It's Time to Turn Up the Volume on Women Veteran-Owned Businesses

1 Oct 2019

Military.com | By VR Small

VR Small is a Navy veteran, founder and executive director for the Veteran Women's Enterprise Center (VWEC).

Veteran-owned businesses are getting a lot of attention these days. But a subgroup of veteran entrepreneurs must contend with misaligned resources, a side effect of stereotypes in the general public about what it means to be a veteran.

With six women veterans in office on Capitol Hill, efforts are finally being made to bring long-overdue women veteran issues to the forefront. The creation of the Servicewomen and Women Veterans Congressional Caucus and the launch of the House Veteran Affairs Committee's new Women Veterans Task Force are a start at bringing these issues into focus.

But women veteran-owned businesses remain in the shadows. The problem is seen in the statistics. Women veteran-owned businesses (WVOBs) made up 15.2% of all veteran-owned businesses in 2015, according to Census Bureau statistics. About 97% of those businesses have no employees, but the 3% that do employ more than 100,000 workers and reported over $10 billion in receipts over a five-year reporting period.

That data, says the National Women’s Business Council, shows that growth in the sector is happening, but is only a fraction of what it could be.

"If veteran women-owned employer firms generated receipts proportional to their share of veteran-owned employer firms (3.3 percent), these firms would have receipts that stood at about $29.3 billion," the National Women's Business Council said in a 2017 report based on the Census Bureau's Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs. The council further found that for every dollar a male veteran makes in his business, a female veteran makes just $.07 in hers.

Why? One reason could be that resources available from various business-focused organizations and federal agencies often don't meet the immediate needs of WVOBs. Service types and locations are often not designed specifically with women in mind. And many agencies seem unwilling or unable to effectively and regularly engage WVOBs in developing the social and financial capital necessary to scale their businesses.

When we fail to effectively engage WVOBs, we lose the added value to our society of this highly diverse population that represents nearly every ethnicity, race, gender orientation and age group.

Statistics also suggest that support for WVOBs impacts more than just the business owner and their employees. According to statistics from Refinery29 and Chase, women in general are the primary breadwinners in 40% of households. This suggests that supporting women-owned business growth and self-sufficiency will ultimately help build stronger families, support thriving communities and add fuel to our nation's economy.

The time is now to turn up the volume so we can hear and respond more effectively to the often silent voices of female veterans.

These military women are trained to accomplish the mission using whatever resources are available, and they will rarely be the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. Instead, most will struggle in silence, never being given the opportunity to articulate what they truly need to succeed. And because many female veterans don't self-identify, the local business community assumes that women veteran-owned businesses represent a limited population. But that is yet to be proven.

There is a movement in the right direction. For example, one project taking on the charge of strengthening the voices of WVOBs is the Veteran Women's Enterprise Center (VWEC)'s "Moments that Matter" research project, in collaboration with the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank.

The Moments that Matter local survey focuses exclusively on engaging women veteran-owned businesses in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. WVOBs in all 13 counties are encouraged to turn up the volume and let their voices be heard by taking the survey.

While several surveys have been conducted for veteran-owned businesses in general, this local survey is designed to capture data that will clearly define transitional moments in these WVOBs' entrepreneur journey. That, in turn, will help identify and connect them to the resources they need to effectively scale their businesses. Those steps will ultimately help them build a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports consistent access to essential social and financial capital.

The survey is also the VWEC's pilot project for the development of a regional and national tool that can be used to provide an annual report on the status of women veteran-owned businesses, keeping the volume up and tuned into their ongoing challenges and successes.

When we consider funding support to and for our veteran communities, we should consider women veteran-owned businesses' silent contributions as a potential gold mine, and it often pays to dig deeper, and invest more, if you really want to strike gold.

And as we work toward equality for all women, we must ensure that equity is instituted across the board. To effectively acknowledge and engage this group, we have to change the narrative.

When we say "veteran," we need to immediately envision men and women who have faithfully served our nation.

-- The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Military.com. If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to opinions@military.com for

Survey hopes to set the record straight when it comes to female veteran business owners

ELIZABETH HOWE SEPTEMBER 13, 2019 - 1:09 PM CONNECTINGVETS.COM

Are you a female veteran business owner in Dallas, Texas? This survey wants to know about your needs — so it can help female veterans everywhere succeed. 

