Military veterans looking to start their own businesses have many resources to help them make that leap. Although it can seem like a challenging task, their military experience and skills learned in service can help guide veterans who are looking to become entrepreneurs. Nicole Zoellner, founder of Nizo Wear Nursing Bras, LLC, was inspired to follow her dreams and start her own business after serving in the United States Air Force National Guard. During her nine years in the National Guard, Nicole earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, got married, gave birth to her son, obtained a patent for an invention she came up with and started her own business. With Veteran’s Day near, Zoellner wants to help other mom veterans build a business from their passion too.
Nicole says, “My National Guard colleagues were always amazingly supportive professionally and personally as well and as a result became great friends; many of whom I still stay in contact with. My military training helped me in many ways throughout the course of my adult life. Not necessarily in the specific job I held as a re-fueler, but in many other ways. It taught me leadership skills, how to go after what I wanted and how to not only thrive as an individual but a team member as well. I feel very privileged to have served honorably in the United States Armed Forces and am thankful for all it has done for me personally.”
With Veterans Day coming up, Nicole hopes to encourage other veterans to pursue their passions by sharing four steps to starting a business after the military.
Step 1: Find your passion.
If you don’t know what it is that you are passionate about, it can help to make a list of things you enjoy doing. Your close friends and family may have some good ideas that you would not have otherwise considered as well. Another good exercise is to get post-it notes and write down ideas of everything you have ever dreamed of or wanted to do. Stick the notes all over a wall or desk and use them as a guide to find your passion that you can turn into a business (from the book “Successful People are Full of C.R.A.P. courage, resilience, authenticity, and perseverance” by Rachel Luna).
Step 2: Name your company and develop a Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
A USP is a short, meaningful sentence that tells your target market what you can offer them, what sets you apart from the competition, and why they should “buy” from you. You can start by writing a long statement of 2-3 paragraphs and work on condensing it into one focused sentence. The Mexican café Caliente Cab in NYC lets their potential customers know that they have certified chefs who make salsa and fresh guacamole right by your tableside. Their USP is different and unique and therefore attracts a ton of customers. Another way to attract customers is by having a unique name for your business. Entrepreneur Holly Hurd has a guide for naming your business: 6 Steps for Naming Your Business.
Step 3: Set up your business. You can set up a business in four easy steps and with minimal money:
1. Buy a domain (website URL) — Use a domain search tool like instantdomainsearch.com to make sure the URL you want is available when deciding on your company name.
2. Buy hosting — Go Daddy is a web hosting service with tons of features and low-priced plans.
3. Install WordPress on your hosting — WordPress gives you a ton of free themes to choose from with their easy do-it-yourself website building tools. Here’s an article to help you get started on installing WordPress.
4. Register with your city to do business often — You can do this for $15 or you can form an LLC with your Secretary of State. See your city/state laws on how to complete either of these.
For more detailed information read 12 Steps to Start a Business in Under $100.
Step 4: Put your new business out there!
- Start a Facebook page — www.facebook.com/pages
- Sign up for Mailchimp — it’s free up to 2,000 contacts and you can upload your contacts list (friends, family, anyone you know) and send an email announcing your new business
- Get business cards printed
- Attend a local business networking event
About Nicole Zoellner
Nicole Zoellner joined the United States Army National Guard in May 1998. She was assigned to an engineering unit in southern Wisconsin where she also attended college. In May 2001 she graduated with a Bachelor of Science and decided to join the United States Air Force National Guard. She served in the Fighter Wing Unit for six years. During her nine years of enlistment she has the pleasure of serving the entirety stateside. She ended her military career honorably as a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force.
During her service, Nicole patented her idea for a nursing bra with a pocket after experiencing discomfort while breastfeeding her son. She founded Nizo Wear Nursing Bras, LLC to provide breastfeeding mothers with practical and comfortable nursing bras that give them relief from the soreness nursing moms often experience. Her innovative nursing bras are functional and pretty to help breastfeeding moms feel good again as they bond with their babies.