It was an all too familiar story for former combat Infantry Sergeant and “Veteran’s Pathway to Business Success” founder, Jerry Kramer. “I came home without a job, money or education,” Kramer said. It was this experience that drove him to start “Veteran’s Pathway” in 2012. The organization provides grants – that have no fees, no interest and no payback requirements – to combat Veterans of the war in Afghanistan or Iraq, who wish to start or grow their own business in the state of Florida.
It is hard to imagine what it would be like to return home after spending months or years in combat for the preservation of these United States, only to realize the full impact of the current recession. Our nation’s Veterans are returning to a barren job market and many are still adapting to civilian life.
“Seeing the opportunity to help those who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan come home to millions of jobs being wiped out as a result of the recession, we saw an opportunity to come in and help those who were willing to help themselves by starting a business.”
Charlotte Laurent-Ottomane is the Executive Director for Veteran’s Pathway To Business Success. She became involved with the organization when she saw an opportunity to help those who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and had come home to millions of jobs being wiped out as a result of the looming recession. WashingtonExec had the opportunity to speak with Laurent-Ottomane about her work at “Veteran’s Pathway” and the unique ways that its programs are bringing entrepreneurial Veterans back into the workforce.
WashingtonExec: Could you tell me about your background and your role with Veterans’ Pathway To Business Success?
Laurent-Ottomane: As the Executive Director I am tasked with overseeing the strategic direction of Veterans’ Pathway To Business Success, which includes vetting our applicants, driving private sponsorship initiatives and guiding the overall direction of the program.
“Veteran entrepreneurs know the kind of skills that military provides and with that inside knowledge, they know that Veterans are a valuable asset to any entrepreneurial venture.”
WashingtonExec: What led you to become involved with the organization?
Laurent-Ottomane: Seeing the opportunity to help those who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan come home to millions of jobs being wiped out as a result of the recession, we saw an opportunity to come in and help those who were willing to help themselves by starting a business. The Small Business Administration estimated that 20 percent of Veterans are interested in starting or purchasing their own business.
WashingtonExec: How can entrepreneurs help veterans and PTSD?
Laurent-Ottomane: Veteran entrepreneurs know the kind of skills that military provides and with that inside knowledge, they know that Veterans are a valuable asset to any entrepreneurial venture. In regards to PTSD, driving your own entrepreneurial venture provides a Veteran with purpose again, similar to when they had a mission during active combat. Living out one’s entrepreneurial spirit can help ease the emotional distress that often comes with PTSD.
WashingtonExec: How does Veterans’ Pathway help veterans grow businesses?
Laurent-Ottomane: Veteran’s Pathway aids Veterans in growing their businesses by providing funds to help start or grow their business. With the extra funding they can then expand their business in turn by hiring more employees and creating more job opportunities in their community.
“In regards to PTSD, driving your own entrepreneurial venture provides a Veteran with purpose again, similar to when they had a mission during active combat.”
WashingtonExec: Why is PTSD so often ignored by the media and government? What sorts of things are currently being done to address knowledge gaps about the disorder?
Laurent-Ottomane: There are many programs available to help Veterans and persons with PTSD. The big challenge is that many Veterans and soldiers may have PTSD and not want to admit it.
WashingtonExec: What programs do you think people should know more about, but don’t?
Laurent-Ottomane: Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) at Florida State University offers cutting edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management to soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines disabled as a result of their service supporting post-9/11 operations. Along with Military Connection, which specializes in connecting outstanding candidates from the military community with top job opportunities in all areas, as well as connecting outstanding employers with viable candidates.
WashingtonExec: What is something shocking about veterans or PTSD that most people might not know?
Laurent-Ottomane: One thing that people should know more about PTSD is that symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event. For some people, though, the symptoms may not happen until months or years after the trauma. Symptoms may come and go over many years. It is a constant battle for those with the disorder every day and just like depression, PTSD may never truly be cured.
WashingtonExec: How can local businesses or government contracting groups get involved?
Laurent-Ottomane: Veterans’ Pathway To Business Success has sponsorship programs that can be tailored to specific issues for support of veteran entrepreneurs. Veterans’ Pathway To Business Success has the flexibility to work with those who would like to sponsor and aid in designing a sponsorship award that meets their needs and desire to make a contribution to those who have served our country.