The Veteran Women's Enterprise Center — an organization that helps women veteran-owned businesses (WVOBs) scale, strategize, and succeed — is hosting a survey called "Moments that Matter" in partnership with the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank to examine the entrepreneur journey of WVOBs in Dallas. VWEC hopes the results of the survey will help WVOBs everywhere to be better understood and supported. 

And that's no longer a small population. A 2007 to 2012 Census Bureau survey of business owners found that WVOBs had grown from 4 percent of all veteran-owned businesses to 15.2 percent — nearly 400,000 new businesses. 

"It's not a Dallas thing," said VR Small, the founder and executive director of the VWEC. "It's something that we feel — based on the number of women veterans across our nation who are starting businesses — that this is something that women need across the nation and are looking for. Women veterans don't self-identify. We need to give them a voice."

When Small returned to the Dallas area, she found little to no established support for female veteran entrepreneurs there. 

"We didn't even have a women's business center in the city of Dallas at that time," Small said. "All the programs I reached out to who said they helped veterans proclaimed they didn't have anyone in Dallas who could support me. We wanted to meet their needs and give them a place where they could come and have camaraderie, connect."

Small worked to establish VWEC in the area and is now looking to do more for both Dallas-based and national WVOBs with the "Moments that Matter" survey. 

"The survey is really in-depth. It really digs deep. And we designed it that way because we really want to try to make this a regional and eventually a national tool that not just my organization can use but any organization that wants to know what's going on with women veterans. They can access this tool and use it," Small said. 

The results of the survey will help the general population to understand the unique needs of WVOBs. Eventually, the results will be used to create an annual report on the status of WVOBs, "keeping the volume up and tuned into their ongoing challenges and successes," Small explained But it will only succeed if enough female veteran business owners participate in the survey. 

"If they don't take the survey, then the assumptions will continue — assumptions that we don't really exist, that there isn't really a business here," Small said. "They'll go on and on with all these assumptions that really hurt female veteran business owners."

WVOBs in the Dallas area can access the survey through the VWEC website or the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank website to participate. 

Calling All Women Veteran-Owned Businesses in Dallas County

Calling All Women-Veteran-Owned Businesses in Dallas County - Take the survey!

Businesses owned by women veterans grew from 4 percent of all veteran-owned businesses to more than 15 percent between 2007 and 2012 and more than 383,000 as of 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners. The businesses without employees had receipts of $7.1 billion, while those with employees had receipts in excess of $10.7 billion and a total workforce of more than 100,000. Even so, this group of women business owners has not received much attention.

In 2015, the National Women’s Business Council issued a recommendation that more programs are needed to engage women-veteran business owners. This recommendation was echoed by the Small Business Administration’s Advisory Council on Veteran Business Affairs—specifically noting that more local research is needed to assess the needs of women-veteran entrepreneurs and design relevant programs to support this population. For Dallas County, it is an opportunity to support a thriving entrepreneurial community and learn how to effectively engage and support these businesses.

The Veteran Women’s Enterprise Center (VWEC), a national initiative launched in southern Dallas, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas are currently conducting research exclusively focused on the “Moments That Matter” for businesses owned by veteran women in Dallas County. With a focus on identifying the most impactful issues and situations encountered by these businesses, the primary goals of the project are to:

  • Determine whether the experiences of Dallas County’s women veteran-owned businesses are comparable to those of women-veteran entrepreneurs nationally.

  • Highlight the “Moments That Matter” during start-up, growth and expansion efforts.

  • Identify gaps in support services for women-veteran entrepreneurs.

The data-gathering process of this project is twofold, beginning with an online survey to collect basic information on the women and their businesses and concluding with a series of focus groups to capture their unique stories of business successes and challenges. Once the data are collected, the Dallas Fed and VWEC will produce a report that illustrates the state of women-veteran-owned businesses in Dallas County.

How can you support this effort?

1) Women-veteran-owned businesses: Take the survey, sign up for a focus group and share this information with your network.

