Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.
In 1987, as a Master Sergeant with 21 years of U.S. Marine Corps’ active duty service, I retired from the Marines and settled in the Washington, DC area. Two years later, during December 1989, I started Quality Support, Inc., with just $600 and a small loan from my father. Quality Support has since grown into a successful small business that provides world-wide administrative, management, technical, and conference and meeting support services to federal government and commercial clients.
It is a fact that we Veterans are particularly well suited to own and operate our own businesses. This fact is documented through ongoing research and reporting sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy. Thus, I take great joy in personally helping other Veterans embark upon their own entrepreneurial journeys. There are many ways in which we can give back to our fellow Veterans and one of the first ways for me was to give cost-free entrepreneurial classes through local military Transition Assistance Program (TAP) gatherings for our Troops leaving active duty. It is truly a delight to receive e-mails and calls from Veterans that attended a TAP class I provided in previous years, informing me that they are now in business and they themselves are hiring and sharing entrepreneurial wisdom with fellow Veterans . . . passing it on!
In addition to appearing at TAP classes, I have also given entrepreneurial talks at Bethesda Hospital for our Wounded Marine Warriors. I believe we should all have a “Personal Program” and this Program simply includes “passing it on,” helping other Veterans find jobs; helping other Veterans learn the ropes of starting and operating small businesses; informing Veterans of pending legislation relative to their benefits and their futures. We do not stop serving once we depart active duty; rather, I believe like many of my fellow Veterans, that serving and giving back is a lifelong endeavor. True Service is a labor of love.
In 1999, Public Law 106-50, the Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act was signed into Law. Subsequently, Public Law 108-183, the Veterans Benefit Act of 2003, became Law. PL 106-50 established our Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) Procurement Program that calls for a 3% goal for SDVOSBs participating in the federal government contracting arena. PL 108-183, provides procurement methodology to facilitate the reaching of this goal in the awarding of contracts to our SDVOSBs. By becoming extremely familiar with these and other pertinent Laws and through participation as a Member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Council and other small business and Veterans’ advocacy organizations, I have been able to use knowledge gained by effectively responding to inquiries from numerous Veterans seeking small business advice.
Likewise, as a guest speaker and panel member at various U.S. Government and related small business events around the country, I have been able to help educate our Veterans regarding our SDVOSB Program and other federal government procurement issues. Called upon to provide Testimony to the House Small Business Committee I have reported on the successes and failures of our SDVOSB Program and have addressed in detail the challenges we face in attempting to gain access to working capital.
As a business owner, I offer Veterans as many employment opportunities as possible. Likewise, when contacted by Veterans seeking employment, I also pass on and network their resumes throughout our Veterans community, and in many instances, these Veterans do find employment! It is our job as fellow Veterans to do what we can to mentor and assist our fellow Veterans at each chance we get. We can help one another by joining one of the many Veterans organizations in our respective communities. For me, I network resumes through the Marine Executive Association (MEA), Marine for Life, TAP Offices, other Veterans Small Business owners, and through Prime Contractors around the country. In terms of being a part of the “solution” we can also help our fellow Veterans by joining a Veteran Service Organization and volunteering our time and energy in support of our Veterans and their family members.
My greatest joy has been through the personal communications I share with Veterans around the world as a result the Veterans News I consolidate and transmit every week day. A few years ago, after having met hundreds of Veterans, Troops, and their family members and friends, I started sending out a daily Veterans News e-mail that pertained to the Federal Government Small Business market place; the Service Disabled Veterans Small Business Program, and related procurement issues. Via this outreach effort, Veterans are provided timely information regarding pending legislation regarding Veterans small business and other Veterans matters. Likewise, I challenge all readers to “get involved;” to get busy helping others and to alert other Veterans to the need for their involvement throughout their respective communities.
Currently, my Daily News goes out to Veterans and Troops located throughout the world to include Afghanistan and Iraq, their loved ones and friends, federal government officials, congressional staffers, and many others. The News now includes Veterans Administration HQs Vets News (that previously was restricted to the VSOs), news from various Veterans Service Organizations such as the National Association for Uniformed Services (NAUS) and others, news from the Chairman, Joints Chief of Staff Public Affairs Office, and important GAO Procurement Protest information. Inasmuch as I have received dozens of “thank you” e-mails from Troops and Veterans from around the world, and have received continued requests to be added to the mailing List, there is no doubt that this News and other transmitted information is well received and appreciated. I feel blessed to be able to “give back” to our deserving Troops and our Veterans community, and through personal experience I can attest that there is nothing more rewarding than being able to share with, educate, and assist a sister and brother Veteran or active duty Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, or Coast Guardsman.
Wayne Gatewood Jr. is a Marine Corps veteran and established Quality Support, Inc., a technical, management, and administrative support firm.