Feb. 11--OKALOOSA ISLAND -- As the military downsizes, a conference will be held this weekend to encourage veterans to start their own businesses.
"The expected drawdown has already begun," said Deanna Wharwood, organizer of the first Veterans' Entrepreneur Conference to be held at the Emerald Coast Convention Center. "A lot of people who have served for many years are going to be released from service and not be permitted to retire. We want them to know there's another option and how easily you can transition your military skills into a small business."
Wharwood recently returned to Fort Walton Beach from Washington, D.C., where she has put on similar events on a smaller scale.
She said she hopes the conference, which will be held Friday through Sunday, will help veterans understand their options for careers after the military.
Service members often don't invest in equitable assets, such as large purchases like a home, while on active-duty. This can be a challenge when they are seeking capital to start up a new business.
Fred Crispin, a representative from Celtic Bank, will address how to qualify for capital through small business loans and what resources are available.
Tom Hermanson, assistant director for the University of West Florida's small business development center, will talk about the benefits of franchising and programs geared toward veterans starting a franchise.
Other topics will include how to create a business plan and designing a lifestyle business.
Sessions will run from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to noon Sunday.
Tickets are being sold in pairs: $197 for two to attend the entire conference.
"We're hoping husbands and wives will come together because the transition and starting a small business affects the whole family," Wharwood said. "It's important both parties be educated on what's available."
A portion the proceeds will go to Building Homes for Heroes, which provides homes for wounded warriors and their families.
For tickets and more information, visit www.deannawharwood.com/entrepreneurs-conference.
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Lauren Sage Reinlie at 850-315-4443 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenRnwfdn.
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