VetLikeMe Weekly April 4
Special News Alert – President of IT contractor Strong Castle charged with first degree murder
Special News Alert
Braulio Castillo, the president of IT contractor Strong Castle, was arrested April 1 by Loudoun County, Virginia authorities and charged with first degree murder in the death of his estranged wife, Michelle. Castillo gained notoriety as a result of a June 2013 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that examined the validity of the service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) status enjoyed by the firm he co-owned with his wife. Castillo came under heavy pressure for using a disability from a sports injury incurred at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School to claim SDVOSB status. Now he is accused of murdering his wife. Source: GovCon
Editorial – Boots to Business to Hit the Road? SBA Programs Face Cuts
Last week, members of the House Small Business Committee voted unanimously in favor of several revisions to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) budget proposal, with the result of putting several existing programs in peril.
One of these programs is the Boots to Business program, which targets military veterans-turned-entrepreneurs. I will tell you up front that I love the concept of the Boots to Business program. It uses a multi-phased approach to introduce transitioning service members to the fundamentals of small business ownership, as well as the SBA tools and resources available to them. This is a fantastic idea, as many military members transitioning out of the service are faced with a big question: what do I do now? And with the opportunities out there for veteran-owned small businesses (especially in the federal sector), it’s worth going for a piece of the pie.
Following a pilot program in 2012, the SBA tested the Boots to Business initiative by working with the United States Marine Corps. The SBA delivered a streamlined version of the Boots to Business program by delivering entrepreneurship training to approximately 20,000 transitioning Marines in four pilot locations. This training consisted of three phases: 1) a video which provided a short introduction on entrepreneurship; 2) a 90-minute training course on entrepreneurship; and 3) an eight-week online/distance learning course that led to the creation of a business plan.
Unfortunately for the Boots to Business program, the Congressional panel has recommended that it get the axe. This is part of a $50 million trim from the SBA’s $710 million budget proposal, and it’s based on the lack of results.
This just goes to show that even a great idea can fail in execution. But why, exactly, is the SBA Boots to Business program – a wonderful idea – a no go?
My suspicion is it’s because being a small business owner isn’t something you learn in a class. Yes, you can learn some things, but the most valuable lessons are gleaned from practical experience – identifying your skills and a niche market, finding people you trust to do business with, landing a good mentor who can help you along, and figuring out how to market yourself and your business.
Also, as a small business owner myself, I can tell you that if in the beginning of my journey, someone had pointed me to a similar program, I wouldn’t have gotten much value out of it because I wouldn’t have known how to use it. You need to come into these types of programs with an idea of what you want to learn and a concrete idea of the questions you need answered, and I suspect that most of these transitioning service members simply don’t have an idea yet.
The Boots to Business program is like a hammer in a fledgling workman’s toolkit. It has value, sure, but it has less value if the workman doesn’t know how to use it to fix his roof, or build the bird feeder, or repair the stairs…
But who knows? If it didn’t work, and the SBA knows why, it might be able to build upon it to create a program with more practical value. After all, failed programs are often test programs for ones that work. I have faith that the Boots to Business program will be one of these.
Did you find this article informative? If so, sign up for my weekly blog at: http://www.legalmeetspractical.com. Also, check out the SBA’s webpage on the Boots to Business program at: http://www.sba.gov/bootstobusiness.
Editorial – VA CVE FOIA Email Unnerves SDVOSBs
VA CVE FOIA Email Unnerves SDVOSBs
by Steven Koprince, Partner, Petefish, Immel, Heeb & Hird LLP
On February 27, the VA CVE sent an email to companies listed in the VetBiz database, suggesting that all documentation submitted to the CVE may be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. Many SDVOSBs and VOSBs were outraged–was the VA really stating that tax returns, payroll, bank signature cards, and other closely-guarded information would be made available to the public?
Now, after push back from SDVOSBs and VOSBs, the CVE has issued a press release clarifying that some documentation submitted to the CVE may be withheld under FOIA on a “case by case basis” and that the CVE will seek to limit the exposure of proprietary and personally identifiable information.
