger cause. That creates this very unique and valued level of driven interest in giving back and making a difference.”
One of the many unique features at this year’s summit is the “Pitch Off Competition,” where new entrepreneurs will have the chance to pitch their business in front of venture capitalists, and the winner could walk away with a $10,000 prize. The summit committee has also provided mentorship and internship opportunities for those who want to stay connected to contacts and wish for guidance in their endeavors post-event.
Though Wilson hopes to expand the summit’s reach to Los Angeles, having already hosted a second entrepreneur summit in Sacramento this past June, he believes that charity “starts at home.”
“I want to make sure San Diego is taken care of and we’ve gotten our house in order before we look at branching out,” said Wilson. “Right now, we’re just getting all our acts together. This year is about sitting down as one big family, empowering military members to have the skills necessary to not only start their own business, but also succeed.”
Those interested in attending the summit can register at veteranentreprenursummit.vet for $25. Active duty military can register for free, using the discount code: Msummit2018. All registrations include continental breakfast and lunch.