2) Community partners: We invite chambers, certification agencies, business-support and veteran-services organizations to help identify and engage women-veteran-owned businesses by sharing a unique partner link via their communications vehicles (newsletters, emails, website, social media, etc.) In turn, we will provide partners with the opportunity to host their own focus group sessions and/or receive tailored data reports reflecting the responses of women-veteran business owners in their organizations.

3) All others: If you know of an organization that would be a good fit to support this research project, please share this information, email VWEC Executive Director VR Small at veteranwomensec@gmail.com or call 214-489-7984.

WELCOME LILLIAN GREGORY AS VWEC'S PREMIER BLOG CONTRIBUTOR

Lillian Gregory, Member of Forbes Coaches Council and Forbes Contributing Writer, is now VWEC's premier writer and blogger on topics covering entrepreneurship strategies, organizational culture, change management, and design thinking. 

Lillian is also the Founder and CEO of The Institute for Human and Leadership Excellence, a non-profit organization that is PASSIONATE about inspiring leaders to reach their full potential.

As a passionate advocate for 21st Century Leadership, Lillian is a #ChangeAmbassador focused on #LifeWorkIntegration for Women in Leadership, Women in Technology, and US Veterans and Spouses. She provides research, strategies, tools, workshops, and events to help close leadership, life-work, and career strategy gaps.

Her work is grounded in #ICorePrinciples - Intellect. Integrity. Influence. which guarantees Excellence in Leadership. Over the years, she earned a reputation for seeing things differently, for providing expert analyses and strategies that deliver outstanding results. 

Lillian applies her 21st Century thoughtful leadership expertise to help drive change that transforms organizations or careers into a 21st Century marvel. Why? Because change is constant.

Lillian is a US Air Force Veteran and has also produced articles for the Huffington Post and other media outlets. Sign up for the VWEC Blog to receive Lillian's latest insights on the entrepreneurship journey and innovative strategies for success!

Connecting You Is What We Do: Get Connected to Innovative 21st Century Strategies!

The VWEC listed as one of 15 Amazing Female-Focused Coworking Spaces Across the Nation

Last year, the U.S. dropped to last place on a list female participation in the labor force in leading industrialized economies, falling behind Japan. This development marked a dramatic shift for the U.S., which was in a leading position in the late 1990s―with roughly 76.7% of women ages 25-54 actively participating in the workforce―to last place in 2017, after losing 1.7% of working age women. What’s holding women in the U.S. back?

American women find themselves juggling work and family, often forced to sacrifice the former because of the scarcity of affordable childcare options. According to the National Study of Employers, 41% of U.S. companies provide access to information to help parents find daycare centers in their community, but only 7% have either an on-site daycare or one near the workplace. Several coworking offices have stepped in to support young mothers and parents who cannot afford to drop out of the labor market by providing daycare and other services.

Many women are also held back by less access to mentors, resources and opportunities to advance their careers, or feel ill at ease within the bro-culture of their workplace. Female-focused coworking offices seek to address some of these issues by providing amenities suited to women’s needs, as well as a calmer, safer environment for them and their families.

Review the complete blog for the full list of great coworking spaces for women.

Women Veterans Day 2018 — A Texas First

BY: Lillian Gregory, Change Ambassador for Organizations and Careers | Veterans Advocate | Author

I woke up yesterday in anticipation of Women Veterans Day 2018. Events were planned all over the state, but I chose to participate in the City of Dallas.

The city’s events were driven by a partnership between Representative Victoria Neave (author of Women Veterans Day legislation) and Women Veterans Enterprise Center’s VR Small, a US Navy veteran. Last year’s events were groundbreaking — literally. It would be an understatement to say that this year’s celebrations were spectacular!!

From Dallas City Hall (morning) to VFW 6796 (evening), Women Veterans from all branches and all wars were recognized with an all-female color guard, historical reflections, a fallen comrade table, prayers, speeches, role calls, flags, flowers, certificates, handshakes, photos, and long overdue acknowledgement for heeding the call to serve our nation. Since I attended both events, my name was called twice which was totally unexpected.

Corporate sponsors included AT&T, Pepsi, and many others who provided food, door prizes, discounts, and giveaways for Women Veterans.

