Louisiana launches business startup program for veterans

Louisiana leaders launched an innovative program to hone the entrepreneurial skills of veterans who start a business in the state. Pathway to Assist Veteran Entrepreneurs, or PAVE, is a partnership of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, Louisiana Economic Development, the Louisiana National Guard and the Louisiana Small Business Development Center Network.

PAVE begins with three online courses available 24 hours a day. Upon completing that self-paced training, veterans register for a virtual boot camp. Following the interactive boot camp, each veteran receives ongoing support from a designated counselor in the LSBDC Network. The program is open to Louisiana military personnel or veterans who intend to start a business.

“Through service to their nation, our men and women in uniform have gained unparalleled skills, including leadership, management, assertiveness and technical training, all of which suit them for turning business plans into reality,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “I am proud to join with state leaders to announce the launch of the Pathway to Assist Veteran Entrepreneurs Program, which will equip our veteran entrepreneurs with the resources they need to see their businesses grow and thrive.”

The initial online training covers three sections: Starting a Business; Securing Financing; and Developing a Sales Strategy. Participants then take part in a scheduled boot camp for entrepreneurs, hosted by the Louisiana Small Business Development Center Network.

The virtual boot camp is a one-day experience in two parts. Instructors help veterans analyze the feasibility of their business plan and also introduce them to business resources, including tools specific to veteran-owned businesses. Upon completion of the boot camp, veterans are connected with a consultant for long-term business support.

“The PAVE Program is a tremendous addition to resources available for our Louisiana veterans,” said LDVA Secretary Joey Strickland, who is a retired U.S. Army colonel. “I commend Secretary Pierson, a veteran himself, his team at Louisiana Economic Development and also the Louisiana Small Business Development Center for their hard work. This comprehensive, hands-on platform will greatly assist our aspiring veteran entrepreneurs in a way that we have not experienced before.”

PAVE is open to active-duty personnel and reservists in good standing, as well as veterans discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. Interested parties may explore the program at OpportunityLouisiana.com/PAVE and apply online with a $15 registration fee.

“Louisiana Economic Development is honored to support the Louisiana small business community, which is a key component of our state’s economy,” said LED Secretary Don Pierson. “I am particularly proud of our efforts to support the entrepreneurs who have served our country in uniform. Through the PAVE Program, we will ensure that these heroic men and women have a strong foundation for successfully operating their own small businesses.”

PAVE is the latest Louisiana program designed for the state’s veterans, joining other programs that include the Veteran Initiative for state procurement opportunities, and the Louisiana Veterans First Business Initiative, which recognizes more than 500 veteran-owned businesses through an online database. Customers may visit LaVeteransFirst.org to search for goods and services and support those veteran-owned businesses. Statewide, the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs assists 277,000 state veterans and their families every day through a network of 74 parish service offices and 26 student veteran centers, as well as five state-operated veterans homes and five state-operated cemeteries for veterans.

“Being able to create and collaborate on a veteran-focused initiative has been an honor for the Louisiana Small Business Development Center,” LSBDC State Director Carla Holland said. “When LED brought this idea to us, we knew we wanted to partner in whatever capacity to bring it to life. Veterans have done so much for us, and it’s an honor to be able to help them reach their goals and bring their dreams of entrepreneurship to reality through this program.”