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Small business fraud can be a serious issue for many businesses and prevention of such fraud is a necessity as a modern business owner.

Ensuring your business isn't vulnerable is a top priority. While small businesses are more susceptible to fraud than most large companies, there are ways in which you can help protect your business. Setting up secure systems, infrastructures, and internal controls to protect against fraudulent activity can save you both time and money. Whether your business has already experienced fraudulent activities - like identity theft or cyber security threats - or you are just looking to be able to identify threats before they happen, use these different resources to keep your workplace secure.


Fall 2018: Small Business Payments Spotlight Report Small Talk with Bank of America Merchant Services SpendTalk with Bank of America Merchant Services Protect your small business; security and fraud tips Digital Transformation of SMBs: The Future of Commerce (VISA) Fraud is evolving. So should your data security. Business Identify Theft in the U.S.: 2018 Report What is business identity theft? Business identity theft scams Tips to protect business identity Business identity theft, Victim resources Tips to help protect your company during tax season SHOULD MY BUSINESS SHARE CYBER INCIDENT DATA with an ISAC or ISAO? Vulnerability Assessments HOW WILL LEAST PRIVILEGE PROTECT MY BUSINESS? WHAT ARE THE CYBER RISKS TO MY BUSINESS? You've been hacked - do you know who to call? How to Know What to Protect How to Protect Your Data How to Secure Your Website How to create a secure password

Thumb.pngFraud isn’t going away—it’s getting more sophisticated. The security industry is always applying new techniques to keep pace. Help safeguard your company and customer data at the point of sale.


Click here to download the guide: Fraud is evolving. So should your data security. (PDF)

Thumb.pngThe insights provided in this guide are for small and medium size businesses (SMBs) in the United States, with a focus on helping businesses grow and improve the customer experience by leveraging technology and digital commerce.


Click here to download the guide: Digital Transformation of SMBs: The Future of Commerce (PDF).

In the latest Bank of America Small Business Podcast episode, Steve Strauss speaks with Jessica Kavanagh, founder of, and Lieutenant Colonel Kirk Duncan, the military affairs director of the organization. Listen to learn about the journey to create VetLinks and discover how it empowers veterans – with tips to help entrepreneurs everywhere thrive.




Kirk:                The one kind, this missing component, was someone in our group, our initial Board of Directors, that had true nonprofit experience.  It's different than running a for profit business. So if I could rewind time a little bit, the one change would've been to reach out to a mentor or someone with that nonprofit experience to really be an initial guiding hand as we launched this journey that is


Steve:             Hi, I'm Steve Strauss, and you're listening to the Bank of America Small Business Podcast, a podcast where we speak with small business owners about their journey and uncover useful tips for entrepreneurs and small business owners everywhere.


Steve:             Today we're speaking with Jessica Kavanagh, founder and president of, and Lieutenant Colonel Kirk Duncan, the military affairs director for the organization. Today's guests play a hugely important role for veterans across America through an amazing organization called VetLinks. VetLinks is a 501c3 nonprofit that bridges the VA mental health care gap for veterans with PTSD by connecting veterans, families, and caregivers to post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury alternative treatments, programs, and resources.


Steve:    educates and empowers veterans and their families by linking them to services, support, and programs in order to enrich the quality of their life.


Steve:             So Jessica and Kirk, great to have you on the show. Welcome. Jessica, let me begin with you. VetLinks is an amazing organization. What inspired you to help create it?


Jessica:          Yeah, no, thanks for having us on the show tonight. My husband, Brian Kavanagh, he was an Army infantry officer, he was a ranger, and back in 2014 he came home one day and he was asking for help with his post-traumatic stress. And so we called the VA, and they had put us on a six week wait time for mental health. So we took matters into our own hands and we found him a place on our own for private care, and got him help. And after that, we called the VA again and they put us on another six week wait time, and so we've started our own private treatment again for mental health appointments.


Jessica:          By the summer of 2015, things were not getting much better by any means. So this time we called the VA and we kept our six week wait time appointment, which ironically fell on September 11th. And then when we went to the appointment, I was so hopeful that she was going to give us this magical place that was going to help Brian with his post-traumatic stress, and his substance abuse, and instead all she could offer was a psych unit. So I started calling anyone, everyone who would listen to me. And finally, this woman called me from Texas and she said, "I've heard your story from two different people, one in Florida and one in California, and you really need to go down to Washington DC to a Congressional hearing on October 7th, and Bob McDonald's going to be there." Bob McDonald was the former secretary of the VA.


Jessica:          So I went down, and I went into the Congressional hearing, and I met with every single person in there. I had written out our story, typed it out, gave it to everyone. I introduced myself to Bob McDonald, and I told him our story and said that we needed help right away or that Brian was going to die. And in three days, he got him into an inpatient facility out in West Virginia with the VA.


Jessica:          So Brian went into the 90-day program. And he was meeting veterans left and right who weren't getting help additionally with benefits that they deserved, so he started holding classes on how to get these resources until finally someone said to him, "Brian, you're a patient here, you can't just hold these classes." And so when he got out of the inpatient, he told me of the idea that he wanted to help these veterans. And he wanted to help take care of them and get them the resources that they needed. And of course, I was so supportive, but at the same time I thought well, great, let's add caregivers to the list because I couldn't get you help, it took me months to get you into a facility.


Steve:             Your husband had the inspiration to create VetLinks, and I know he's not with us anymore, you carried it on. Could you just maybe tell us about that a little bit.


Jessica:          Yeah, absolutely. So when he passed away, I vowed to take over the nonprofit in his honor, and I wanted to carry his vision on. So after the funeral, a bunch of us were just sitting around the table, and I was telling a lot of Brian's friends about his vision, about what he wanted to do with VetLinks, and they said, "Let's do it." So we decided right then that we were going to take the nonprofit and move it in the right direction.


Steve:             Well it's so admirable. And VetLinks has been around for how many years now?


Jessica:          It'll be two years on December 20th.


Steve:             Way to go. Kirk, let me ask you this. How did you meet Jessica and how did you get involved with VetLinks?


Kirk:                Well first Steve, I want to echo Jessica's sentiment and just thank you for the opportunity to be on the program.


Kirk:                The short answer to how Jessica and I met was through her relationship with my best friend, Brian Kavanagh. Brian, as Jessica mentioned, was really the inspiration behind The slightly, I guess, longer version of how we got together, Brian and I grew up in a small town in Pittsburg, Kansas. We did everything together, hung out, we played sports, found creative ways to get in trouble at times. We were basically together almost every day from preschool really through high school graduation. So about as tight as two guys could be.


Kirk:                Flash forward a couple years, and Brian had gone through the ROTC program at Pittsburg State University in our hometown, got commissioned, and eventually the Army stationed him over in Baltimore where his relationship with Jessica begins. And about that same time, I was also on active duty and serving in Iraq at that point. And honestly, Brian had dated other people, but when we communicated on email and phones, there was just something different about the way he was talking about Jessica. He was certainly smitten with her, head over heels.


Kirk:                So I returned that deployment in May of 2011, and Brian brought her to our good friend, Pat McNally's wedding, and that was the first time that we met in person.


Steve:             It must have been so hard for you to see your best friend, your pal, suffer from such severe PTSD.


Kirk:                Yeah, you know, it's hard to imagine knowing someone for over three decades, and then seeing their personality almost fundamentally change in front of you. It's one thing to hear words like post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, but to see the effects of that on someone you care so much about, it's almost impossible to describe. It was like when I'd go out to Baltimore with friends to kind of help Jessica intervene a little bit, and get Brian to realize what was going on, it was almost like a shell of himself. You look behind his eyes, and it just wasn't the same man that I'd grown up with and grown to love.


Kirk:                The other thing that was interesting for me in my initial journey with VetLinks, was it was hard for me to kind of understand their struggle. As an active duty Army officer, the healthcare that I'm provided and still am has been phenomenal, the Army really takes care of its soldiers. But you know, when Brian left active duty he kind of gave up that camaraderie that is so unique to soldiers, you know, the bond that you form when you're in combat with somebody, it's indescribable for someone who hasn't been there. And so when Brian left active duty, he left that kind of network, that camaraderie of veterans.


Kirk:                And then the second thing is, when you leave active duty, the level of care that's available to veterans just is not up to par compared to what's provided for us on active duty. And so what I kind of came to realize in seeing Jessica and Brian's struggles, is ... it's difficult for the VA to provide the individual, necessary support, if you will, that our veterans deserve.


Steve:             So Jessica, let me ask you this, clearly you created VetLinks in honor of our husband and to help other soldiers like your husband. Can you tell us though a little bit more about what exactly VetLinks does, and who it's for, and how it helps them.


Jessica           So VetLinks is for veterans, it's for our caregivers, it's for family members. And we want to be able to provide the immediate resources that they may need in a very immediate fashion. Whether that may be an inpatient stay, whether that might be therapy, alternative treatment, whether that's just getting a massage, or acupuncture, or having a babysitter come over to the house so the couple can go get the couple's therapy they may need. Or as a caregiver, getting a flight to be able to go see their veteran while they're in an inpatient center. I mean, it really could be anything. As long as ... our criteria is based off of our story, as far as post-9/11, post-traumatic stress, substance abuse, TBI-related. But however and whatever resources they need, we want to be able to provide.


Kirk:                Like any small business or nonprofit starting out, kind of identifying that target audience and developing our niche was hugely important for us. There's a lot of great nonprofits that do some really amazing things to assist veterans. So as we sort of developed our initial focus as a board, we thought let's model our target customer, if you will, on the Kavanagh family. So as Jessica mentioned, that's a combat veteran and their families who are struggling specifically from the effects of post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and substance abuse.


Kirk:                And our original thought was, hey, if we can save one veteran, we can impact one family's life, we'll be successful. And so as we progressed a little bit, the other thing we came to realize is that one of the forgotten parts of this epidemic involves those caregivers that Jessica talked about. Those persons, or people that live day in and day out with their veteran.


Kirk:                The other thing we learned is that the effects of post-traumatic stress can have profound impacts on the children of those veterans as well. So some of our focus has been specifically for those caregivers and children of veterans, in addition to trying to help veterans themselves.


Steve:             So you make a really great point, Kirk. I mean, one thing I always talk about to my small business brothers and sisters is that you have to serve the market, and find a need and fill it. And clearly there is a great need for the work you are doing. I'm going to ask this question to both of you, and Kirk, I'll go to your first. What is it you find most rewarding about your work with VetLinks?


Kirk:                Well I think first and foremost, it's the realization that we're helping people through our work. We've helped some people in some big ways, paying for inpatient treatments and such, and also in smaller ways. If I could I'd like to tell you a story about one of the first people that we helped. He was a Marine combat veteran named Matt. And when Matt got out of the Marine Corps, he really struggled with that transition back into civilian life. He had the telltale signs of suffering from post-traumatic stress, and was really abusing alcohol.


Steve:             Right.


Kirk:                And when we learned about Matt's story, we said, "Hey, this is exactly who we're trying to take care of." So VetLinks’ board kind of looked at the case, we voted wholeheartedly, let's get Matt some help. So we were able to provide six months of inpatient treatment therapy out in California. And Matt really took the treatment really well. And so we kind of followed his story as a new nonprofit startup, and I'm so proud to tell you, Steve, that he completed the six months of treatment, he got sober, and more importantly he got employed. And I'll tell you the great thing about that employment, Steve, is that he's actually employed with the VA right now. So it's about a story going full circle. Here Matt is struggling and we were able to help him through that struggle, and now he's living proof of what nonprofits like VetLinks can do, and we're so proud of the work he's doing in the VA to help his fellow vets out.


Steve:             Well that's fantastic, and congratulations, and it's stories like that that are so heartwarming. I'm sure, Jessica, that is the kind of thing that you find incredibly rewarding as well.


Jessica           Yeah, absolutely. We get emails and text messages and phone calls all the time, thanking us for everything. So it's really rewarding.


Steve:             We are speaking with Jessica Kavanagh and Kirk Duncan of VetLinks,, and we will get back to that in a moment. But first I want to tell you a little bit about our friends at Bank of America.


Steve:             I want to ask you this, have you heard about Business Advantage Relationship Rewards from Bank of America? It's a new program that rewards eligible small business owners with benefits and rewards that grow as their BofA business deposit, or their Merrill Edge, or Merrill Lynch investment balances increase. You can read about it at There are all sorts of benefits, including no fees on select services from Bank of America. Including monthly maintenance fee waivers on up to four checking accounts and four savings accounts. A 25% to 75% rewards bonus on the base earn of every purchase you make with your eligible Bank of America credit card. Cash rewards based on your Bank of America merchant services monthly payment processing volume. Up to 20% interest booster on a Business Advantage savings account. And interest rate discounts on new loans and lines of credit.


Steve:             Interested? You should be. Learn more about Business Advantage Relationship Rewards at That's


Steve:             Jessica, I'm wondering if you could tell us a little bit about some of the unexpected challenges you have faced along the way. You know, it's not easy to create a business, it's not easy to create a nonprofit, an organization, a website. What unexpected challenges have you found?


Jessica:          Yeah, absolutely. Well, I personally think that one of the biggest challenges we have is dealing with getting passed the stigma of these men and women wanting to get help. I know Brian never wanted to get help, he never wanted to talk about his struggles, or his issues, until he finally did, and hit a wall, and then it was too late. So there's a stigma overall, I think, with people struggling with mental health.


Jessica:          But just reaching them, and getting them to want to you know accept help, and get help has been one of our biggest challenges.


Steve:             Clearly you're getting there. And Kirk, what about you? What do you think?


Kirk:                Yeah, you know Steve, surprisingly, one of the unexpected challenges that we've faced was actually finding veterans and their families to help. As we started our nonprofit and found some initial success raising funds, we then had to figure out well how do we connect our resources, our monetary resources to those that need it? Reaching our target customer, if you will.


Kirk:                Another challenge involved the need to screen veterans' requests, kind of ensuring that we were in compliance in terms of like the regulations safeguarding peoples' private information, their identity, and their health information. And luckily, these are both kind of challenges that we've been able to work through by our networking efforts.


Kirk:                One thing that I think is valuable, whether you're serving the Army like I am, running a for profit enterprise, or working in a nonprofit like VetLinks, is really the power of networking. I think Jessica has been an absolute pro at networking in the Baltimore and greater Washington DC area. Her efforts and relationship building skills allowed us to connect with a great partner, and this organization that's called Code of Support. And Steve, what Code of Support and their partners do is they basically link together different veteran's charities, and are able to leverage the capabilities of each nonprofit in this collective partnership.


Kirk:                So if a veteran reaches out through Code of Support and has the need that fits our model and our criteria, they pass that referral on to us and we're able to connect our resources with that veteran's specific needs.


Steve:             Nice. Well clearly, Jessica, you are a master networker. Your story of how you went about helping your husband is pretty incredible. And if you brought those same skills to this endeavor, I'm sure you guys have an incredible network.


Steve:             I'm wondering, in fact, how creating this organization and VetLinks has impacted your personal life. It began as a personal story, you and your husband, and you taking the mantle from your husband. How has it effected your personal life since then?


Jessica:          You know, it's a challenge. I feel at this point I'm basically running three full time jobs between our two little girls, and I work for a medical sales company that I've been with for 14 years, and that of course pays the bills, and now running the nonprofit. So it's just ... the challenge is time management, and just figuring out the priorities for the day. And that's all I do, is I just take it day by day.


Steve:             And Kirk, you, I'm guessing, have never started a business before, never created something from scratch. This has to have affected your personal life in ways you didn't expect either.


Kirk:                Yeah, it's really brought into focus the criticality of managing the work/life balance. Like Jessica, I have children, I have four kids, and they're all active and doing sports and school activities, and so trying to fulfill my duties as an active duty Army officer, balancing that with being a husband and a father, and having such passion to try to help veterans that are like my best friend, Brian, it's been a challenge. But what it's taught me, as far as helping VetLinks, is just learning to balance and manage my time better.


Kirk:                The other thing that kind of comes out of this is actually learning how to say no. When we first started out, we took every opportunity we could, we'd go speak to any group, big or small, and then now we have to really kind of weigh our opportunities, because our time is limited and we have to choose those opportunities that give us kind of the best return, if you will, on that precious resource which is time.


Jessica:          Absolutely.


Steve:             And Kirk, would you do anything differently now two years in that you think people might want to know about?


Kirk:                You know, it's ... when you start any business, there's going to be certain things that you're good at, your core competencies, those things that you inherently feel comfortable with doing. And looking back, we were blessed to have a group of friends that had some unique talents that all contributed in meaningful ways to us starting But the one kind of, I guess, missing component was someone in our group, our initial Board of Directors, that had true nonprofit experience. It's different than running a for profit business. So if I could rewind time a little bit, the one change would've been to reach out to a mentor, or someone with that nonprofit experience to really be an initial guiding hand, as we launched this journey that is


Steve:             That's a great tip. And I'm wondering about you Jessica, anything you might do differently and any advice you would give entrepreneurs or other people listening to our show today?


Jessica:          Yeah, absolutely. You know, I would say if you have a conviction about what it is you're trying to accomplish, you're going to get there. I know we had a problem, and we still have a problem today, taking the proper care of our veterans and caregivers. But that caused us to learn, and to put one foot in front of the other. So if you believe in your product, don't be afraid to go for it, because success can only come from taking action.


Steve:             You know, one of the things I love most about meeting the people I get to meet on this show is their enthusiasm and the initiative they take, and creating something out of nothing. As I mentioned, it's not an easy thing to do. And so, whether that's a small business, or a nonprofit, it really makes no difference. And what you're doing is admirable and great, and you're doing it so well too, so I would just recommend to anybody listening who has a veteran who needs help, is a great website, and a great organization, and we are all lucky to have you doing the work you're doing.


Steve:             So Kirk Duncan and Jessica Kavanagh, thank you both so much for being with us today.


Steve:             For Bank of America, I'm Steve Strauss.


Related resources:

I’m often asked, “what makes entrepreneurs different?” One factor is the ability to look at something and see the opportunity others often overlook.


That’s what sets Maddie Purcell, the founder of Portland, Maine-based Fyood Kitchen, apart. Like millions of Americans, Purcell was a big fan of Chopped, a mainstay on the Food Network. Chopped is a cooking competition show where contestants are given baskets of mystery ingredients and need to create a delicious dish on the spot.


Image result for Maddie Purcell

Purcell loved Chopped so much she played at home with her best friend. But, unlike millions of Americans, Purcell took that obsession and turned it into a business. Fyood Kitchen, launched in 2016, brings the Chopped experience to the masses. Fyood, Purcell says, “puts on outrageously fun, amateur, social cooking competitions.”


Purcell was recently recognized by SCORE and the SCORE Foundation as their Outstanding Young Entrepreneur of the Year.


Rieva Lesonsky: What inspired you to start a business based on Chopped?


Maddie Purcell: I was stuck in an unfulfilling job and realized I wanted to run my own company. I made lists of potential problems I could solve looking for the right fit. I worked on another startup idea for six months. Then I took part in an informal Chopped-style competition in a friend’s professional kitchen and it was the most fun night I’d ever had. I knew I would pay to do that regularly and wanted to give people the opportunity to have this experience.


Lesonsky: How did you get started?


Purcell: I didn’t know how to start so I decided to host several cooking competitions in my apartment between friends to figure out some details, such as should there be judging? Could amateurs tackle real mystery baskets? What did a stocked pantry really need to include for maximum creativity?


I launched Fyood with a crowdfunding campaign which is a real rollercoaster of momentum swings. But, we surpassed my financial target, while creating a group of staunch supporters and generating marketing opportunities that proved crucial to our early success.


Lesonsky: How does Fyood work?


Purcell: Fyood’s competitions, which take about three hours, take place in a professional kitchen. We offer the ideal cooking experience—no rules, no chores, and tons of imagination. Each team gets a basket of mystery ingredients with four “must-use” foods and access to a fully stocked pantry. They have to create dishes (one sweet, one savory) without instructions or recipes.


Lesonsky: And how do people react?


Purcell: Over 90 percent of cooks make something they'd never attempted before, permanently expanding their culinary comfort zone.


But Fyood isn’t just a cooking competition. We’re a connection company that happens to be in a professional kitchen and includes a delicious meal. In our increasingly digital age, people are searching for a social experience that fully immerses them in the present and creates lasting memories. Fyood produces uniquely engaging events designed for collaboration, creativity and laughter.


Lesonsky: What were some lessons you learned as you built Fyood?


Purcell: I worked with several mentors in SCORE’s Portland office. They taught me to sell and helped me become more comfortable understanding the worth of our services rather than underselling myself or feeling guilty. And they helped me make connections I wouldn’t be able to access on my own.


Lesonsky: How is Fyood doing? What are your future plans?


Purcell: We’re growing. Fyood recently pivoted from regularly scheduled open events to focus on the demand for private group events, especially teambuilding, birthday and wedding parties.


Over the next year we're planning to triple our number of monthly events, hiring three additional team members, including an event manager, along the way. In preparation for this growth, we're currently focused on optimizing our existing systems as well as testing new marketing campaigns to make sure the folks who would have the most fun at Fyood are able to find us when they want to throw a creative cooking party.


Lesonsky: What are you most proud of?


Purcell: Several things. Our mystery baskets provide an innovative platform for ingredient producers (salsa, kombucha, veggies, sauces, chocolate, etc.) and consumers to meet each other, enabling us to promote our amazing local food ecosystem.


I’m proud we can give customers an incredible connection and creative opportunity—empowering and inspiring them and give my team the opportunity to create something awesome and do something that feels great for them.


And seeing folks come in unsure of their abilities to cook without a recipe and leave feeling like they’re conquered the experience is pretty magical.


Hear more small business owners tell their stories on the Bank of America Small Business Podcast.


*Photo from MaineBiz


About Rieva Lesonsky


Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.


Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.


Web: or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.


Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Being an entrepreneur can require a substantial financial and emotional commitment. For many individuals, testing business ownership out on a small scale before making a bigger commitment makes sound business sense. 


For others, having the ability to supplement their other professional endeavors at their own convenience is also appealing. For these reasons, the “gig” economy has really taken hold. While estimates vary widely, we can all agree the number of people with a “side hustle” is in the millions and growing.


However, just because your side business is part time, it doesn’t mean you can abdicate your responsibilities, have sloppy accounting or not take it seriously. To that end, below are four things you should know to make sure that your side hustle or gig business is successful.


1. Treat it Like Any Other Business. Testing a business out on a small scale does not mean you should forget that it is still a business. You should consider creating a separate legal entity, which can help to protect you personally from liability and also make accounting and operational endeavors easier.


This also means you should have a separate bank account and not co-mingle your personal and business revenues and expenses. “Often having a separate business bank account can be a deciding factor in whether the IRS treats this income as a business or a hobby,” said Dee Dee Stone, CPA, a tax strategist for small- to medium-sized businesses and owner of Dee Dee Stone, LLC, who works extensively with hobby-business owners and gig economy entrepreneurs. “Business income is taxed after the expenses have been deducted and businesses can show a loss that offsets other income on the taxpayer’s return. Hobby income is taxed purely on money received with no deduction for expenses incurred to earn it.”


2. Make Accounting a Priority. Those who are new to businesses, and particularly those running small and/or part-time businesses, are often sloppy with accounting, which makes end-of-year tax filing a nightmare (and can also get you into trouble with the IRS).  “If you utilize a separate bank account and file your receipts by category at the end of each week, you will find you generally have more deductions than you realize without trying to sneak in personal expenses,” Stone said. “In the event you are audited, you will generally be required to produce business bank statements, another reason to have a separate account, along with receipts for purchases and a mileage log to substantiate any auto deduction.


“Today, because we can buy nearly anything we need from a one-stop shop and items can be business or personal, receipts are required to prove the business nature,” she added. “The burden of proof is on the business owner that items are ordinary and necessary for their business and are only allowed to be deducted at the discretion of the auditor so trying to sneak in all your personal expenses for the extra deductions can result in increased penalties in the end not to mention, if you ever try to sell your business it will not look as profitable.”


     RELATED CONTENT: Learn about account management from Bank of America


3. Don’t Forget to get Paid. While some gig jobs make it easy to collect money, many do not. It is your responsibility to make sure you are invoicing your clients regularly and accurately for completed work and/or services or goods provided. Sloppy invoicing that isn’t systematized can delay your payment. In some cases, I have seen entrepreneurs who have lost payment because they haven’t tracked their work well. And, of course, delays in invoicing can create cash flow issues for your business if you are planning to use the money you have earned immediately.


Several technologies and tools can help you manage invoicing, like those incorporated into Quickbooks and more. Do your research to see which is best for your business. There are also a host of tech products that help track expenses, including those you need to bill back to your client.


4. Know the Limitations of a Hobby vs. a Business. While it is important to take any business endeavor seriously, side hustles have limitations you should be aware of. Make sure set your expectations and investments accordingly.


“As the gig economy grows, we have seen more attention from the IRS on taxpayers claiming losses from their ‘businesses’ for multiple years in a row to offset their other income,” Stone said. “If you show a loss for more than two years and are not exercising every opportunity to make your side hustle profitable, you have a hobby for tax purposes. To avoid being limited by the ‘hobby loss’ rules, running your gig business will require proper accounting and recordkeeping.”


The gig economy is here to stay. If you want to participate in it effectively, make sure you are prepared and professional in your approach to ensure you get the most benefits possible.


Read next:



About Carol Roth


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Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File ® legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.


Web: or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Since 2012, “Giving Tuesday” has taken place on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. After all of the focus on shopping around that time – what with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday – Giving Tuesday is a welcome respite; a day for individuals and businesses to give back to their community.



It’s not surprising that small businesses are typically enthusiastic about participating in Giving Tuesday: After all, small business people are generally highly idealistic. (You have to be if you are going to quit your job and start a business from scratch.) But, beyond that, small business people also know if it were not for their tribe and community, they would not be in business for long. So, when it comes to giving to the community, small businesses know it is important to give back.


How, you ask? Here are some ideas as to how your small business can give back to your community – on Giving Tuesday, and indeed throughout the holiday season.


1. Team up: Last year on Giving Tuesday, Tadlock Roofing partnered with Boys Town, a national nonprofit that supports children, families and communities. Tadlock Roofing offered to match donations to Boys Town up to $10,000, and additionally, the President of the company agreed to jump out of a plane if they met their goal. Sure enough, the President of Tadlock Roofing was captured jumping out of a plane to show that the sky’s the limit to give back.


2. Encourage a community service day or days: Many local non-profits are now, in anticipation of Giving Tuesday, creating giving events for that day. See what is happening in your area and help out. Here are some examples.


More broadly, Giving Tuesday does not have to be confined to that one day. Employees love being able to volunteer, especially around the holidays, so a great way to give back is to offer your team paid time off to do volunteer work within the community. Contact local food banks, senior centers, and elderly services to see where there might be volunteer opportunities.


3. Give a percentage of your sales to charity: Pick a cause that you like, that inspires your team, and which will resonate with your customers, and then pledge to set aside profits for that Tuesday to that group or charity. Yes, it is nice that that will be tax deductible, but what is even nicer is the good you will do and the goodwill you will foster.


4. Offer special discounts for the elderly, the disabled, and those in need: Offering special discounts to these groups is another way to do well by doing good. It would be a win-win for all concerned.


5. Organize a food drive to provide donations for a local food bank: The amount of hungry people in this country is truly astounding. By teaming-up with an appropriate Giving Tuesday organization, you can really make a difference. Indeed, helping the hungry is as giving as it gets.


6. Organize a toy drive for the holidays: Similarly, there are not a few parents who are unable to give their kids the sort of holiday they would prefer. You can either work with a local charity, or even simply locate a needy family and “adopt” them for the holidays.


7. Get your social on: One of the cool things about Giving Tuesday is that it is a national, nay international, movement. Sharing your participation is not gauche as it helps spread the word. And the Giving Tuesday organization wants to help you do just that. You can download and use their social media toolkit here. Or just remember, #GivingTuesday.


(You can download the entire Giving Tuesday Communications and Participation plan here.)



About Steve Strauss


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Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.


Web: or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.


Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation


Are you ready for retirement? Small business owners need retirement plans not only for themselves, but often for their employees. On the latest episode of, “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Merrill Edge executive and retirement pro, Matt Gellene, discusses what you should look for in a retirement plan for yourself and for your team.




“The Heartbeat of Main Street” delivers timely insights tailored to the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Featuring a rotating line-up of small business experts and industry leaders – and covering a range of topics – each episode explores the trends that have an impact on revenue creation for small business owners.


The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and more information can be accessed through a dedicated home page. New episodes will appear regularly on the Small Business Community podcast page. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.


Matt Gellene:              Any company, even a sole proprietorship, can implement a retirement plan, just like a large company. In fact, they can implement a 401K plan, and that can really benefit their business, not only personally and what they can save for themselves, but also their employees and really help their business overall not only attract great talent, but really help them through a variety of different ways. Deductions for their potential taxes, you can deduct contributions, etc. It's something that I think a lot of small business owners don't realize.


Narrator:                      Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” with ForbesBooks at and Bank of America at


Gregg Stebben:          I'm here on “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Matt Gellene joins me. He is the head of Financial Center Merrill Edge and National Performance Executive. We are going to talk about retirement planning, particularly for small business owners. But Matt, before we go there, I want to welcome you, and I also want to have you tell us a little bit about your job and your title.


Matt Gellene:              Yeah, well first, Gregg, thanks for having me. I appreciate that, joining you today. Yeah, as far as what I do, I'm in charge of all of the Financial Solutions Advisors. These would be the financial advisors that are out in our financial centers, our banking centers throughout the entire country. We have 2500 of these individuals, and they're out there helping our clients solve their financial problems.


Gregg Stebben:          Well, that's a huge job that you have. You must know on a day-to-day basis how you're doing, because you must get a lot of customer feedback.


