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Post 9/11 Veterans Encouraged to Start Their Own Businesses

Florida’s current unemployment rate is 8.8 percent. But that’s an average. When you drill down into the numbers a bit you can find higher rates among certain segments of the population including post 9/11 veterans. That rate now stands at 10.9 percent nationally. And that has inspired a strong effort to find jobs for veterans at the federal, state and local level. There’s a group of retired local executives who are helping veterans start their own businesses.

Julie MaCadoo was in the air force for more than seven years. She was a C-130 navigator which means she told the pilots where to go and she says most of the time they listened. Now – MaCadoo is guiding a staff of four who work for her new business called Refresh Your Nest Cleaning Services.

“I learned in the military that I wanted to be my own boss at some point. They taught a lot of leadership skills and I saw a lot of examples of leadership both good and bad and I wanted to put them in practice for myself,” she said. House cleaning is competitive, but it seemed a good fit because she’d gotten a lot of experience as a new mom.

“I bring my military training to this and I train my employees based on the training I got and the methods of training that I got in the military. Like we’ll run drills. I’ll say here’s a room and here’s a checklist of things I need done in this room. I’ll give you 20 minutes. Let’s see how it goes,” said MaCadoo.

MaCadoo and her next door neighbor started Refresh Your Nest six months ago, but are in it for the long haul. So, she started networking and met a counselor from SCORE – the volunteer group of retired executives who help small business owners.

“Even though I got my MBA and learned all of the theory and philosophy and wonderful things they teach in business school, there’s a lot of nuts and bolts things. You know they didn’t actually give me a class on sales and when I sat down with Jack a few weeks ago and he was like how’s selling going,” said MaCadoo.

Jack Grise is a volunteer counselor with the Pinellas SCORE chapter. He is now mentoring MaCadoo. He taught her how to close the sale. He served in the Navy in the 1960s so he has a passion to help veterans.

“I started the veterans initiative because I saw a need with these guys coming home with the unemployment rate for veterans,” said Grise.

He said the census shows there are more than 100,000 veterans ages 18 to 54 in the Tampa Bay region. That’s the age where the Small Business Administration survey data shows that 25 to 40 percent have thought about self-employment or starting their own business. So Pinellas SCORE has teamed with Hillsborough SCORE to hold a Veterans Entrepreneurial Business Expo Oct. 6th.

“We want these guys to feel very comfortable to come to SCORE which at the event we will have 10 counselors or more willing to sit with the person and let them ask questions and talk about their idea and we’ll see if its viable and how to move forward with it,” said Grise.

Pinellas SCORE’s incoming leader Cliff Sullivan said there’s a long tradition of veterans starting their own companies.

“When I got out of the navy I joined the family business which my father started when he got out of the Air Force in 1946 and at a time when many WWII veterans were starting business. So we’re trying to plant the seeds and the concepts and the ideas for today’s veterans to be able to do that,” said Sullivan.

In addition to the Veterans Expo, SCORE presents workshops that veterans can attend for free. Sullivan said several are timely like internet marketing and social media. That’s the kind of help veteran Jack Slaydon is looking for. He served in the Coast Guard worked for a big food producer but recently started his own company, Healthy Heritage Grass-Fed Beef.

“When I started my own company I expanded so much I needed some help. I called some colleagues in Miami and they referred me to SCORE because SCORE helped them in the past and they’re now operating successful businesses,” said Slaydon.

Slaydon currently sells a wide variety of hormone free, grass fed meats at Fresh Markets in the Tampa Bay Area. SCORE is helping him restructure his company.

He said, “Anything that comes up I have a personal mentor I can call they’re so nice they give you their emails, their cell phones and you can contact them anytime you have a problem they give you answers that will directly help you with your business and that will help you get to the next level.”

Slaydon plans to the attend Veterans Expo to get advice on how to set up websites and marketing on the internet. There will be a business boot camp as well as free legal consultations and accountants who will help veterans set up their computer bookkeeping for free.