THE BLOG
11/14/2012 11:14 am ET Updated Jan 14, 2013

Ladies, Start Your Start-up Engines

Another Veterans Day has come and gone but it's time for us to realize that honoring all veterans should be something we are doing on a regular basis. This includes the important role women in uniform play in protecting our country. Although it's a page missing from a lot of our history books, women have served in the armed forces throughout American history, sometimes in disguise. Women finally received permanent status in the military in 1948 with the Women Armed Services Integration Act, but they still lack recognition in many ways.

Today there are some 1.6 million women veterans -- and it's a national scandal that the unemployment rate among these women patriots is very high. And with more than 200,000 women veterans slated to return home soon, their jobless rate -- which is among the highest of all veterans and civilian groups -- could climb even higher. That's just unacceptable.

We know that we need small businesses in this country to grow in order to spur job growth. And through our work with Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence over the past decade, we've shown that women-owned businesses are key to this kind of economic turn around. Less than one in five of women-owned small businesses generate revenues of more than $50,000, and we've been working to help thousands of women across the country turn this trend around.

The same holds true for those owned by women vets, and I can tell you that the country's economy cannot flourish without them. With more than 100,000 businesses in the U.S. that are at least 50 percent owned by women veterans, we stand to see big growth in revenues and jobs if these businesses succeed. Helping women vets with small businesses helps us all.

That's why we've partnered with Capital One to launch the Women Veteran Entrepreneur Corps (WVEC), an initiative devoted to giving women veterans and spouses of vets much needed assistance in business training, accessing capital, and resources to help them get their small businesses growing, creating jobs and helping to spur local economies. Blue Star Families, the V-Wise program at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Wounded Warrior Project, F7 Group and other veteran support organizations have also signed on in helping to make this program a success. The effort is aimed at those businesses that are beyond the start-up phase, but still face challenges that can thwart growth.

We'll be presenting the inaugural conference in early 2013 at the Capital One Conference Center in McLean, Va. The event will connect hundreds of these military women with nationally renowned business growth experts to participate in panels and workshops on finance, marketing, business planning and more. Participating women will also be able to give a two-minute pitch on their business for a chance at a spot in our six-month Business Accelerator program, designed to help them increase their revenues by 30 percent or more within 18-36 months.

WVEC also gives participants an amazing opportunity to network with military women with businesses from across the country. Women like Nicole Baldwin, a Houston-based vet who overcame countless challenges on her road to business success. A profile in courage from an early age, Nicole overcame severe facial burns and a stretch of homelessness. She later joined the Army and served honorably in Afghanistan. Today she is blazing trails as the founder and head of an innovative skincare company, BIAO Skincare. If she can do it, we know others can too.

The 2013 event is open to all women veterans and spouses in business, as well as those who want to start a business, in any and every industry and level of growth. We believe strongly that this program will yield winning results for new and growing women veterans' businesses -- and will serve as models for others.

We know these women have what it takes to succeed as business owners. They have honored the uniform of the U.S. military and defended the nation. Their expertise and leadership have taken them to the front lines of everyday business. That's why we are so confident about investing in business training and advocacy for these women veterans. It will pay big dividends for businesses and society. That's something for all of us to salute.

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