Matt Gellene:              Yeah, we do. It's great. We've had lots of our clients speak to us through, certainly the way that they interact through our client experience partners, but even directly with me, they talk about all the great things that our advisors are doing, the way that they are helping with their financial lives. It's really gratifying to see the work literally every day.


Gregg Stebben:          Well, one of the things I want to talk about today is the difference between retirement planning for someone who's an employee, say an executive, and for the person who actually owns the company, because it's very different when someone else has created the plan for you than when you are, in a sense, in charge of both running the company and creating the plan for yourself.


Matt Gellene:              Yeah, without a doubt. I mean, most people participate through the retirement plan through their company. In that case, it's already set up for you. It's a way for you to participate in your retirement savings through a really prescriptive way. But if you are your own business owner, if you are running your own company, now you really have to think differently about the way you engage with it, because in most cases, it's not already set up.


                                   The good news, Gregg, is any company, virtually any business, even a sole proprietorship, can implement a retirement plan like a large company. In fact, they can implement a 401K plan, and that can really benefit their business, not only personally and what they can save for themselves, but also their employees and really help their business overall not only attract great talent, but really them through a variety of different ways. Deductions for their potential taxes, you can deduct contributions, etc. It's something that I think a lot of small business owners don't realize. We would be happy to explain that to anyone who is interested.


Gregg Stebben:          So let's say I'm a small business owner, I'm listening, and I just heard you say, "Gee, Gregg, this is something you should be doing, because you own a small business, and there's some real advantages to it." Who do I call and what do I ask for? Can you help me with that first step so that I start talking to the right person to get the kind of assistance I need?


Matt Gellene:              Absolutely, absolutely, Gregg. Thanks for bringing that up. As I mentioned on the outset, we have more than 2500 individuals throughout the country that actually have the ability to help any small business owner go over their options and talk through these types of solutions. The first step is trying to understand, really, what the plan is, what the small business owner is trying to accomplish. Then we can direct them to ways that they can use some of these things I said to help them do that plan. It's certainly something we do here at Bank of America Merrill Edge. We'd be more than happy to help.


Gregg Stebben:          Do you find that this is a common thing, that small business owners are so wrapped up in running the business and keeping it growing and successful that they actually neglect to think about themselves and their own future?


Matt Gellene:              Yeah, completely. I think any small business owner would tell you that so much of their time and their energy, really all of their mind share, is spent trying to grow and build their business. Even more so, I think many small business owners think that this business, in and of itself, is their retirement plan. They think that everything they do to grow that business ultimately will have some sort of retirement payoff, if you will. But it's important for everyone to sort of separate out their great work they might be doing to build their business and the plan they have to put in place for themselves for retirement, really separate and apart from what they're driving with their business. This is really a challenge for many small business owners.


Gregg Stebben:          Well, let's dig into those challenges a little bit. So, let's say I own a small business, I've been thinking that, you know, at some point this is the retirement nest egg that I need to grow for myself. You're saying, "Well, that's probably not the right way to be thinking about it." What kind of things can go wrong if that is the extent of by retirement planning?


Matt Gellene:              Yeah, if you really don't think separately about the way you save and the way you plan for your retirement, you could be overemphasizing your current projects for your business, and you might not have the right discipline to create that separation over time. So what I would always suggest, and frankly this goes not only for small business owner, but frankly anyone who is looking to save for a very specific goal to get, as I said, specific. Think about how much needs to be put away, how you're going to account for that, and really separate and apart from your other endeavors. Make the time and the energy to build a plan around that goal. You're going to be able to have a much better discipline over time to insure you reach that goal.


Gregg Stebben:          Well, as I'm listening to you, I'm also realizing that if I own a small business and I'm counting on it to support me in retirement, I'm also banking on the fact that my business is going to continue to be successful without me there, because now I'm retired, or I'm counting on the fact that there will be a successful exit.


Matt Gellene:              Right. I mean, I think ultimately every small business owner certainly has to have that optimism about the future, but in order to make sure that you can, as you say, continue on either after you've left the business, post retirement, you have to make sure that you have a great plan in place in case that doesn't come to pass. To your point, there are some businesses where you have succession challenges, and what's going to happen after I leave or directing the business—that's why we really, really want to sit down with the business owner. Create that plan, make sure that they have that benefit laid out, and really start to work through the contingencies that might happen if it weren't to come to pass as they envisioned.


Gregg Stebben:          We're talking with Matt Gellene. He's the head of Financial Center Merrill Edge and National Performance Executive. This is “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. I want to ask you a more general question, Matt. That is we've been focusing so far on small business owners, but let's broaden the scope. What is it that most people get wrong when it comes to retirement planning? Then I went you to drill in and say, "This is what most people do wrong. Now this is what most small business people do wrong." Because I think we're either going to learn that they make the same mistakes or very different mistakes, but it will very, very useful, either way.


Matt Gellene:              Yeah, thanks Gregg. I think that there's sort of two big areas that most people, as you say, quote on quote, "get wrong," when they're thinking about retirement planning. The first is they begin to save, but they save just to save. What I mean by that is they're not laying out a full plan. They're not laying out an end goal and starting to plan for how much they'll need, how much they need to put away, what the rate of return will be necessary to get to that number. Unfortunately, they think, well, just putting a little bit away or making it a regular activity is going to get them to their goal. Frankly, it's because they haven't thought through the plan or the end result. That's the first thing.


                                   The second thing is a little bit of a derivative of that. It's the whole notion of, "Well, set it and forget it." I will tell you, this happens to a lot of people who have a 401K and are contributing regularly. They are doing the right thing by setting that savings plan in place, but they're not looking at where that money is going or looking at where those investments have led them and what the returns are. I will tell you, as you go through your sort of economic life as you're proceeding through your career, you have to make sure that you're constantly looking at your portfolio and getting advice as to how it might need to be rebalanced. As you know, the investments and the markets change. The allocations of where you want to put your money will certainly change over time based on your risk tolerance and when you're going to need it. Too many people do the, "Set it and forget it," notion, and then when they go back to look at it when they're now ready to access it, it might not be where they need it to be. So saving to save and setting it and forgetting it are the two big items that I think many good savers who are planning don't do enough analysis to insure that they're going to be okay.


Gregg Stebben:          It also seems to me that for a small business owner, their success in business could be very helpful here if they were focused, but I would imagine for some successful business owners, it could also be a trap. In other words, I know how to build a successful business. If I apply those lessons to my retirement, I'm probably going to have a very successful retirement plan. But on the other hand, you may think you know how to plan a retirement plan because you've been successful in business, but what made you successful in business may require a whole other set of skills.


Matt Gellene:              You said it really well. I mean, ultimately, what you should be looking to do is seek out expertise in the areas that you really need help. In fact, the small business owner who's great at running his or her business may not necessarily have the right level of expertise to do the things that I just said. Set the right plan, make sure you're doing the rebalancing, re-evaluate the investments to make sure that they come out the right way, so to speak, when retirement comes around. That core is the expertise that we offer here at Bank of American and Merrill Edge. So we can deliver that for our clients while they spend all of their time building their business.


Gregg Stebben:          I would also imagine that not all investing is about retirement, either. I mean, in many cases, when you're a successful business owner, you have money you should be investing for things other than retirement. Can you talk about things you've learned by dealing with small business people?


Matt Gellene:              Completely. You know, I think one of the things that we will find is when you talk to a client, whether it's a small business client or an individual client, the most important thing is to find out what their priorities are. What's their, what we like to call, "their life priorities," where they're putting their energy and what's most important to them, because as we will talk to, especially business owners, we know that clearly their work and their business is probably an overarching, if not the first, priority, but there are going to be others as well. It could be how they educate their children, it could be, as you say, retirement planning. It could be simply to create some extra wealth to pass on to future generations.


                                   We have to get to those pieces as well, because once you create that life priority framework, then you begin to be able to plan appropriately for each need. As I said earlier, you can sort of separate out the way you're approaching that, because they may have different plans, they may have different sort of investment profiles, so to say, they may have different risk tolerances. They could be customized depending on what the goal is. It's so important to have that perspective so someone can really own their financial life.


Gregg Stebben:          Well and what's interesting here ... again, I'm talking with Matt Gellene. This is “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. What's interesting here is that thing that makes successful business owners successful, in many cases, starts with this vision and drive to accomplish the goal. Really, what you're saying is broaden your ability to make goals, and make a goal for yourself personally financially as well, not just a goal for your business.


Matt Gellene:              Yeah, that's really well said. You know, ultimately, you have to make sure that you set the right goal, create the right plan, and make sure you've got the right level of priorities. Along with your advisor, create the right level of interaction and constantly evaluate so you can get to those goals, whatever they may be.


Gregg Stebben:          I'm going to ask you one more question, Matt. I want to boil this down into one thing to do today. So for anyone listening who realizes now, "I have not been planning adequately for myself, and my family, and even my business," the one piece of retirement advice you'd like to leave them with. I want you to close with, "Here's how you can reach out to us at Bank of America and Merrill Edge."


Matt Gellene:              Yeah, well, thank you for that. I think the most important thing I would say is ... and you've heard it throughout thematically here ... is make sure that you have the right level of plan in place to meet that life priority. For us, I think the best way to do that is to be informed and to access the right level of expertise. At Bank of America Merrill Edge, we have that for you. Certainly, as I mentioned, we have 2500 Financial Solutions Advisors that are out in our banking centers, our financial centers, as we call them, but you could do it simply by going to to begin the journey, see what we have to offer to help you in that regard. If you so desire to speak to someone, we can connect you right through that website to someone locally to help you.


Gregg Stebben:          He's Matt Gellene. This is “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Matt is the head of Financial Center Merrill Edge and National Performance Executive. Thanks so much for joining us. Great tips.


Matt Gellene:              My pleasure. Thanks, Gregg.


Narrator:                     Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at and Bank of America at

Learn more about Merrill Edge® at


Read next:


Now on the Small Business Community, listen to part two of Exploring Veteran Entrepreneurship. In addition to gaining insight on the entrepreneurial mindset of the men and women who have served their country, learn practical tactics for managing your business like a veteran. Did you miss part one? Tune in here.




