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Endless opportunity in the face of enormous loss

Retired Army Sergeant, Alicia Hanf, served six years before transitioning to civilian life. Bridging the gap seemed easy. Hanf began her civilian career working for a marketing agency in Baltimore. Soon, she was at the top of her game. Then, one day, in an instant, her whole life trajectory changed.

She received a call from her brother. “Mom’s dead,” was all he said.

In that moment, numb to the world and short of breath, she could hear her drill sergeant’s voice.

“Do you know what your last known point is?”

Last known point is a component of situational awareness. It is the ability to re-orient yourself with your surroundings and find the last recognizable place in your environment. Finding your last known point helps you plot your way back from being lost.

According to Hanf, “From there, you find your way.” For her, last known point is the veteran’s edge in navigating the business world.

When Hanf was transitioning out of the military, she was mentored by a group of women. They helped her with her resume. They aided her in her job search. Their coaching helped her successfully cross over into civilian life.

Hanf says she could not have gotten as far as she is today were it not for the veterans and business organizations that helped create opportunities for her.

“When I think of opportunity, I think of all the things my mom gave up for us to have a good life. For me, opportunity is endless, it’s abundant. It’s always available to us,” Hanf says optimistically. She adds that such opportunities are available to all transitioning service members.

Whether it is help starting a new business, growing an existing one, or connecting with networking groups, Hanf advises veterans to seek out and take advantage of the many resources available to them.

For entrepreneurs feeling lost and looking for a last known point, there are numerous resources available.

Here are just a few to start that journey:

1) Resources available to all small business owners

  • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has over 100 centers providing training and counseling services in a variety of topics to help Americans start, build, and grow their businesses.
  • Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) provide free business consulting and low-cost training. Topics include business plan writing, capital formation, and marketing, among others.

2) Resources available to women business owners

  • The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership sponsors a Women-Owned Small Businesses Federal Contracting Program to provide access to federal contracting opportunities.
  • International Association of Women (IAW) provides networking events, professional development opportunities, career and business development services, and promotional opportunities for women in all stages of business.

3) Resources available to Veteran business owners

  • The SBA’s Veteran Business Outreach Centers provide business training, counseling and mentoring to veterans in their local communities.
  • Veteran Entrepreneur Portal is a part of the VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. It provides business education, financing opportunities, information, and links to government programs created specifically for veterans.

For more information and useful financial tools visit VCM.com/military.

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