Florida has 153,830 women veterans.
Shevonica M. Howell, a Jacksonville resident who served in the Army, is one of them. She’s headed to Tallahassee this week hoping to add to her entrepreneurial tool box at a workshop for women veterans.
Howell opened Academy of Scholars Inc., a private school that grew from 16 to 37 students since it opened last year. The 41-year-old is amazed by resources available to veterans who are curious about entrepreneurship. For example, she won $15,000 from Citi Salutes Realizing Your Dreams Business Plan Competition. Howell wants women veterans to know anything is possible.
“I am hoping to motivate and encourage veteran women to not give up and tap into the resources that are out there for them and keep like-minded veterans in their circle,” she said.
On Wednesday, the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce is kicking off its fall workshop series aimed at veterans and entrepreneurs like Howell. The free workshop targets both women veterans and military spouses and offers a diverse mix of specialized resources for veterans.
Several woman veteran/entrepreneurs will speak from experience, both while serving in the military and while building a business. The event will also feature vendor booths from major veteran-specific organizations, a Q&A session and more.
“With this demographic, we are working with natural born leaders,” said Sean Pittman, chamber founder and chairman. “We believe that targeting this demographic in particular will help provide the kind of example that others need in order to have a positive impact on economic impact in our region.”
In addition, Pittman said previous workshops represent a diverse mix of attendees.
“Anybody can benefit from these workshops, those who are representative of the target group and those who want to do business with the targeted group,” Pittman said. “Our workshops are for the givers and the takers.”
The chamber’s Women’s Business Council is handling the workshop details. Coordinators say this week marks the first time the Minority Chamber has tailored a workshop toward women who are veterans and entrepreneurs.
“We sharpened the saw on our workshop series this year,” said Gina Kinchlow, a chamber board member liaison to the Women’s Business Council. “General information workshops worked well for us last year, but we realized it was time to bring more definition to both our workshop topics and our audiences.”
Ashley Edwards, program director for the Florida State University Student Veteran Center, said entrepreneurship and women are a “perfect fit” and pursuing this path creates more flexibility to run a business and a household.
“It’s like a perfect storm for empowerment and economic freedom,” she said.
•153,830 women veterans live in Florida.
•Florida has the third largest concentration of women veterans nationwide, followed by Texas and California.
•21.9 million veterans are in the United States — 1.97 million are women. (US Department of Veteran Affairs, September 2014).
•47.3 percent of American’s women veterans are age 30 or younger.
•Veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans; 1 in 10 small businesses are veteran-owned. (US Small Business Administration).
•Veteran-owned business are among the most successful group of small to medium sized businesses.
Source: Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce
The Fall workshop series begins Wednesday. Seating is limited. Per-register at http://bit.ly/1OLCHlC. Here’s the line-up:
Wednesday — WOMAN+VETERAN+ENTREPRENEUR: The Formula for Small Business Success. Takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Workforce Development Building, Tallahassee Community College.
Sept. 30 — THINK BIGGER: Growing A Business Or Career With Technology.
Oct. 28 — HARD HAT REALTORS: Building Real Estate Empires Through Vertical Integration
Nov. 18 — Help! I’m Self-Employed: Creating Long Term Wealth for the Small Business Owner