If you were downtown Dallas at dusk, you would have seen buildings light up in red, white, and blue with the US Flag waving across the Omni Hotel in tribute to Women Veterans — a fitting end to a spectacular day.

We will move forward in solidarity as we continue to shine the spotlight on Women Veterans…

State’s First Women Veterans Day Has Roots With Dallas Politician, Entrepreneurs

BY HEATHER NOEL • JUN 12, 2018

Texas has the largest population of female veterans than any other state and legislation to designate the first day honoring their service started in Dallas.

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If there’s anything Marija Roberson learned from her seven years in the military, it’s how to be adaptable.

“Don’t stop, keep pushing, and identify ways to make it better with limited resources,” Roberson says.

The instilled lessons from her strategic planning and operations management work with the U.S. Air Force and Army, have carried over into civilian life.

And, now as an entrepreneur, the Little Elm resident is putting that knowledge into Lean Evolution, a process improvement consulting and training firm launching later this summer.

“Don’t stop, keep pushing, and identify ways to make it better with limited resources.”

Marija Roberson

She always knew she wanted to be a business owner, but for Navy veteran Cristie Campo it took some major life changes and multiple jobs before she figured out paving her own career was right for her.

Through her Blue Dragonfly Creative Agency, Campo uses her background in graphic design to develop websites, logos, and other materials for nonprofits, for-profits, and doctors offices alike. Recently, the Gulf War medic lent her design expertise to develop the logo and website for the first Women Veterans Day in Texas.

At more than 177,000, Texas has the largest population of female veterans overall in the country — a figure that wasn’t lost on State Rep. Victoria Neave of Dallas.

She authored legislation last year to make June 12 Women Veterans Day. The date is a nod back to the passage of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which President Harry S. Truman signed into law on June 12, 1948. The act permitted women to serve as permanent, regular members of the U.S. armed forces. Women, of course, have been serving in the military in some capacity dating back to the beginnings of the nation’s military.

TEXAS CELEBRATES FIRST WOMEN VETERANS DAY

In 2017, Texas Senate Bill 805 officially designated June 12 as a statewide day to honor female military veterans. Tuesday will be the first time Women Veterans Day is observed.

“It means a lot to me as a veteran especially being a second generation Army vet,” Roberson said. “[Knowing that my mom] and other female veterans are being recognized for all their hard work and dedication. They paved the way for me and others within my shoes.”

From Austin and Houston to Lubbock and Killeen, groups have planned special events to celebrate.

“We have a very long and proud history of serving our country, but we also have some very unique struggles that are not identified, that are not talked about.”
VR Small

“We’re very excited that cities all across Texas are honoring their women veterans. It’s amazing to see how the legislation has come to life,” Neave said.

In Dallas, Neave teamed with the Veteran Women’s Enterprise Center, a forthcoming facility in south Dallas to help female veteran entrepreneurs grow their small businesses. 

This morning, an event in the Dallas City Hall Flag Room recognized women veterans and this evening, there will be a reception for women veterans and their families at the VFW 6796 in Dallas featuring U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Rebecca Leal. Little Elm and Lake Worth hosted events last week.

“We have a very long and proud history of serving our country, but we also have some very unique struggles that are not identified, that are not talked about,” said VR Small, executive director of the Enterprise Center.

Small was one of many female veterans across the state who spoke out in favor of the bill last year. The six-year Navy veteran has experienced first hand how people don’t immediately think of women serving in the military.

“I’ve been out with my friends, got my Navy veteran shirt on, and If we’re with the guys, they’ll shake all the guys hands and act like we’re their wives or girlfriends. The guys will have to say, ‘oh no, they served, too,’” Small said.

Women Veterans Day is the time to honor female veterans for their service and share their untold stories, she said. Neave also hopes the day can open dialogue on issues that women face in the military such as sexual assault and an increased likelihood of homelessness after they serve.

ENTERPRISE CENTER FOR FEMALE VETREPRENEURS COMING THIS FALL

For Small, being involved with Women Veterans Day fits right in with the work she’s doing to support female veterans with the Veteran Women’s Enterprise Center.

“We believe in supporting women veterans; we believe in this opportunity for our history to be recognized and discussed,” Small said.