The press release is a good start, but in the wake of its misguided email, the CVE needs to do more to assure SDVOSBs and VOSBs that their proprietary information is safe in the government’s hands.
The CVE’s February 27 email stated:
Dear Veteran Business Owner:
Documentation provided to the Center for Verification and Evaluation by an applicant is subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, may be subject to publication in response to a FOIA request, and can be used for purposes other than the Verification application by FOIA requestors.
Determination of ineligibility does not make any statement regarding the legal standing and validity of a particular business model other than to impact its eligibility for Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans First Contracting Program.
If you have any questions, or need more information, please contact our Help Desk at 1-866-584-2344 or email [email protected]
Not surprisingly, many SDVOSBs and VOSBs were shaken by the email. After all, the CVE application process requires SDVOSBs and VOSBs to submit a great deal of information that most people consider proprietary and confidential, including business tax returns, personal tax returns, bank signature cards,and cancelled checks, as well as internal corporate documentation such as operating agreements, shareholders’ agreements, and bylaws. Releasing this information to the public could cause considerable harm to SDVOSBs and VOSBs, as well as to their individual owners.
Now, the CVE seems to have backed off its initial position. The CVE’s press release states:
The Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) acknowledges Veterans’ concerns regarding the possible FOIA release of information received from them as part of their verification application. First and foremost the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and CVE must follow the guidance of the VA Office of General Counsel, and laws pertaining to information subject to FOIA. We are required to disclose:
- Name of Company
- Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) Number
- Business Address
- Business City
- Business State
- Business Zip Code
- Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB)
- Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB)
- Bonding Level
- Number of Employees
- Email Address
Any privileged or confidential commercial, or financial information contained in applications may be subject to withholding on a case by case basis. We are in dialogue with the Department’s Office of General Counsel and FOIA subject matter experts to determine what additional information could be provided in response to a FOIA request. A decision has not been made at this time. To the fullest extent possible, and as allowed by law, every consideration will be taken into account to limit the exposure of a businesses’ proprietary information, and the personal information of all owners.
Of course, the press release begs the question–shouldn’t the CVE have consulted with the “Department’s Office of General Counsel and FOIA subject matter experts” before sending an email to the entire VetBiz list suggesting that all application documentation could be made public? But now that the CVE has unnerved countless SDVOSBs and VOSBs with a declaration that their documentation is subject to FOIA, the CVE should do more to clean up its mess.
First, the CVE should email its press release to everyone who received the initial February 27 announcement. Most SDVOSBs and VOSBs do not regularly visit the CVE’s press release website. Without a follow-up email, these SDVOSBs and VOSBs may continue to believe that all documentation submitted to the CVE is fair game in a FOIA request.
Second, the CVE should rapidly conclude its internal discussions and announce a more specific FOIA policy. For instance, the CVE could inform SDVOSBs and VOSBs that, at least as a general matter, documents like tax returns will not be released in response to a FOIA request.
The price of VetBiz verification should not be the release of closely-guarded information. Let’s hope the CVE understands this, and offers further reassurances to SDVOSBs and VOSBs.
SDVOSB News at the Federal Level
Senate Confirms Maria Contreras-Sweet to Lead SBA
The Small Business Administration finally has a leader. On Thursday, the Senate confirmed former community banker Maria Contreras-Sweet to be the new
administr ator for the SBA.
The confirmation comes 13 months after former administrator Karen Mills announced her resignation. Since Mills stepped down in August, a number of acting administrators have filled her shoes, most recently Marianne O’Brien Markowitz, a former regional director for the SBA…Read more:
You Can Soon Apply For An SBA Backed Loan Online
Small businesses unable to obtain a loan through conventional means may try SBA backed financing. But even this option can take months. San Francisco-based Better Finance is launching Smartbiz, and hopes to whittle that wait time down considerably. The company says Smartbiz is the first online fully-automated SBA loan program.
State Activity – SDVOSB News From Around the U.S.
Veterans’ business aid sought in Minnesota measure
ST. PAUL – A bill to give Minnesota veterans’ businesses a foot in the door for public contracts is being considered in the House.
N.Y. to expand state contracts for disabled veterans
ALBANY – State leaders agreed Thursday to enact a law that would award 6 percent of state contracts to businesses owned by disabled veterans.
