Air Force Vet Gets Business Savvy to Build Successful Startup

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ignacio D. Perez,
Defense Media Activity

After 23 years of serving in the Air Force, Gary Peterson started working as a business advisor at his local Veterans Business Outreach Center. While he was working there, he decided to attend a Boots to Business, or B2B, course, which gave him the resources to dust off an old business idea he had always had.

“Before B2B, I didn’t fully understand how to operate and grow a business. B2B helped me start my business, and most importantly, connect me with resources I needed in the startup phase, such as bookkeeping, financing and marketing,” said Peterson. “It opened my eyes to what it takes to be a business owner. Once I decided to pursue business ownership, B2B gave me the direction I needed and the steps to take to get started.”

The result was a mix of Peterson’s lifelong passion for automobiles and his mission to give back to the community. Peterson created One Community Auto, a used car dealership that receives car donations – usually rundown models – refurbishes them and then sells the donated car for a lower price than a traditional used car dealership would.

Gary Peterson looks under the hood of a vehicle at his business, One Community Auto. Kirtland Air Force Base photo

“I’d always been a huge car nut and had an affinity for fixing them up. Plus, I was a transportation and mechanical guy during my time with USAF,” said Peterson. “I loved community service and had this crazy business idea that combined the two. Taking Boots to Business – both the in-person and eight-week follow-on – helped me put my ideas together in a comprehensive business plan.”

Peterson explained the importance of creating a business plan as soon as possible and of taking advantage of all available resources, especially those offered by the Small Business Administration.

“The easiest thing to do is get help and mentorship through the Veterans Business Outreach Center, the Small Business Development Center, SCORE and other similar organizations,” said Peterson. “They can guide you through everything you need to do to be successful. They want to see you succeed.”

When Peterson started One Community Auto in 2013, he was the sole employee, with only one charity partner. After four years, his business has grown to a fully profitable business with five employees and 16 local charities, and it was named one of SCORE’s 2017 Small Business Champions.

Similar Success Story: Navy Sailor, Spouse Use SBA to Start Brewery

If you’re a veteran, service member – including National Guard and Reserve – or a military spouse interested in starting, purchasing or growing a business, tap into the Office of Veterans Business Development’s resource network today. To learn more about Boots to Business or to sign up to attend the next two-day course in your area, visit the B2B link above.

Original story posted on the Small Business Administration’s page

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