Between 2007 to 2012, the number of female veteran-owned businesses in the U.S. increased from 4 percent of all veteran-owned firms to 15.2 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 Survey of Business Owners. In that latest Census business survey, Texas had one of the highest number of so-called vetrepreneurs — both female and male — placing second to California.

“Our program is meant to be the bridge between when they startup and then getting to that next level of being that six-figure company.”

VR Small

The enterprise center will be a pilot facility centralizing resources for female veteran entrepreneurs with coworking, a conference center, and coffee and cafe lounge. It joins other North Texas programs oriented toward veteran entrepreneurs such as Momentum Texas and Honor Courage Commitment, through which Roberson and Campo have received training.

The Veteran Women’s Enterprise Center is expected to be in full operation by this fall. It will focus efforts on helping women grow their businesses.

“Our program is meant to be the bridge between when they startup and then getting to that next level of being that six-figure company,” said Small, who has a background in organizational development and starting her own ventures.

In the future, Small hopes the model can be replicated across the state and the U.S.

“We want to make sure that once we produce this model, we show how it works, we show that we can help these women really scale and keep their businesses alive, then we want to be able to replicate that in other areas where the need is represented,” Small said.

On Women Veterans Day, we honor their service and seek to understand the challenges they face

In honor of Women Veterans Day, the Dallas Morning News did a editoral outlined below to bring attention to the challenges faced by women veterans.

Dallas Morning News Editorial

Here in Texas there is no shortage of love for our military veterans, but last year our state decided to take a step back and designate June 12 as a special day to pay tribute to a group of veterans too often overlooked: Women.

It should be no secret that women play an integral role in our nation's armed forces. So we are delighted at the opportunity to honor them, and we are mindful of the fact that to do so we must also understand the unique challenges they face.

As in seemingly everything else, the population of women veterans is bigger in Texas than anywhere else. Of the 2 million women veterans in the country, approximately 180,000 live in our state.

For the honor of volunteering to serve, women have faced down many obstacles. In years past, they were locked out of serving in combat roles. But they became drill instructors and started flying combat planes as early as 1993. The ban on women in combat was broadly lifted by the Defense Department in 2013. As of April this year, 12 women have graduated the Army Ranger School.

One challenge women consistently face is the risk of sexual assault. While the numbers continue to decline, 4.3 percent of women in the military reported being sexually assaulted in 2016. And that's likely a significant undercount. That same year, the military estimated 68 percent of sexual assaults went unreported. What's more, nearly 60 percent of women experienced a backlash in their unit when they reported a sexual assault.

After the military, women face additional hurdles. Female veterans are three to four times more likely than their civilian counterparts to become homeless and 2.5 times more likely to commit suicide.

As with their male counterparts, women veterans often have trouble finding a civilian job. VR Small, a six-year Navy veteran and founder of the Veteran Women's Enterprise Centerin Dallas, repeated to us what we've heard elsewhere: Employers have difficulty identifying transferable skills on résumés. "Some veteran women have the necessary skills, but have trouble getting an interview, let alone a job," she said.

Yet despite all of this, the number of women in the ranks has grown. In 1973, with the end of the draft and the advent of the all-volunteer force, women made up just 2 percent of enlisted forces and 8 percent of the officer corps. Today, those figures are 16 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

We owe all of our veterans our gratitude and respect. But on this Women Veterans Day in Texas, take a minute to get know the women veterans among us. They volunteer for the same reasons as men, but their service can come at a steep personal price. The least we can do in return is to understand and honor their service.

What's your view?

Got an opinion about this issue? Send a letter to the editor, and you just might get published.

Texas to honor women veterans on Tuesday

thayer.rose@stripes.com
Twitter: @Rose_Lori

AUSTIN, Texas — V.R. Small can still recall the awkwardness when she told people that she served. Fresh from the Navy in 1984, Small would sometimes mention that she was a veteran. She said people would hesitate, ignore her or offer a strange look.

“No one said, ‘Thank you for your service,’ ” said Small, now in her 50s and helping female veterans launch small businesses as executive director of the Veteran Women’s Enterprise Center in Dallas. “This is why [women] don’t self-identify [as veterans]. When they did tell, people acted like didn’t matter, so they stopped.”

