By Mason Lerner
Killeen Daily Herald
Adria Garcia has always known she wanted her own business, but the four-year Army veteran wasn't sure how to do it.
Garcia knew she developed the skills needed to be successful in business during her military stint and like many veteran entrepreneurs in the Killeen-Fort Hood area, Garcia found guidance at the Central Texas Business Resource Center.
"The resources they have are unbelievable," said Garcia. "It's kind of like a one-stop shop for learning how to run your own business."
In April, Garcia opened Virtual Adventures in Killeen, providing technology education for children. She said the resource center was instrumental in helping her create and implement a business plan. And she scored her first client at a resource center event.
"I was doing it the hard way before I started working with them," Garcia said. "They taught me how to register my business as a DBA (Doing Business As), how to get certified as a veteran-owned business and how to get certified as a woman-owned business. They put all the information at your fingertips."
Center director Marcus Carr said there is no shortage of veterans in Garcia's position.
"There are a lot of veterans starting businesses," Carr said. "We actually counsel and train well over a 1,000 people a year who come in here looking for assistance and to get resources to get their business started. I'm guessing that at least 90 percent of them are veterans or affiliated with the Army somehow."
Carr and Diane Drussell, the center's programs coordinator, conduct a free workshop designed for military personnel every other Thursday at Fort Hood.
"We focus on our basic business workshops out at Fort Hood," Drussell said. "They are open to anyone who is military."
Entrepreneur Shane Hodyniak is another local veteran-business owner who swears by the resource center.
Hodyniak used the center for guidance when he was laying the groundwork for his company, Certified Efficiency Services Inc. in Killeen, which offers energy home inspection and consulting services.
He said the center taught him there are opportunities out there for veterans who want to start their own businesses, but those opportunities only present themselves to veterans who seek them out.
"We are a certified service disabled and veteran-owned small business," Hodyniak said. "You have to be on top of everything.
"I'm taking every dollar I can from every program available to me," he added.
That is the attitude Carr and Drussell love to hear. They both said it is incumbent on entrepreneurial veterans to dig deep to learn about running a successful small business.
"People just have to do research," said Drussell. "They can't expect business opportunities to come knocking on the door."
The resource center especially focuses on getting veterans' businesses registered and certified.
"You can say you are a woman- or veteran-owned business," said Drussell. "But unless you are certified, it is pretty much meaningless, practically speaking."
Carr explained a lot of doors open up for veteran entrepreneurs who study their certification options and follow through with them.
"There are a lot of amenities if you become a business that is actually certified as a veteran-owned business," Carr said. "You have a better chance of getting a subcontract or a government contract because the government is required to set aside a certain percentage of their contracts to woman-, minority- or veteran-owned business. That is the kind of thing we learn about when we do the certification programs."
Veteran Raye Mayhorne, owner of Realty Executives in Killeen, has more than 30 years of experience. She specializes in residential real estate sales and business coaching. Despite her decades of knowledge, Mayhorne still depends on the resource center to stay sharp.
"They just offer a plethora of programs and you don't have to go for a year to get it all in," Mayhorne said. "A lot of their programs are $25 or free, so why not? You need every bit of info you can get, and it has to be quick and timely."
Carr and Drussell both said the resource center does everything it can to stay current.
Denise Worsley agrees. She used advice from the resource center to take her jewelry business, Denise's New Creations, from her garage to a storefront in Harker Heights. She credited the center's monthly "Social Media Breakfasts" for helping her make the transition.
"That is a great opportunity to learn and network," Worsley said. "I learned how to Tweet my business effectively, use Facebook and LinkedIn to promote my business. You just have to be willing to be there at 7:30 a.m."
Worsley thinks the center is especially important because there is not a Small Business Administration office in Killeen, nor is there a Small Business Development Center at the local colleges. "They are the only ones in the area who can give us the information we need," she said.
Carr said the flow of veterans looking to start small businesses has been steady for five or six years. He expects more veterans to start their own businesses as the area continues to grow.
"This is actually the best place in Texas to start your own small business," Carr said. "If you are going to stay in the state, this is a great place to start out. The economy has not impacted us here nearly as much as in other parts of the country. It's probably the best place in Texas if you want to start out with a new idea."
Contact Mason Lerner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7567.