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Female vets benefit from entrepreneur program

Sep. 24, 2013 - 11:50AM   |  

Janell Farnsworth knew she eventually wanted to expand her business. But after attending a conference for female veteran entrepreneurs, she realized she’s ready now.

The conference was hosted in Seattle by Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship in August. By the week of Sept. 16, Farnsworth was negotiating a lease for a second Janell’s Gluten-Free Market store.

“It if it weren’t for V-WISE, I don’t know if I would have taken the step this soon,” Farnsworth said. “It gave me the confidence that I was doing things right, and that I was ready to take the step.”

The three-day conference for female veteran entrepreneurs, both current and aspiring, was packed with classes and presentations on topics such as loans, managing employees and marketing, and offered one-on-one time with professionals to discuss business.

Farnsworth, a captain in the Army National Guard who just logged her 20th year of service, opened her first store in Everett, Wash., in 2009.

V-WISE, administered by Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, is partly funded by the Small Business Administration and by the Newman’s Own Foundation.

The Newman’s Own Foundation, founded by the late actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, a Navy veteran, contributes to a number of charities that help female veterans. Specifically, the foundation is kicking off a campaign to find and support more programs that assist female veterans with career development. The foundation is accepting applications for grants that will total $300,000.

The Honoring Women Who Serve Campaign will accept applications until Oct. 25. Once organizations are vetted, the foundation will determine how the $300,000 is awarded based on the size, needs, and number of organizations that apply, said Jan Schaefer, spokeswoman for the foundation.

Information and applications were scheduled to be available by Sept. 23 at www.NewmansOwnFoundation.org.

The campaign is part of a larger effort that will be announced by the foundation on Sept. 26.

“Female veterans represent an underserved community with critical needs, and we feel that our grants can help make an impact,” Schaefer said. She cited concerns about homelessness, post-traumatic stress, and other issues.

According to the latest jobless statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for female post-9/11 veterans in August was 10.3 percent, compared to 9.9 percent for male post-9/11 veterans.

Farnsworth said the issues are complex for female veterans. For example, she said, “When you’re on active duty in a male environment, you may feel your ideas are not as important as a male’s ideas.

“One person told me that one of my faults was that I demanded results from my work,” she said. When she was considering starting a business later, she said that comment came to mind, “and I thought I’d be perfect to run a business. But a lot of women wouldn’t turn it around that way.”

The Army transition assistance program helped connect Farnsworth to government resources to help her start her business. After she was diagnosed with Celiac disease, she struggled to find gluten-free products.

While juggling life as a single mother, she said, she was reflecting where she would go after leaving active duty. The “aha!” moment came, she said, when she realized “I could run a gluten-free store and it would help me find gluten-free products” for her own use.

People pick up more assets and skills in the military than they realize, she said. “You can identify them and make the best of them. I had skills no one had acknowledged. Once I did, I was able to capitalize on them.”■

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