For Army veteran Adrienne Evans-Quickley, the frustration kicked in when accessing her benefits. She was asked constantly for her spouse’s Social Security number, which was followed by confusion when she explained she was the veteran.

“We don’t get the same kudos that my father, my uncle or my son can,” said Evans-Quickley, now in her 60s.

ADVERTISING

Texas has about 177,500 female veterans, the most of any state, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2017, state lawmakers recognized the lack of awareness and enacted a law naming June 12 as Women Veterans Day to highlight their role in the military and commemorate their valor and sacrifice. The date marks the anniversary of President Harry Truman signing the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 that allowed women to serve as permanent, regular members of the military.

“We did what needed to be done and our service matters,” said Evans-Quickley, one of the many women who testified last year in support of the bill brought forward by state Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas.

For the first time, some women veterans in Texas plan to come together to honor their service, educate others about their history and raise awareness of resources available to women who served.

“I’m so grateful for Texas. I’m not an original Texan, but I’m so grateful. I’ve made it my home — the place where Oveta Culp Hobby made a stance,” Evans-Quickley said, referencing the first director of the Women’s Army Corps who fought for the women’s service organization to get respect and funding within the military.

Building camaraderie

Women make up about 10 percent of the U.S. veteran population, but many of them do not identify themselves as veterans, largely due to the perception that veterans are men, said Anna Baker, the female veterans program manager with the Texas Veterans Commission. She said some statistics show as many as 70 percent of female veterans do not self-identify.

“Sometimes women feel that if they didn’t deploy then they aren’t eligible for benefits, which is definitely not the case. Additionally, women may not identify because of some incident that may have occurred while they were in the military,” Baker said.

Hiding from their service can cost women camaraderie, benefits and recognition.

However, Evans-Quickley is proud to share that she carried on a family legacy of service, beginning with her stepfather and continued through her son.

As president of the Fort Hood area chapter of the Women’s Army Corps Veterans Association, she has helped coordinate local events to bring out female veterans to allow them to connect with each other and the VA. She also plans to travel to the state capital in Austin for the Texas Veterans Commission’s celebration. Events also are scheduled in Killeen, Houston, Dallas, Longview, Lubbock, Fredericksburg, Denton, San Antonio and Montgomery. The Austin event is anticipating more than 200 participants.

“To me, it’s important because we need to make sure these women are recognized,” said Marine Corps veteran Lashondra Jones, 43.

Through her job as program manager with Catholic Charities, Jones helped coordinate the Houston event, which will pay special recognition to World War II veterans.

“No one knows the service and sacrifice they gave. It’s definitely important to honor those women while they are still here,” she said.

Marion Bell, 90, and Dorothy Stroud, 97, are two World War II veterans and residents of the same nursing home in Sugar Land who plan to be at the festivities at Houston’s City Hall.

“Like my mother always said, ‘Better late than never,’ ” Bell said. “It is really wonderful to finally be recognized.”

Bell served with the Air Corps and was promoted twice in the two years that she served. Stroud served eight years, beginning as a typist and working her way up. In 1944, she traveled to France.

“I landed on Omaha Beach, late August, early September, and went into Paris. I spent ’44 and ’45 there,” she said. “I saw the war end. It was a big day. It was a big, big day.”

She described her memories of that time and her work during the Korean War as “some of them bad, some of them funny and some of them really, really great.”

Jones recalled her time in uniform — 50 years after Bell and Stroud— and she said she was often the only woman around during her days in the Corps.

“For me, it was truly a sense of brotherhood. However, they were hard on me, because that’s the nature of the beast in the Marine Corps,” she said. “We were expected to keep up, just like they were. We had to do everything they did and we could not fail.”

These days, Jones said she loves to see women in the headlines for breaking barriers, but it’s also frustrating. It should be the norm to see women doing great things for their country, she said.

In Dallas, event coordinator Small is hoping to create a safe space for women and to educate veterans and the public on women’s history of military service. She spent four years in the Navy in the early 1980s, and is often met with hesitation or awkwardness when she tells people that she is a veteran.

