Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the Small Business Administration's blog. See the original post here.
The energy in the room was inspiring as 11 veteran and veteran spouse entrepreneurs took the stage to be honored as Champions of Change on August 27. Invited to the White House to be honored for their extraordinary achievements, these “Champions” are community leaders who empower veterans and give back to the veteran community.
Throughout the event, there was one constant theme: Veterans are natural leaders. Military training provides veterans with a skillset that translates directly to entrepreneurship. “People might learn leadership in various ways, but there’s no place like the military,” said Champion Louisa Long Jaffe, who attributes the problem-solving skills taught in the military as one of many reasons veterans not only make successful entrepreneurs but also great employees.
The Champions also spoke of their passion to serve; a passion that has evolved from serving their country in uniform, to serving their communities by creating jobs, providing solutions, and contributing to economic growth.
Among the audience were Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, and Robert Herjavec, sharks from ABC’s critically-acclaimed "Shark Tank." In a panel moderated by Kelly Perdew, West Point graduate and season-two winner of NBC’s "The Apprentice," the Sharks, tough, self-made, multi-millionaire and billionaire tycoons and several business owners funded by the Sharks, expressed gratitude to these men and women who continue to serve their nation by contributing to economic growth and spoke to the Champions about the struggles and rewards of owning a business, paving a road to success.
Rhett Jeppson, Associate Administrator of the SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development, delivered a keynote speech highlighting the importance of veteran entrepreneurs in our economy and encouraging the Champions to be leaders in the community.
“The most important role this group provides,” Jeppson said, “is that of a role model. As new veteran-owned small businesses start, their founders will look to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to be successful. It is the role of men and women like the ones standing with me here today to truly be champions for the veteran entrepreneur community and lead by example.”
Barbara Carson is the Deputy Associate Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Veterans Business Development.