When Demika Jackson started her own business, she found plenty of tips for small businesses, but felt like something was still missing. Speaking to other military veterans like her, she heard the same thing.
“A lot of us have had the same kinds of challenges,” said Jackson, who wanted a place that understood the goals and issues common to vets and their families in business.
So she helped start one.
the Jacksonville Veterans Chamber of Commerce is still moving to a permanent home, but has started reaching out to people with military roots as an affiliate of a national organization with chambers in 20 states.
“You’re not just changing. You first find out what the community needs, ”Jackson, the group’s chairman, told a socially distanced crowd at an event at City Hall Friday marking the chamber’s public debut.
Over the next few weeks, the group will begin offering training sessions to veteran-owned businesses and connecting with veterans, military families and military members transitioning to civilian life.
The US Census Bureau counted 7,130 veteran-owned businesses in Jacksonville in a survey of the previous decade, just over 10 percent of all businesses registered.
Jackson said many of these companies are small businesses whose owners want to contract with government agencies and offering advice on procurement rules could help a number of them. The Jacksonville organization can also tap into the resources of the United States Veterans Chamber of Commerce to help with employment problems, she said.
Jacksonville has a vast network of organizations that connect with veterans and military, and “we have an opportunity here to expand that,” retired Brig. General Mike Fleming – who previously oversaw Deutsche Bank’s global business service center in Jacksonville – told People during his House debut.
The new organization aims to work in cooperation with groups ranging from the Great Chamber JAX to the recently organized Mexican Chamber of Commerce in Jacksonville, whose leadership has come to City Hall to show their support for the veteran startup.
However, the chamber of veterans effort is viewed as more holistic than that of many grassroots business organizations. It was organized with a “Five pillars” approach developed by the United States Veterans Chamber to address concerns related to education, employment, welfare and family as well as business.
It’s also more diverse than the stereotype of a business group. Board members, who are Black, White and Asian American, include Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force veterans as well as the family of a serviceman, with the goal of to draw many perspectives.
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