“The Heartbeat of Main Street” delivers timely insights tailored to the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Featuring a rotating line-up of small business experts and industry leaders – and covering a range of topics – each episode explores the trends that have an impact on revenue creation for small business owners.


The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and more information can be accessed through adedicated home page. New episodes will appear regularly on the Small Business Community podcast page. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.



Marcus Flakes:          I was deployed three times in my military career in the Navy. One thing I want to point out is that what I learned from these deployments. I learned sacrifice, mission, and core values.


                                  Now, there were a whole lot of different things that I learned, but one of the few things that stuck with me was sacrifice, mission, and core values. I use these traits to develop an organizational culture within my company as well.


Narrator:                    Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at forbesbooks.comand Bank of America at


Gregg Stebben:         I'm here with Marcus Flakes, the CEO of Commercial Sanitation Initiative. A company that, frankly, I think is on the cutting edge and doing some really exciting things, but rather than me talk about it, Marcus, welcome. I want you to tell us about your business and what you're doing.


Marcus Flakes:          Thank you, Gregg. I appreciate it. Well, a little bit about my business. The umbrella company is CSI US Military Maintenance. We're a cleaning maintenance and remodeling company. We hire local veterans and their families as well as patriotic non-veterans with the mission of giving back to the community. We do this through industrial and military training for economic development projects, i.e., restoration of homes, cleaning, commercial cleaning, remodeling commercial buildings and things like that. Since our company's inception, which was February 2017, we've grown significantly with small business partnerships that have also enabled us to start a subsidiary venture known as Commercial Sanitation Initiative, CSI. CSI is a North American distributor of EnviroCleanse. This company is a combination of veteran entrepreneurs and small business owners distributing cleaning products and organic disinfectants nationwide.


Gregg Stebben:         One thing you said, Marcus, that I'm a little unclear of—and I did not serve in the military—and that may be why, but there's lots of people like me who may not understand some terminology. Did you say that you use military training with your employees? If that's the case, explain how that works because it's not clear to me.


Marcus Flakes:          Okay. Absolutely. The military training, as you well know, it's called Military Occupational Specialty, MOS. Within the military there's a myriad of knowledge, skills, and abilities that we acquire. One of the things I was focused on is how we can use the exact training from the military and transition that into civilian sector. I created this company around what the military actually does. Not in all facets, in a good piece, cleaning for instance. We learn that going into the military. I don't know a better cleaner than a military person.


Gregg Stebben:         We all know the ability of soldiers to do things like make beds and shine shoes and things. It's legendary to all of us just through what we see on movies and on TV. I suspect there's a lot more to it than what we see and what you've done is, I think, is actually recognize that those are highly valuable skills, and that once people are out of the military, you are able to put those people and those veterans and those skills to work.


Marcus Flakes:          That is absolutely correct. That's what we do.


Gregg Stebben:         I want to hear about your military background, but before we do, I want to pick up on something you mentioned, which is a product called EnviroCleanse. I think you said you're the North American distributor?


Marcus Flakes:          Correct.


Gregg Stebben:         I want to know a little bit more about that including, this really caught my eye on your website, and by the way, Marcus' company is Commercial Sanitation Initiative, the website is One of the things that caught my eye on your website is that there's some relationship between your company, EnviroCleanse, and Warren Buffett, or Berkshire Hathaway. Can you just explain that because I find that very, very interesting?


Marcus Flakes:          Yes, absolutely. EnviroCleanse LLC, it's a division of Charter Brokerage LLC, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway.


Gregg Stebben:         Which is owned by Warren Buffett.


Marcus Flakes:          Yeah, which is owned by Warren Buffett. Yeah. Absolutely. I have not yet talked to Warren Buffett. Very large company. I'm just one of the smaller entities down here making the mission happen for EnviroCleanse. With all due respect to Warren Buffett, he is the man behind the scenes making a lot of things happen for EnviroCleanse. I consider CSI as having an intricate role to distributing these products on a national level. When I say on a national level, I'm talking about the many industries that this product intersects.


Gregg Stebben:         Which are?


Marcus Flakes:          Which are retail, commercial, and industrial. You think about population health, I have a master's in public health so I think very broadly on these topics, but I'll make it very, very simple, is that everybody is seeking organic and sustainable products. I'm sure whoever is listening to this call could actually agree with me on that.


Gregg Stebben:         Yes.


Marcus Flakes:          We provide just that. We provide a product that is an organic disinfectant and we provide green cleaning, de-greasing formulas within another product. We've had a lot of traction from retailers and commercial and industrial. We're on the growth side at this point.


Gregg Stebben:         I think when you pick a product like EnviroCleanse and it has essentially not just the endorsement of Warren Buffet, but the fact that he owns that company and the product that the company makes, I think that for a lot of people is a level of validation that's untouchable. It's the gold standard. You know that if Warren Buffett has put his name on it essentially, it must be a great product and you're now the distributor for North America and I assume using it in your cleaning for your clients yourself at CSI.


Marcus Flakes:          That is absolutely correct. We've seen nothing but success when we talk to our clients about cleaning contracts. Not only do we offer our services with a good work ethic, but we also offer this product in conjunction to the contract. It gives them a double-edged view of what they're getting from us.


Gregg Stebben:         I'm talking with Marcus Flakes, the CEO of Commercial Sanitation Initiative. It's Tell us about your military background because it's a very big part of your story.


Marcus Flakes:          Okay. Well, I'm a 22-year veteran. I have a very wide background. My experience is within the Navy, Army, as well as full-time employment with the Texas Air National Guard. I was also a food program manager for the state of California Army National Guard as well. I was deployed three times in my military career in the Navy. One thing I want to point out is that what I learned from these deployments. I learned sacrifice, mission, and core values. Now, there were a whole lot of different things that I learned, but one of the few things that stuck with me is sacrifice, mission, and core values. I use these traits to develop the organizational culture within my company as well.


Gregg Stebben:         Would you say that as a business owner if you hadn't had that military training your business would be running very differently and would you actually look at your military training and say, you know, if I hadn't got those years of training in my 22 years of service to my country, I might not actually know how to be successful at running a business or starting a business?


Marcus Flakes:          You know, there's a true and false to that. The truth is that I gained the confidence from the military. Some of the things that they teach us, they teach us resiliency. They teach us leadership. They teach us sacrifice. Not being all about yourself. It's that selfless service that comes into play. It really brings on your ability to mentor others, which I do on a daily basis for other business owners that seek me out and want to know what I'm doing and how I can help them. But, as far as false, I would say if I never had gone to the military, I had interest prior to enlisting in the military and it was business and health. Looking in hindsight, I think I would've gone to school a lot earlier than I did and picked up a lot of knowledge, skills, and abilities and perhaps just like every other small business owner who doesn't have a military background, they're very successful as well. I really can't take that credit away.


Gregg Stebben:         What you're pointing to is that by serving that time in the military, in a sense, you sacrificed something else that was of interest to you for a long, long time, for 22 years, which was your interest in business and health. It's just interesting hearing your perspective on this because I think frankly for many of us, if we haven't served, we don't think about the idea ... We know that veterans come out of the military and then most of us in business know that they make great employees, particularly in the areas where they have trained, but I think most people today don't yet have the idea of what great entrepreneurs veterans make. Did you find in starting your business, and I don't know if this was your first business or you've started others, but in your time as a veteran starting businesses, have you found that there are certain hurdles that have been bigger hurdles for you because you were a veteran?


Marcus Flakes:          I have. I have. Starting out with employment. Usually when a veteran comes off active duty or gets out of the National Guard, they're taking on a new journey so to speak. We close that chapter and we start a new chapter here. One of the first attempts is getting a job. Not just any job, but a higher-paying job using the skillsets that they have acquired from the military. Now, when they get that, this is where the problem starts. Either you're over-qualified or you just don't have what that company is looking for. It's been a question for a long time as to why is it like that.

                                    Now, what happens to that veteran after they get so many No’s it becomes very frustrating and they start to ... their resilience, their resilience training starts to kick in because they're not gonna give up. They have no quit in them. They turn to entrepreneurship. There's groups out there. I'm a member of several groups with over a million veterans involved sharing information with one another, trying to make it easier on their comrades because quite frankly one veteran has more experience than the other. It's a beautiful thing because they're able to share that.


Gregg Stebben:         You know it's interesting. There was a study published by the Department of Veteran Affairs in 2017 last year that said that veterans are nearly twice as likely to be self-employed compared to non-veterans. I looked at that and on one hand I was surprised and on the other hand I wasn't. I could see a case being made either way. But that's the statistic. It never occurred to me that the process might be as you're describing that veterans get out of the service and then actually have a hard time getting an appropriate and better paying job given their skill level. They might be over-qualified. That only after that experience do they turn to entrepreneurship. I just assumed that a lot of veterans got out and when surveying the landscape of opportunity might think, oh, I can get a job, I can go into this kind of industry, or I can start my own business. Do you have a sense of how many veterans go through that process of having a hard time getting a job because they're over-qualified and turning to entrepreneurship versus taking that on as their first thing directly out of coming out of the service?


Marcus Flakes:          I think the percentile is pretty high having a problem finding a job initially. I think that percentage is somewhere around 40%. Then after that is when different veterans will think about different opportunities. Some start in the civilian sector and start looking for a private-owned company and want to work for them. Maybe a food distributing company or something like that. If they don't have any luck there, they usually turn to federal employment. Now, there's a lot of veterans looking for federal employment. Unfortunately, these federal agencies can't hire everybody. They can't hire everybody. They get very, very picky and selective about which veteran they’re going to hire. That's why they have those preferences. If you're service disabled, 50% or 100%, those go to the top. The people who don't have a disability, they're competing with the rest of the applicants with only a five point preference or so.


                                  Other than that, when they exhaust those opportunities, then they start looking at, okay, what can I do. It's usually entrepreneurship. They start thinking about what did I do in the military. Maybe I can start up a security company because I was a military police. Maybe I can start up a restaurant because I was a culinary specialist. You see the correlation of why they select different industries to start a business in.


Gregg Stebben:         I'm wondering if you have ideas ... I'm gonna ask this question in three levels. I'm wondering if you have ideas for things we as the individuals listening can do to help veterans either overcome the hump of getting a job because of what you said among other things being over-qualified, or more quickly move to the idea of being an entrepreneur. What can we as individuals do because we all have family and friends who are veterans and many of them are returning veterans or veterans looking for different career opportunities? I'm also wondering beyond us as individuals, and some people listening to this own small businesses or would consider starting another small business or another division as in a sense you've done, but I'm also wondering if you think there's things that government should be doing like Veteran's Affairs, and if there's things the federal government should be doing to make this process better for veterans who are no longer serving.


Marcus Flakes:          That's a really good question, Gregg. Not sure if I can fully answer that, but I'm gonna definitely give you my take on it. Whether it's government, nonprofit, or corporate entities, personally I'd like to see them as stakeholders such as theSBAand investors taking interest in business plans that are developed by veterans. The reason I say that is because I think that idea funding is more accessible than credit-based funding.


Gregg Stebben:         Really good point. Was access to capital an issue for you?


Marcus Flakes:          Access to capital is an issue for everybody. I don't know a business owner who doesn't need capital. When you're out there looking, where are you supposed to be looking? You could be a part of groups. You can put it in there. You can go on LinkedIn. You can say it there. There's just so many places you can say it, but that's social media. You're not having that conversation with that investor who gets the opportunity to sit at the dinner table and actually spell out what you want done for your business with the intention of that investor potentially wanting to help you. That opportunity doesn't come often.


Gregg Stebben:         I'm really interested in what you just said, Marcus. I'm talking with Marcus Flakes. He's the CEO of Commercial Sanitation Initiative. It's I'm really interested in what you said about idea-based funding versus credit-based funding for veterans. Are there programs like that that exist that veterans know about? I know, for instance, right here on Bank of America's “The Heartbeat of Main Street” that we do here with ForbesBooks with Bank of America, and they've rolled out a $20 million program for lending to US military veteran entrepreneurs. I know those kinds of programs exist, but I'm wondering to veterans know they exist and could part of the job here be just to do a better job of making them aware of it?


Marcus Flakes:          Yes. I've been doing my part as far as spreading the word out about this funding that's available to veterans for starting businesses. But I think this, they're hesitant because this is what they're thinking, is this just another hype about supporting veterans? Because to be honest with you, they're not really looking for a handout. I'm gonna give you a scenario. If you told me that I can give you money and you pay me back versus I can give you this account and we'll utilize your services and we'll benefit from your services while you earn money, I probably wouldn't go for the loan. I'd probably go where I'm earning revenue. I'm actually working for that capital.


Gregg Stebben:         I may be wrong about this, but I'm speculating you may actually be describing something that doesn't exist today, which is you mentioned idea-based funding. There's credit-based funding. But you're really describing a scenario where it's a work for funding. Does that exist or is this something that you have conceived of yourself?


Marcus Flakes:          This is something that I conceived of myself. You sit here and brainstorm about how do you access capital. There's no rule to how you access capital as far as I'm concerned. Accessing capital, I do it every day. The reason I say that is because I opened up another business so that it can be funded by the umbrella business. Listen, for instance, if I go out and get a $50,000 contract and it lasts for maybe two months or something like that, remodeling a home, what happens is that I take that revenue from a founder's perspective, I take my percent and I reinvest that back into the company. That's not capital. What I've done is I'm also increasing my percentage of injections into my asset ability of my company. Now I'm able to go to the bank and say, hey, look what I've been doing


Gregg Stebben:         A scenario where someone is just starting out, I think what you're suggesting is if there was a program that said you're going to get the $50,000 contract and the $50,000 access to the $50,000 today so that you can tool up to get the job done. You've just reverse-engineered the process you just said. It just involves having access to the capital upfront instead of at the end when the job has been complete.


Marcus Flakes:          Exactly. Because when you think about it, if an opportunity were to be presented to any veteran, or any small business owner for that matter, if it were to be presented that way, now you know you have revenue. Planned revenue. What do you do? You take that and now you can use invoice factorization to make sure you're able to take care of your employees. Now you're managing a business and you're not just looking for funding.


Gregg Stebben:         I want to ask you one other thing, Marcus, because this is really a fascinating conversation. As you're talking with other veterans, do you find that there are similar things that they say that prevents them from doing what you've done, which is starting a business that we as friends and family of veterans could hear? You might've already said this in a way, but I want to drill into it very specifically. As you're talking with veterans and they're thinking about starting a small business, are there certain things that stop them that you think we as friends and family should hear so that we know how to give the best encouragement to those veterans who are perhaps the next best greatest entrepreneurs?


Marcus Flakes:          I have not met a veteran that I've talked to that just stopped in their tracks because maybe it was something they read or something that they heard. They usually go into the startup. They have X amount of dollars to start. It's not very much usually, but they're all in. They're all in. What happens is that when they start, without the right mentor letting them know where those forks in the road are gonna be, that's when the confusion starts for them. There's this thing called business lifecycle stages. I don't think that veterans ... This is not to discredit any veterans. There are some great veterans out there that are doing some great things better than myself, but business lifecycle is an education in itself. It'll teach you a lot about startup, the growth maturity, and the acceptance and renewal by consumers. This is where you're able to understand where your business sits in the marketplace.


Gregg Stebben:         Yeah. Really what you're saying is for a veteran who wants to start a business, grit is not the problem. Getting started is not the problem. At some point though, they just may not know what's coming next or what they need to prepare for. That's where something like a mentor and business lifecycle, as you're describing it, can really make a difference.


Marcus Flakes:          Absolutely because they'll go from startup and skip growth to maturity. You miss the growth. This happens a lot. This happens a lot. They're good companies. They're solid. They're making connections. They've got leads and they're making money. Money is not really being invested back into the business, so you're not growing.


Gregg Stebben:         Yes. Yes. They have all the pieces, they just need a road map or help creating the appropriate road map to keep going forward and continue to build on that success.


Marcus Flakes:          Absolutely. Here's a gem. If they miss the investment, the injection back into their company, when they go to the table for a loan, they will be denied because there's a certain amount of injection percentage that the banks must see from your business. If it's not there, you don't have the tools to generate these financial statements, PNL statements, balance sheets, and all of that. If you don't have the tools to generate that, then you're gonna get overlooked anyway.


Gregg Stebben:         By skipping a step, there's downstream consequences you might not even understand until somebody stamps denied on your application.


Marcus Flakes:          Exactly.


Gregg Stebben:         That's a lot to think about. He is Marcus Flakes. He's the CEO of Commercial Sanitation Initiative. Making a really great case for why veterans make such great business leaders and entrepreneurs and things they need to know about to ensure their success even if they're at the point where they started a business and it's doing well, being able to look forward. I think mentorship is a really great point you make. I want to thank you, Marcus, for joining us here on the Heartbeat of Main Street.


Speaker 2:                 Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at forbesbooks.comand Bank of America at


Did you know veterans are twice as likely to be self-employed as non-veterans? Listen to part one of the latest podcast episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street” to hear about the entrepreneurial priorities, drive and future of the men and women who have served their country in the military.



“The Heartbeat of Main Street” delivers timely insights tailored to the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Featuring a rotating line-up of small business experts and industry leaders – and covering a range of topics – each episode explores the trends that have an impact on revenue creation for small business owners.


The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and more information can be accessed through a dedicated home page. New episodes will appear regularly on the Small Business Community podcast page. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.



Jeff Cathey:               You know they've fought for this country and now they can maybe own part of it or run a piece of it. Some that we talk to are very interested in coming back maybe even to their hometown into the community and helping their own reintegration efforts in that respect.                         


Narrator:                    Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at forbesbooks.comand Bank of America at


Kate Delaney:            Boy, I'm so excited. This time around we're diving into something really close to my heart to be honest. Jeff Cathey joins us. He's a Senior Military Affairs Executive for Bank of America and a former Navy captain. I'm married to an ex-Navy guy so I know what that's like. It's interesting because what we're going to talk about with Jeff is so, so significant. According to a study published, Greg, in 2017 by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, when you look at the veterans they are twice as likely to be self-employed compared to non-veterans. This does not surprise me. So, Jeff, first of all, welcome, and do you think this status really widely known by veterans themselves?


Jeff Cathey:                I think it is. We know that about 180 to 200,000 service members leave the Army and the Navy and the Air Force and the Marines every year. And as they do formerly they go through a transition assistance program in their individual services. And about 10% of them raise their hand and say, "I want to start my own business. I want to get in there and run a franchise or start my own business, and I'm very interested in receiving an initial primer on what that is all about. What are the resources out there? What are the barriers are there to either help me or hinder me in going forth with my efforts?" So it's a strong cohort that's interested in it.


                                   And the services have set that up to kind of segregate them off to the side and say, "Okay, if you're interested in starting your own business come over here and we'll start talking about business plans, and marketing plans, and so forth."


Gregg Stebben:         So Jeff, you're a former Navy captain, you're now the Senior Military Affairs Executive for Bank of America and I mean this is really what you focus on every day. I'm wondering looking back on your past as a Navy captain and now interacting with these veteran entrepreneurs every day, are there certain things that draw people to military service that then lead them to become great entrepreneurs? Are there things that happen in the training or in the course of their years of service that make them great at being entrepreneurs? Can you kind of see it as a whole or as a whole process for them?


Jeff Cathey:               Gregg, you know I would say that those who want to come out and start their own business really probably want to control their own destiny. And maybe in some ways quit taking orders and start giving them, right? And they're going to be successful. Employers are looking for talent, work ethic, and attitude. And 70% nationwide survey of companies are looking for primarily work ethic and attitude. So, I think the ones who raise their hand and want to start their own company, that work ethic will transfer over. It’s up to them to keep the attitude on because there are going to be starts and stutters and so forth. And then the talent portion of it, that's the neat part where they're going to be intellectually curious. They're going to have to go and start a new mission, and they're going to have to learn all this stuff from the business plan to the marketing plan, to how to raise capital and so forth.