“We’re not different, but we are treated different sometimes,” Small said, noting some people seem to ignore what she said or will ask for identification as proof. “For me, (this day) is really about our history. It’s not about being separate from the men. We are brothers-in-arms, we fight side by side. But they didn’t need somebody to say you can serve.

“We weren’t always welcome with open arms, but we took all the nonsense and paid our dues,” Small said. “We don’t want to just benefit from freedom, we are one of the benefactors of freedom.”

Connecting to resources

There also are issues more common to female veterans, such as unemployment, affordable child care and military sexual assault.

Romaine Barnett, a 47-year-old Navy veteran working with the Houston event, said she is well aware of these issues and how identifying as a veteran can help some women heal. She said she experienced sexual trauma during her service.

“Sometimes pride of service conflicts with the trauma of service,” Barnett said. “If we begin to speak those words out of our mouth, we can create space to reconcile our service with the trauma we’ve had.”

The events Tuesday are, in part, designed to help women veterans find resources.

The VA is continuing to expand and improve services for women, said Baker, of the veterans commission. On Tuesday, she and her team plan to reach across the state and connect with as many female veterans attending celebrations as possible. She also handled primary planning for the Austin event.

“If women don’t enroll in the VA and understand what their benefits are, along the road there may be some life challenge they become faced with,” Baker said, adding by the time they do find the VA, it could be too late to get help and can become detrimental to their family.

“Once they make that connection, we can help them, but a lot of times it’s in the 11th hour and they’re struggling with how to get beyond this challenge,” she said.

Baker also hopes the events will change people’s minds about who veterans are and what women can do when they serve.

“Lots of women veterans are really stepping forward in their communities and in the state,” she said, referencing the many female veterans running for public office in 2018.

For female veterans who might not have allowed themselves to be celebrate their service, Houston resident Jones hopes they change their minds and come out on this special day.

“Be proud of your service. Don’t be afraid to tell anyone about your service and what you did,” she said. “Your role was just as significant as the next person that enlisted.”

NATIONAL SMALL BUSINESS WEEK AWARDS - IS IT TIME TO LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE?

SBA Accepting 2018 National Small Business Week Awards Nominations

Release Date: Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Release Number: 17-65 ND

Contact: sheri.weston@sba.gov

FARGO – The U.S. Small Business Administration is now accepting nominations for its 2018 National Small Business Week Awards, including the annual Small Business Person of the Year. Since 1963, National Small Business Week has recognized the outstanding achievements of America’s small businesses for their contributions to their local communities, and to our nation’s economy.

The dedicated website www.sba.gov/nsbw/awards provides forms, criteria and guidelines for submitting a nomination.

SBA Awards given in celebration of National Small Business Week, April 29 – May 5, 2018, include the following:

  • Small Business Person of the Year
    • One from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.
  • Small Business Exporter of the Year
  • Phoenix Awards for Disaster Recovery
    • Phoenix Award for Small Business Disaster Recovery
    • Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery, Public Official
    • Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery, Volunteer
  • Federal Procurement Awards
    • Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year
    • Small Business Subcontractor of the Year
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower Awards for Excellence (for large prime contractors who use small businesses as suppliers and contractors)
    • 8(a) Graduate of the Year
  • Jody C. Raskind Lender of the Year
  • Small Business Investment Company of the Year
  • Awards to SBA Resource Partners
    • Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Excellence and Innovation Center Award
    • Women’s Business Center of Excellence Award
    • Veterans Business Outreach Center  Excellence in Service Award

All nominations must be submitted no later than 3 p.m. on January 9, 2018.  All nomination packages must be hand delivered or mailed to the nearest SBA Office.  Email submissions of SBA Awards forms will not be accepted as they contain personally identifiable information (PII).

North Dakota submissions may be hand delivered or mailed to the SBA at 657 2nd Avenue North, Room 360, Fargo, ND 58102, or 102 North 4th Street, Suite 104, Grand Forks, ND 58203.

For additional information, contact Sheri Weston at sheri.weston@sba.gov(link sends e-mail) or 701-239-5044.

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About the Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 and since January 13, 2012 has served as a Cabinet-level agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.  The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses.  Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, the SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. www.sba.gov