- AARP - http://blog.aarp.org -

From Veteran to Entrepreneur With the Help of Volunteers

Alexandra Minor needed a new challenge. The West Point graduate and Army veteran with two deployments to Iraq had served honorably for five years, completed her master’s degree in business administration from Yale University and worked for a major consulting firm to the federal government.

Alexandra Minor (right) reviews financial projections with volunteer business consultant Carolyn Stirrett.

Alexandra Minor (right) reviews financial projections with volunteer business consultant Carolyn Stirrett.

Minor, 33, enjoyed consulting but wanted to push herself more. “The best way for me to grow as a person is to be put into those uncomfortable and challenging situations,” she said. After discussions with her friends and family, Minor concluded that starting her own consulting business was the right challenge and fit for her.

Help bring relief to struggling seniors; find volunteer opportunities near you »

Through her Army network she discovered Capitol Post, an organization whose mission is to support veterans who want to start a business, grow a business or explore a new career. Through its partnerships with volunteer business leaders and successful entrepreneurs, Capitol Post provided Minor with the support and resources she needed to plan and launch her consulting business.

“I was jumping into this unknown world of entrepreneurship,” she recalled. “It’s wonderful to have a community of folks who are there and available to help you navigate the process of starting your own business and to do it in the right way.”

Carolyn Stirrett, 66, was one of several volunteer business mentors whose advice Minor sought. With more than 30 years of experience as a federal contractor, Stirrett knew the complexities of compliance when working with the federal government, as well as pricing strategies for competitive bids, budget structuring and accounting. “And she was wonderfully nice,” Minor added, “with lots of expertise.”

Stirrett was equally impressed with Minor and the detailed work she had put into her business plan. That quality, said Stirrett, has made her volunteer time especially rewarding. “It’s a wonderful way to give back,” she said of helping veterans become entrepreneurs. “I think the military background gives that focus and structure, and the seriousness about what they’re doing makes [my volunteering] fun to do. They’re willing to devote their time. They’re willing to do it right.”

After 13 months of study and mentoring under Stirrett and other volunteers, Minor launched her business, Z Street Consulting, in October 2014. Six months later she was awarded a six-month contract with a major federal contractor, which led to a follow-up 12-month contract. As she works alongside her client, Minor continues to participate with Capitol Post and its volunteers to plan and position her business for healthy growth with the right opportunities and team members.

Get free help with you taxes this year — AARP Tax Aide Program »

Minor is grateful for her time in service and how it prepared her for entrepreneurship. “It was definitely a great experience for me,” she said. “There are a lot of different ways to give back to your community and the country.”

Photo: Jane Hess Collins

Also of Interest

 

See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more.