                                  I just see them as they fought for this country and now they can maybe own part of it or run a piece of it. I think they don't lack confidence. I think they've had a ton of responsibility in the service. They've had global exposure. They worked in diverse environments. They've done some crisis action planning and they've made some decision making at high rate of speeds. So, I think they can jump right into it. Some that we talk to are very interested in coming back maybe even to their hometown into the community and helping their own reintegration efforts in that respect.


Kate Delaney:            Jeff, I referenced this in the beginning because of my own family I saw this, and I talked about this study that was published in 2017 by the US Department of Veteran Affairs, and in that study they also found that self-employed veterans demonstrated higher levels of gratitude, community integration, and altruistic service to others. I'm not surprised by that because of what I've seen. Can you talk about how supporting veteran entrepreneurs and encouraging other vets to become entrepreneurs and small business owners also brings great benefits to the community at large?


Jeff Cathey:               It does, Kate. To get out there and ... there's less than one percent of Americans that are putting the uniform on. And so, they are highly trained, they're very specialized, their operational tempo is high, they deploy a lot. Americans nationally and in the local communities want to support the troops so to speak, but they can't find them. And so, they're just gone. And to be able to come back and self socialize and to start up through your own initiative your own company, and get rid of the national tendency towards isolation whether you're on a military installation or you're on a Mac flight going overseas, or you're on the ground deployed in South Korea or Germany, or you're in a combat zone. That isolation has just really got to be peeled back. And to start your own company, and to put a sign up on the window kind of demystifies the whole thing. I think so many of the veterans, they're community integrators, they're going to be contributors. They want to get in there whether it's on the little league field, at the church, any kind of associations to include in the business community.


Gregg Stebben:         We're talking with Jeff Cathey, the Senior Military Affairs Executive for Bank of America—he's a former Navy captain. We're also talking about how and why veterans become so great at being small business owners and entrepreneurs. And one of the things I want to ask you Jeff is, what are some of the challenges that veterans face? And when I Googled this I actually came up with the term “vetrepreneurship,” so there's clearly a movement here, but what are some of the challenges that veterans face in starting a small business or continuing to run one, and what kinds of programs are out there? For instance, I know that BofA just launched a programto help military veteran entrepreneurs.


Jeff Cathey:               We did and it's exciting. And let me just table that for a second, Gregg. But I would say the barriers are access to capital. Really where are the dollars, number one. And number two I think inside the military we have appropriated dollars from the tax payers through the Congress. And so, it's a budgetary sort of exercise, large budgets but it's different then the raising of capital in the generation of revenue. And so that is something that the vetrepreneur sort of has to learn, and then also how to manage expenses, and how to borrow money to grow that business. So I think those are the barriers. And then that business acumen part, now it's, "Okay, I gotta develop a business plan. I've gotta know my marketing plan and who's the competitors, who else is already out there." Maybe this market in Des Moines, Iowa, is saturated or over saturated in trying to do mobile automobile detailing or dog grooming, or whatever it is. So, those are the things that are out there.


                                   And then as I said the access to capital is the big one. So, if they come to most banks, they leave the Army on Friday and want to start their business on Monday and they walk into the bank, they're just not bankable. So, a lot of them will go over to other sources of capital or maybe even a credit card and pay pretty high rates to borrow that money, and sometimes that can be crushing and put them out of business before they even start.


                                   So, Bank of America on the 8th of June announced a $20 million veteran entrepreneur lending program whereby the non-profit lending arm of the company and some community development financial institutions, CDFI's, are out there. We funded five of them over seven states: Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, California, New York, and both Carolinas. And it's a real solution. At about an eight percent plus or minus percent type of lending for the veteran. And so, we lent about zero to one percent to those CDFI's who turn around and lend to the business owner once they vet them and look at their credit scores, and their business plan, and all that, that we mentioned. You can start at eight percent, it opens the door, it gets them to meet their financial needs for the capital upfront and off they go. So, we're very excited about that CDFI program called Veteran Entrepreneur Lending Program. $20 million dollars over those five CDFI's, and it's just started and we're very excited about it.


Gregg Stebben:         You know what's interesting Jeff is as I've been listening to you—and I did not serve in the military, I am not a veteran—I've learned so much by listening to you. And I was really excited to talk to you because I realized folks who have not served and our not veterans have so much to learn from this conversation. And one of the things I started thinking as I've been listening to you here is, there are probably some real advantages to being in the military and then getting out and starting a business, but there are probably some disadvantages.


                                  And one of the disadvantages I thought of as you've been talking is, if I go the traditional entrepreneurial route, which I think for many people is you go to college and maybe you're studying business maybe you're not, but you're networking with other potential entrepreneurs in the community perhaps or you're just focused on a very specialized thing because you have a college major. Then maybe you go on to get a master's degree and a PhD. You've been building this whole network around you that's going to support you in your business. That's not necessarily true I would think for a veteran, so that could be a disadvantage that they're not in the same environment. And do you think programs like this BofA program or are there other programs from like the SBA that help support veterans to eliminate that disadvantage and turn it into an advantage?


Jeff Cathey:               Yeah, no I hear you Gregg. And the sequence just comes in different orders. And so, I agree with you. There's a very hierarchal way and build the triangle like you said on one side. The other side is go over there and defend your countrymen and do what you're asked to do from a military for deployed perspective and so forth. And you're sort of losing ground along the way when you come back.


                                   And that's why it's so exciting to see these veteran entrepreneur programs that have been established mostly at the land grant colleges like University of Florida, Oklahoma State University, University of Southern Calthe Marshall School of Businessand at Syracuse University at IVMF, and even here locally where I am at Hillsborough Community College they have Operation Startup. Not a set aside, but just a veteran entrepreneur program. Even Stanford has Ignite.


                                   There's 1.1 million veterans on college campuses executing the GI Bill and most of these courses ... and I've been to the one out in LA and up in Gainesville and Stillwater, Oklahoma and most of these. There's about 80-90 veteran entrepreneurs either current existing ownership, have a business fledgling in their first or second year, or brand new. And those usually go eight or nine months or so, and they'll come in for a week and get to know the instructors, the expectations and so forth, and have some academics there. And then they'll go back to their hometowns through some online academics and some mentorship along the way, and some checkpoints and so forth. And they'll come back and graduate. So, it's good. There's a buzz around it. There's strength in numbers. Popping out of that is going to be sort of the evening out of those sort of two different paths to owning your own business.


Kate Delaney:            So, Jeff I can imagine you just talked about some of the programs that are there, can you share with us some stories from some of the vets, some of the entrepreneurs and small business owners that you've worked with in your position with Bank of America?


Jeff Cathey:               You know Kate, I’d say most of those that I know that are running organizations, and I'd equate them to a small business, they're leading non-profits. And these are sort of millennial led non-profits that Bank of America's associated with such as Student Veterans of America, such as America's Warrior Partnership, or Team Red, White, and Blue, or Mission Continues, or Team Rubicon. And these are young men and women as executive directors of these organizations that essentially are doing the same thing. Even a non-profit, you've gotta generate revenue, you've gotta fundraise, you've gotta control expenses, and staffing, and travel, and everything else, and you have to lead a team. And that's exactly what they're doing. And so, we have great partnerships, long lasting partnerships sustained with all of those non-profits, and some of the smaller veteran owned businesses.


                                   We went out to People Fundwhose one of those five CDFI's that we spoke about. They're in Texas, they're in Austin, Texas. And we went out and met Gary Lindner and he runs them. And we looked at all their books, met some of their veteran entrepreneurs. Looked at how they vet who they're going to lend to. We looked at their loss rates. We looked at their sustained efforts to support these veterans as they start up their business, because it's more than just veteran entrepreneur leadership program I talked about. It's more than just writing a check and the $20 million dollars to those five CDFI's. It's lending, and learning, and technical assistance. And so, that is a huddle up, that's support network, that is we've all go the same target, but there's going to be some off ramps, there's going to be some unexpected barriers and so forth. But this is the learning part of it through Syracuse University, and IVMF the Institute of Veteran and Military Families, their V-Wise, their women veterans programs. There are ways and technical assistance for those business plans, and control of money, and expenses, and so forth to make this a go. So it's not “here's your check good luck, see you later.”


Gregg Stebben:         Well that makes perfect sense. And in fact, Jeff when I was getting ready for this interview and just Googled the phrase military veteran entrepreneurs and veteran entrepreneurs, that's when I began to discover that there's this whole world that includes networking, and programs like you've described for learning in addition to access to capital and things like that.


                                   We're talking with Jeff Cathey, he's the Senior Military Affairs Executive for Bank of America, and a former Navy captain. I want to ask you Jeff, we're talking here about veterans starting businesses or continuing to run businesses and getting the kind of support that can help them continue to be successful. I'm wondering if you have any suggestions for people who are listening who are family or friends of a veteran and they know that their family member or their friend has always talked about or dreamed of starting a business, but maybe just needs a little bit of a push. Are there things those of us who are family or friends can do to support that veteran to enable them to take the first step?


Jeff Cathey:                I think so, Gregg. I think beside lending them a few dollars is to really get them into the community and even the SCORE. The senior former executives that are out there in most markets around the country that lend their expertise, so they have come and gone in their business entrepreneurship and been successful, and they know what the minefields are, and they know what the success metrics are. These are companies big and small. If you look back at current or recent executives, CEO's of large companies like Lockheed Martin, and FedEx, and Proctor and Gamble—Proctor and Gamble's Bob McDonald is a West Point graduate who was most recent secretary of the VA. And so, these are good leaders. Bank of America was run by a Marine, Hugh McColl, General Motors same thing. And so, they all somewhere in there whether they served like I did for 29 years or they came in and did an honorable service for four years and then left, and struck out on their own.


