It can be daunting to transition from a life of taking orders to one of giving them. So business leaders in Virginia are stepping in to help transitioning veterans not only network for jobs, but also launch a business.
The Alexandria Veterans Business Enterprise Center (AVBEC) is opening an incubator space this month with roughly 3,900 square feet that boasts training rooms, meeting rooms and a workspace to serve as a home base for 10 to 15 veterans seeking to start their own businesses.
“We actually, truly, have a hub,” says center Director Emily McMahan. “It’s a place to develop, to give folks breathing room to think and network before taking on some of the operational elements of having a full office space or having a full staff. … They can come together, get outside of their house and work with others.”
While an overwhelming number of programs and resources already exist to aid veterans transitioning from military service to the private sector, AVBEC takes a unique path of tapping local businesspeople for help: from veteran-owned businesses that want to grow and to hire other veterans, to colleagues who can mentor and provide resources to help in the conversion, McMahan says. “There is a lack of coordination and community-based support for veterans transitioning from the military to the business world,” McMahan says. “I think it’s the community’s responsibility to step up, not the government’s. We know our communities better than anybody … so let us step up to the plate and lead that effort.”