Comstock's magazine 1118 - November 2018 - Page 59

founded in 1980 and partially funded by the Small Business Administration that provides veterans with free business consulting services, training and work- shops. The staff, Belaski says, helped him network and craft ideas for how to expand to a second location. He then connected with Veteran Launch, a nonprofit based in Oakland that helps veterans secure business fi- nancing. A $250,000 loan paid for two vans and equipment needed for Belaski and Donoho to open a second restaurant in Folsom in 2016. That mentorship and loan money has turned a successful, farm-to-fork restau- rant into one on the path to franchising across the country. The first franchise opened in Elk Grove this year and others are planned for Dallas, Chicago, Scotts- dale, Ariz., Seattle and West Sacramento. “I didn’t join the Marine Corps to eventually become a business owner, but to come out and know these pro- grams are out there and people want to say thank you ... it’s great,” says Belaski, who left the Marines in 1992 and says he didn’t have the resources that veterans today do. But that military attitude to per- severe is the reason, he says, that he and his partner didn’t give up on their idea for a restaurant despite the odds against them. After 9/11 and the wars in Afghani- stan and Iraq, there has been a prolifer- ation of veteran-specific entrepreneur- ship programs created to help veterans, according to a 2016 report published by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families that examined the state of en- trepreneurship among veterans. States and the federal government have created programs and incentives to give a boost to veterans interest- ed in starting their own business. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, offers an online Veteran Entrepreneur Portal intended to con- nect veterans to the resources they need, with information about how to get financing or contract with the fed- eral government. That’s a far cry from the days when a soon-to-be veteran was only handed a flier upon leaving the military. The Small Business Administra- tion provides financing and loans that have helped more than 200,000 mili- tary-connected individuals who are or want to become self-employed since the mid-2000s, according to the report. The nonprofit Veterans Business Out- reach Center that helped The Waffle Experience advises about 20 veterans a month on plans to either start or expand their business — v ­ eterans of all ages but mostly those in their 50s and older, and veterans who have a disability. “Some just know they want to start a business but don’t have an idea. Others have a business plan,” says Pinder Virk, events and training ambassador at the VBOC. “We give them a platform where they can go back to their normal lives after service.” There are also tax benefits for vet- erans. In 1941, California passed legis- lation that waives the general business license fee to any honorably discharged member of the U.S. military who sells merchandise. In 2007, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted to also waive half the cost the general business license fee to veterans who run a service-related business. In September, the board vot- ed to waive the full cost of the fee. That break is a minimal cost to the county at $49,000 a year, but it’s one that Supervi- sor Sue Frost says gives veterans the leg up they deserve. “Their personality is one of service and giving. They are not the kind of peo- ple who ask for help,” Frost says. “One of the ways I think we can help them is have programs they’ve earned.” THE EMPLOYMENT GAP At ICON, Hawkins values veterans for the technical skills and mindset they bring to his plane-manufacturing company. November 2018 | comstocksmag.com 59