                                   As I said, everybody's wanting to support the troops and more than just writing a check. So, if you get in the local area, what is it that community ... and these are where communities can be led by all of us as collaborators and integrators through the economic development part of a local community, or the Chambers of Commerce and other ways to do this, and figure out where the belly button is to push it to collaborate, because it's just really a bit of an opening of a door just like our CDFI program. Just open that door, get it going, and it's going to flush out in the right direction. And it's really just the socialization, sort of a networking, the exchange of ideas, the engagement. As I said, these veterans and these former servicemen, they're going to come and they're going to contribute. They're going to show up early, they're going to wrap it up, they're going to work on a weekend, they're going to figure it out until it goes. And just a little bit of a push from those in the know, this is an economic stimulator, this is a very good and a righteous way to help veterans reintegrate into the community and not be so isolated.


Kate Delaney:            I can only image what it's going to look like in 10 years, so exciting. Jeff Cathey, Senior Military Affairs Executive for Bank of America, former Navy captain. Thanks so much for joining us.


Jeff Cathey:               Kate, thank you very much. Gregg, likewise.


Narrator:                    Thanks for listening to “the Heartbeat of Main Str”et" with ForbesBooks at forbesbooks.comand Bank of America at

Last night I went out to dinner with my family, and the restaurant we visited was unusually packed. When I asked the waitress what was up, she said that the restaurant was giving out a free dinner to all veterans this month in honor of both their service and the upcoming Veteran’s Day holiday on November 11.


We were happy to wait.


It reminded me of a great story I heard a few years ago about a sergeant named Robbie Doughty. Doughty was 32 when he lost both legs in a bomb blast in Iraq. USA TODAY did a story about the sergeant and soon after he received a phone call from Michael Ilitch, the owner of the Little Caesars Pizza chain (and the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings.) Ilitch just wanted to thank Doughty for his service, but the call ended with Ilitch offering Doughty his own Little Caesars Pizza franchise. Today, Doughty is a successful entrepreneur in his hometown in Kentucky.


              Related: See how Bank of America shows its support and commitment to veterans and their families


It’s not surprising that entrepreneurship resonated with Doughty. Indeed, if you think about it, there are many reasons why veterans make great entrepreneurs, and why almost 10% of all small businesses are veteran-owned:

  • Vets understand the idea of teamwork and uniting behind a bigger mission
  • They not only take direction well, they are also well-versed in leadership
  • Creatively solving the problem is what they do


Given this, and the fact there are so many veterans since 9/11, I am happy to report there are a lot of great programs designed to help veterans start and grow their own businesses.



The Small Business Administration: The SBA has a lot of resources for the veteran small business entrepreneur. For example, the SBA has a program called Operation Boots to Business. The program’s goal is to provide business training to military service personnel who are in transition to civilian life.


Another great SBA program is the Veterans Business Outreach Center. The VBOC is a “one-stop-shop for transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses looking to start, purchase, or grow a business. Located nationwide, VBOCs provide transition assistance programs such as training, counseling and mentoring, and resource referrals.”


The Veterans Administration, Veteran Entrepreneur Portal: Part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, this site offers a plethora of programs to help veteran entrepreneurs, everything from starting to financing to growing a business.


The National Veteran Owned Business Association: NaVOBA is a private, non-profit association that acts as a gathering place and resource for veteran small business owners.


The V-Wise IGNITE Program: IGNITE is operated by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) and the SBA. Designed especially for female veterans, IGNITE is a one-day entrepreneurship training event offered in cities across the country.


The program is open to women veterans, active duty service women, and women military spouses/life-partners interested in small business ownership.  The program features nationally acclaimed speakers, expert instructors, local and military friendly business resource providers, and successful veteran women and military spouse entrepreneurs.

On this Veteran’s Day, it is great to see that “thank you for your service” is not just a phrase, but is being backed up by so many great organizations looking to help veterans transition into small business ownership.




About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss                          

Web: or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.


Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Did you know that, according to SBA (U.S. Small Business Administration) estimates, approximately one out of every ten businesses is owned by veterans? This contributes approximately $1.4 trillion to the country’s total receipts/sales every year. With this in mind, veterans are valuable to the nation not only for their time spent serving, but also for their positive impact on the economy. However, not every veteran comes home equipped to start a business.



As Steve Strauss highlighted in yesterday’s article for veteran small business owners, there are many resources designed to help veterans start and grow their businesses, from training and mentorship opportunities to federal contracting opportunities and loan programs. This article will dive deeper to explore additional resources to help broaden the scope of services available to veterans. Perhaps no areas are as important to the establishment and successful management of a business that training and funding.




OVBD (Office of Veterans Business Development) facilitates support to service-disabled veterans, SBA programs by veterans, active-duty service members, transitioning service members, veterans’ dependents or survivors, and reservists. OVBD is an SBA faction devoted to promoting veterans entrepreneurship via funding and training.


Training is an integral part of any startup. Many mistakes that kill new businesses are avoidable. SBA is armed with a network of resource partners with extensive experience offering training and counseling, equipping business-minded veterans for the market and lenders. Commercial supply chains and federal procurement play a significant role in the veterans business.


The SBA’s “Veteran Business Outreach Center” is a one-stop-shop that provides interactive learning opportunities and hands-on experience to transitioning veterans. Opportunities are available for all veterans and their spouses.


Veterans Business Outreach Center seeks to:


  1. Boost the veteran awareness of entrepreneurial development services
  2. Increase the access of the veterans to entrepreneurial development services
  3. Help veterans fully utilize the entrepreneurial development services for the growth of the economy.


Visit their site to find a center near you:




Investors are sometimes weary to invest in startups due to the high risks of failure. Many studies have shown that nine out of every ten businesses fail in the first year of operation. As a result, investors and lenders need assurance that the money they give will come back to them.


Through varied programs, SBA offers business loans to veterans for much needed capital to grow their businesses. The Veteran Advantage program under SBA guarantees approved loans to business that are at least 51 percent owned by a veteran or military spouse.


Of note, the MREIDL (Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan) program provides veteran-owned small businesses with a monetary lifeline in the event the business is struggling to meet the necessary operating and cashflow needs. This can sometimes happen after a crucial employee is recalled to military active duty.


All the services available to the veterans through these institutions are done to appreciate the veterans’ valued sacrifice and service to the nation. What can you do? Support veteran-run businesses, as they not only stimulate the economy but provide opportunities to give back to those who have given much for us.


Learn more about the Bank of America $20 Million Lending Program for U.S. Military Veteran Entrepreneurs


For more information about great business resources for veteran entrepreneurs, check out these podcast episodes:



Read next:



About Ebong Eka



Ebong Eka is no stranger to the world of personal finance. As a certified public accountant and former professional basketball player he offers a fresh perspective to small business planning and executing. With over fifteen years of accounting, tax & small business experience with firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche and CohnReznick, Ebong provides practical money solutions tailored to the everyday person, the aspiring entrepreneur or the small business owner.


Ebong is the founder of EKAnomics, a sales, pricing and leadership firm. He is also the founder of Ericorp Consulting, Inc., a tax and management consulting firm. Ebong is the author of “Start Me Up! The-No-Business-Plan, Business Plan.


Ebong is also the founder of The $250 Tax Pro, which provides tax preparation and consulting services in the Washington, DC area.


Web: or Twitter: @EbongEka.

You can read more articles from Ebong Eka by clicking here


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Ebong Eka to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Ebong Eka is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Ebong Eka. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.


Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

When leaving the military, veterans are faced with a choice: What to do next? iStock-1162215626.jpg


For many, the choice is clear. They learned or sharpened skills during their time of service and those skills make them eminently employable. Combined with their ability to work in a team, follow direction, and lead, you see why many veterans are in high demand by employers upon discharge.


That said, many of those same traits are also the ones needed to start a business: Taking the initiative, creating a plan, following through, etc. So yes, veterans also make great entrepreneurs, and maybe that is why they are so successful at it. According to the Census Bureau, just about 10 percent of all small businesses in this country are owned by veterans (roughly 2.5 million), and those business employ some 5 million Americans.


Help for Veterans Starting a Business


If you have a veteran-owned business, or want to start one, the good news is that there is a lot of help available, much of it free.

Here are some of the best:


  • Free online introduction to veteran entrepreneurship course: Bunker in a Box is a great resource.  Embark on 14 “missions” that include video, expert commentary, related articles and track your progress. According to Bunker CEO Todd Conner, “The Bunker in a Box is designed to be a first-stop for exploring entrepreneurship.”
  • Patriot Boot Camp (PBC): Speaking of training, the purpose of PBC is “to assemble and activate an inclusive community that advances veterans and military spouses in their mission to become creators, innovators and entrepreneurs leading the new economy.” Programs are held in various cities nationwide.
  • University training: The leader for in-person, live entrepreneurship training is the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University (in conjunction with a host of other major universities.) Here you will find an online 30-day curriculum, followed by a 9-day in-person session at the university. Participants also receive follow-up support and mentoring.
  • Women entrepreneurship training: IGNITE is also operated by IVMF (and the SBA.) Designed especially for female veterans, IGNITE is a one-day entrepreneurship training event offered in cities across the country.
  • Even more free training: VettoCEO is a program exclusively for verified members of the military and veterans. Designed and facilitated by veteran entrepreneurs, the course is offered online “so that anyone, anywhere can participate in a well-designed, collaborative online environment.”
  • Small Business Administration programs: Not surprisingly, the SBA has a lot of resources for the veteran entrepreneur. Check out its Operation Boots to Business program, whose goal is to provide business training to military service personnel who are in transition to civilian life.
  • The Veterans Administration, Veteran Entrepreneur Portal: Part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, this site offers many programs to help veteran entrepreneurs - everything from starting to financing to growing a business.
  • Free money: The Street Shares Foundation gives away combined $25,000 every year for veteran entrepreneurship.
  • Even more money: If you need investments in the six-figures, check out the veteran-focused angel fund, Hivers & Strivers.
  • Contracting opportunities: The National Veteran Owned Business Association, NaVOBA’s mission is to create corporate contracting opportunities for America’s Veteran’s and Service-Disabled Veteran’s Business Enterprises through certification, advocacy, outreach, recognition and education.

So yes, with so much help available, it is a great time to be, or to want to be, a veteran entrepreneur.


About Steve Strauss


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Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.


Web: or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

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Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

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