Allan Griggs wants to see more veteran-owned businesses in Flint. Because, there are two things he knows firsthand: People who have served in the military know how to serve their communities and their military training makes them good company leaders.
The 74-year-old Flint resident served in the United States Army from 1967-1969 and runs Knob Hill Bed and Breakfast with his wife, Diane. The B&B is a rather new venture, having been open just a little over five years. He’s also had two other businesses before he moved to Michigan about 15 years ago.
“Owning a small business has given me a good income and freedom in different ways,” Griggs says. “I have the liberty to take what I like to do in any direction I choose.”
Personally, Griggs and his wife know that they were lucky that they didn’t have to struggle with what he feels is the biggest obstacle that many veterans interested in starting a business face: Finances.
While Griggs had easier access to finances than most local veterans, he still needed assistance sorting through a number of other details to get his company off the ground. He found the help he was looking for at VetBizCentral in Flint. The center, funded by the Small Business Association (SBA), provides business counseling and services for veterans in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.
“There were willing to do anything to help us in a number of ways,” recalls Griggs. “They were ready, and professional, and they would be the first people I would advise veterans to contact if they want to start a business.”
VetBizCentral’s executive director, Matt Sherwood, a veteran himself, takes pride in helping veterans start, grow, or expand an existing business. “I enjoy helping them understand the process of becoming successful entrepreneurs. Self-employment provides a path for a sustainable future for male and female veterans alike,” he says.
According to an April 2017 SBA report titled Veteran-Owned Businesses and Their Owners, there were 71,861 veteran-owned firms in Michigan in 2012. Sherwood reports having over 3,000 clients across the three states of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana and they have seen an average 8 to 10 percent increase yearly. Market research, business plan assistance, help with financing options, technical business counseling and mentorship are the main benefits that people receive from his team.
Currently, VetBizCentral is conducting a small business campaign, supported by Huntington National Bank, U.S. Small Business Administration, Metro Community Development, and partners Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, Opportunity Resource Fund, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
They’re inviting all veterans who are interested in launching (or growing) a business to come out to Mott Community College Regional Technology Center on Sept. 5, 2019 from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. VetBizCentral experts will be waiting to help participants identify funding sources, review loan requirements and locate resources specific to business needs in one-on-one individualized meetings.
The campaign’s catalyst is the fact that veterans have served and protected others well and so why not give America’s heroes a chance to make a meaningful difference right here, at home?
David Leclerc, vice president of Asset Development at Metro Community Development echoes that sentiment. “We feel it’s an honor to be able to support our veterans not only with our business services, but all of our services. Veterans served our country and we want to provide every opportunity that we can afford them in pursuing their goals and aspirations to be successful,” he says.
Metro Community Development works in tandem with the counselors at VetBizCentral, providing technical assistance that teaches veterans the basics of owning and running their own business. “We do this by offering specialized training through our revolutionary BizBox program,” Leclerc says. “BizBox provides the technical assistance prior to starting the business, when the business opens and for as long as the entrepreneur needs our services.”
Griggs, Sherwood and Leclerc all extol the benefits of having more vet-owned businesses in Flint.
“We’ve found veteran-owned businesses to be efficient, they provided and create jobs for other veterans, and they are committed to the community where the business is located. These are the attributes that are the foundation of Metro Community Development’s mission,” says Leclerc.
Speaking to the wisdom and life experience the veterans bring to the business table, Sherwood says, “We are battle-tested, we have leadership training, we are mission-focused, we are disciplined. All these characteristics make for good business owners.”
Indeed, it would stand to reason that long training days, the development of emotional fortitude, the need to problem-solve and multi-task, are qualities that essential for both a soldier and an entrepreneur. Not to mention dealing with conflicts, taking calculated risks and the need to be able to react and adapt to different situations.
Griggs’ clearly sees how his past as a military man has impacted his success as a business man. “I learned to be organized. You have to be organized to survive in the military. I was also taught to communicate efficiently which helps my public relations.” He adds, “I learned to be calm. I found out very early in the army that there are going to be stressful times, but you still need to keep your head on your shoulders otherwise you won’t function well.”
Impressively, there are a few other things that go head and shoulders above those very valuable and marketable skills that Griggs gained from his serving his country. He learned to value friendships and to respect others.
“I learned to protect, support and serve people. It’s a part of me. I think many veterans have this desire to be a part of a community and to continue to help and give to people and the communities they live in,” he says. “For a veteran business owner, it’s not ever just about your own business, it is about your town.”
The Knob Hill Bed & Breakfast is located on 1105 South Drive in Flint (48503). For more information call (810) 424-3888 or visit the website at: knobhillbedandbreakfast.com
Editor’s Note: VetBizCentral is inviting veterans interested in starting or expanding a business to connect with them on Sept. 5, 2019, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. One-on-one meetings will take place at Flint’s Mott Community College Regional Technology Center, 1401 E. Court Street, Room 1301.
To register visit: http://vetbizcentral.org/form_lenders-flint.php. For more info, call 810-767-8387 or write to Abron@vetbizcentral.org
Reasonable arrangements for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance.