Regardless of the scenario, most successful people will tell you that the best advice comes from those who have lived it. This wisdom is especially pertinent for veteran entrepreneurs – both aspiring and existing – and for those in Arizona, is epitomized in the form of Boots to Business (B2B) Instructor, Sven Olson.
After spending 27 years in the Army National Guard, Olson sought to transition from Major to aspiring veteran business owner. Olson attended a Boots to Business course armed with a business idea, only to discover gaps in what he believed to be a solid business plan. Going back to the drawing board was just the first step in his journey that ultimately led him to achieve great successes through his various business ventures. SvenoNet, his public speaking and training service, has been fully operational for the last 24 years. He continues to manage the operations of SvenoNet, while planning a new architecture consulting firm, 3P ArchiTech, and teaching Boots to Business courses across Southern Arizona.
Today, we’ll dive into his entrepreneurial journey and hear what he’s learned along the way. As they say, the best advice comes from those who have lived it!
Q1: So you started your journey with a solid business plan that you soon discovered was not solid at all. How did you come to this conclusion and how have you grown since?
A1: Upon retirement from the military, I signed up for the Boots to Business course with what I thought to be a solid business plan. The course’s feasibility study allowed me to examine my business plan and find errors, where I discovered my business idea would not work at all in its intended location. At the time, it completely derailed my plan – I mean, I felt ready to launch! All in all, I’m grateful for Boots to Business for saving me thousands of dollars and months of time I could have wasted had I not gone back and re-evaluated my idea.
Q2: Aside from the feasibility study, what was the most valuable part of your Boots to Business experience?
A2: Well, taking B2B taught me how little I really know. I thought I knew more than I really did. Meeting the instructors, learning about local support teams for veterans, and attending workshops were invaluable pieces of the program. Since then, I’ve been intentional about continuing to attend supplementary workshops hosted by the VBOC, SBDC, and SCORE. I’ve even expanded the number of business opportunities in which I’m involved, and have been able to network with people focused solely on supporting veterans.
Q3: What are some tangible takeaways you’ve gleaned from not just Boots to Business, but all of the entrepreneurial resources you’ve accessed?
A3: For starters, I’ve increased the number of companies to capture opportunities as I see them. I’ve also developed much better websites and marketing tactics, and from attending supplementary workshops, have specifically increased the number of speaking engagements for SvenoNet by 100% in 2018 alone. To expand on that, I’ve been able to book more speaking engagements nationally and regionally, and have also been able to expand into new industries, like architecture, with my new consulting firm, 3P ArchiTech.
Q4: How have these services changed your approach to business ownership?
A4: I feel empowered and encouraged, and have a strengthened desire to help others along this pathway to business ownership. No matter what the idea may be, there’s a pathway to making it a reality. Boots to Business has helped me understand that there are so many ways to start a business, and all of us benefit from the support of SBA, SBDC, SCORE, and VBOCs.
Q5: Where do you see your business in five years?
A5: I’m confident in five years, 3P ArchiTech will have clients in the USA, Europe, and Asia with annual sales of $200,000, while SvenoNet will be conducting 40+ seminars per year, both national and internationally. I hope to continue networking with future veteran business owners, either as a Boots to Business instructor or a fellow veteran business owner at a workshop. Ultimately, I hope to retire in 10 years with my businesses continuing to thrive.
Q6: Any words of wisdom for aspiring veteran and military business owners?
A6: Business ownership and serving in the military complement each other. The business will make you a better service member, and the character traits you learn in the service will make you a better business owner.
Are you a service member (including Reserve and National Guard), veteran, or military spouse looking to start, grow, or purchase a business? Learn more about the services you can access through SBA and its partner network at sba.gov/ovbd.
OSD CEO & Executive Director Glenn Banton is an appointed member of the Advisory Committee on Veteran Business Affairs (ACVBA) providing an independent source of advice and policy recommendations to the SBA administrator, SBA associate administrator for the Office of Veterans Business Development, Congress, the President and other U.S. policymakers on programs affecting veteran-owned small business from all segments of American society.