It’s hard to overstate the debt Americans owe to our servicemen and women, and even more so to those who have given their lives or sustained life-altering injuries during their service to our country.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, some veterans struggle with re-entering the workforce, adjusting to a different pace of life and work, joining or creating community, returning to a job and more. In fact, a study released in 2015 indicated that up to 61 percent of post 9/11 veterans reported facing difficulty in returning to civilian life, including unemployment.
However, many vets have found success in starting their own businesses. To encourage this, the federal government created a number of programs to help them get started. Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB) are one such example. Business with this designation are eligible for set-asides for government contracts, which can help them be more successful. But beyond that, many private companies also like to support veteran or SDVOSB designated businesses to give back to those who have served our country, but also because many veterans are principled, team-oriented, hard-working and service-minded due to their military training.
While there are many ways to support veterans, doing business with a SDVOSB positively impacts a vet’s business and livelihood. Chuck Welegala is a one such business owner. Disabled after serving in the infantry in Vietnam, Chuck followed up a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry by starting his own small business providing new technology lamps and fixtures that greatly reduce energy usage and slash energy costs, while often improving lighting performance. His company, Heartland Light Bulbs, is SDVOSB certified, a distinction that is noted on their website.
Given the choice, Chuck would choose to do business with a business owned by a veteran. “I served and my sons have served – we’re a very pro-military family,” he says. “I believe people recognize that veterans have a strong work ethic and commitment to integrity and customer service that makes them great business partners. Supporting small businesses in general is good for the country, and dealing with a veteran not only helps their business, but it’s usually good for the consumer, too.”
Meeting the SDVOSB criteria is an exacting process. Chuck handily met those requirements. While the SDVOSB program is self-certified, all information submitted in order to receive this certification is reviewed and scrutinized. Submitting fraudulent documents for the purpose of receiving an approved certification could result in jail time. To attain certification, the criteria listed below must be met:
- The Service Disabled Veteran (SDV) must have a service-connected disability that has been determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs or Department of Defense
- The SDVOSB must be small under the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code assigned to the procurement
- The SDV must unconditionally own 51% of the SDVOSB
- The SDV must control the management and daily operations of the SDVOSB and hold the highest officer position in the business
To know whether a company is certified as SDVOSB, look for the certification logo on their website, letterhead or even in their office. To search for SDVOSB near you, go to www.veteranownedbusiness.com for a directory by state. More information about the SDVOSB program can be found online at the U.S. Small Business Association, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and the Department of Homeland Security.