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Two groups join forces to benefit veterans


Attendees of the opening of the Veterans Business Incubator Friday at the Escondido Chamber of Commerce: Matt Pound of Weir Asphalt & Construction; Kristen Steinke, of Lounsberry, Ferguson, Altona & Peak LLP; Glen Burford, of Glennie’s Office Products; Joe Molina, president of Veterans Chamber of Commerce, Laura Torres, Veterans Chamber of Commerce, Military Spouses Club; Rorie Johnston, CEO of Escondido Chamber of Commerce, Rosemarie Sanchez – Veterans Chamber of Commerce, Housing for Heroes Program. Photos by David Zumaya, My San Diego North County

Friday the Escondido Chamber of Commerce and the Veterans Chamber of Commerce announced a partnership that will promote veterans business development all under the same roof. It’s called the Veterans Business Incubator.

Its goal is to provide mentorships, coaching and training in the business world so that veterans can have a better shot at being a success when they leave the military.  Its services are free.

Rorie Johnston, CEO of the Escondido Chamber introduced Joseph Molina, executive director of Veterans Chamber of Commerce, who spoke about this effort to harness together the passion to help veterans and the expertise of business leaders.

“How can we reach the veterans and pair them with people who are already in the business world?” he asked rhetorically. 

Johnston said that the Chamber is committed to this program. “Our board of directors is highly supportive of this,” she said.

“We have been thinking for a long time about a platform where veterans can come together and support each other. The question was where?” she said. “That was the question and the Escondido Chamber of Commerce provided the answer.” 

The main goals of the program are:

1) To help veterans’ bring their ideas to life

2) Businesses needs people with skills—bringing skilled people to business

The program seeks to provide businesses coaches (which the program will train while businesses can provide mentorships and show what a functioning business actually looks like.) 

It can also help answer a veteran’s questions such as “Is this really what you want to do?” And to help show the distinctions between risk and opportunity, so that veterans understand the difference.

The Chamber will provide the mentors (i.e. business people) and the Veterans Chamber of Commerce will provide the coaches. 

A coach will be assigned to each veteran who seeks help from the program. The “mentors” are members of the business community who will make it possible for veterans to experience the different ways to run a business.

Although the program is aimed at helping the military, “the community is always welcome,” said Molina. “We’ve tried to make the process extremely simple and straightforward. We don’t charge for our services and we will welcome veterans, active duty, family and kids of veterans. We don’t differentiate.”

They encourage business sponsorships. Anyone who joins the Veterans Business Incubator will automatically become a member of the Escondido Chamber.

“That’s an awesome relationship,” said Molina. He pointed out that the U.S. military has 160 career paths, of which only 15 are combat-related. “We want to create an environment where they can use these skill sets when they leave.”

Military people are used to structure in their lives. “So they need that when they get out,” Molina said. The program will provide that structure. “In the military we are never alone. We’re always dependent on each other. When we leave the service we lose a sense of identity, a sense of purpose and the group, camaraderie.”

Accessing information is not the problem, he says. “You can Google that! The problem is getting interaction and getting feedback,” and someone to be at your shoulder during the process.

All that anyone needs to know about the program can be found at www.vcccsd.org and escondidochamber.org

 

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