Seymour (NY) looks to offer tax breaks to veterans
SEYMOUR – A bill passed by state lawmakers last year giving municipalities the option to provide additional tax exemptions for veterans who are 100 percent disabled is something town officials hope to offer here.
Senate Bill 383 was signed into law in June 2013 by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. It had been introduced by the Select Committee on Veterans Affairs in January 2013.
Short Takes – Small Business News
5 Entrepreneurs Who Embrace, and Dominate, Risk
Nothing ventured, nothing gained is often the philosophy of very successful entrepreneurs. Calculated risk takes courage and intelligence, but it also requires an ability to welcome the uncertainty that comes along with it…
6 Secret Weapons of Shy Entrepreneurs
There’s a misconception that all entrepreneurs are extraverts — boisterous or bubbly personalities who are always the life of the party. But they’re not. And even those who are extraverted can be shy…
Trade Pacts in the Works May Boost Small Business
NEW YORK March 26, 2014 (AP)
By JOYCE M. ROSENBERG AP Business Writer
Small businesses may get an export boom under trade agreements the federal government is hammering out with Pacific and European countries.
Just 1 percent of U.S. companies export. Overseas markets represent a huge opportunity for small businesses that want to increase their revenue, but expensive tariffs, burdensome paperwork and delays in customs makes doing business with some countries more trouble than it’s worth…
How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change
BY Lewis Howes | March 27, 2014|
When a 60-foot rogue wave crashed into the ship, everyone on board thought they were going to die.
This week on The School of Greatness, Adam Braun, the founder of Pencils of Promise, shares the story of how this near-death experience inspired him to make his mark on the world.
Pencils of Promise was born then and has gone on to build 200 schools and positively impacted 200,000 lives. In this interview we talk about what it takes to be an ordinary person, have an idea and turn it into something extraordinary…
13 Key Business Metrics You Should Stop Worrying About
Too often, we get so bogged down measuring everything we can get our hands on that we forget to step back and examine the results of our measurements. Don’t waste time tracking success metrics that fail to give you any real information.
We reached out to startup founders from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to share their top thirteen they would avoid…
10 Recipes to Celebrate National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day
National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day (April 2) is an observance with obscure origins. Searching for an organizing body or impetus doesn’t yield much. But really, is there much more that you need to know other than April 2 is a day to nosh on as many peanut butter and jelly combinations as your heart desires? The easiest way to celebrate is, of course, the classic: peanut butter and jelly layered between two slices of bread. But the potential to take this humble pairing to the next level exists — just check out the following 10 recipes to see for yourself. Read more: http://wallstcheatsheet.com/life/10-recipes-to-celebrate-national-peanut-butter-and-jelly-day.html/?a=viewall
Talk Back – Wounded Warrior Opinion Feedback
When VLM began publication, we regularly included reader’s comments. We stopped publishing them when we were overwhelmed with letters.
Because of news and editorial especially pertinent to SDVOSB/VOSB, we drummed the section up again. Identifiers are redacted.
On the Wounded Warrior 2-part article (from veteranstoday.com)
What happens when a “surprise visit” happens and I am not here. I am a 100% sole proprietor and I have to be away from the home office a lot. Any input would be appreciated. Thanks.
They will find you. I was in the middle of remodeling my offices and was not in.
The CVE- inspector called and asked if he could come by the house because he had a plane to catch back to Dallas. I have a second office in my home, we did his inspection there.
Anyway I asked that same question, he said they would make a second attempt before sending out an official notice to set up a telephone call and then they would show up.
They will find you and like others have said, that’s good that they check, it a pain in the back side the kind of documents and Q&A that is involved. It took about 2.5 hrs.
P.S. Very nice veteran came by. Come to find out he and I were in the same unit, same AO, same Company and platoon, about 6 months apart. We both got wounded before the end of our tour. Seemed compassionate about the amount of data needed for so little return.
News for Service Disabled Small Business Owners:
Hardy Stone is the editor/publisher of VetLikeMe, the nation’s only publication devoted to service disabled veteran owned business.