Upcoming Veterans Small Business Week (Nov. 1-5) offers a chance to support local vets & highlight tools to boost veteran-owned small businesses

WARWICK, RI – In an effort to help veteran-owned and veteran-friendly businesses come together for mentorship, networking, and small business development services, U.S. Senator Jack Reed today visited the retail shop Operation Made in Warwick to do some pre-holiday shopping and talk with veteran entrepreneurs about opportunities to start, operate, sustain, and grow competitive and strong businesses.

Owned and operated by Nicole O’Brien, the spouse of a U.S. Air Force veteran, Operation Made, which opened in 2018, features handcrafted home good items created by over 60 veterans and their families. 

Today, Senator Reed joined with U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) District Director Mark Hayward and local veterans and military spouses to help promote the upcoming National Veterans Small Business Week, which starts Monday, November 1st.

Now in its eighth year, National Veterans Small Business Week is an annual celebration held during the business week prior to Veterans Day (Thursday, November 11) that spotlights the entrepreneurial spirit of veterans, active duty personnel, members of the National Guard and Reserves, and military spouses.  It also helps connect veterans and military spouses to small business training, resources, and assistance to help them build and grow their businesses.

According to SBA’s 2021 Small Business Profile, there are over 1,500 veteran-owned small businesses across Rhode Island that employ people, as well as 4,300 one-person businesses owned and operated by veterans. 

SBA and its resource partner network offers a wide range of programs for veteran entrepreneurs, such as Boots to Business (B2B) as well as other small business support, training, and mentoring services offered by the Veterans’ Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) of New England.

Senator Reed is also reminding Rhode Islanders to ‘shop local’ this holiday season.  The growing economy is leading to forecasts for record holiday sales in the weeks ahead, with sales for November and December expected to increase by as much as 10 percent over last year.

“I am proud to support the men and women who sacrifice so much to serve our country.  Veterans make for a special kind of entrepreneur because they tend to bring a fearless, relentless, can-do attitude and understand the meaning of hard work, team-building, and dedication,” said Senator Reed.  “Employment and savings are up so this will likely be a record-setting holiday season for retailers and I will continue working hard to help Main Street businesses and working families thrive and keep our economy moving forward.  It’s always important to honor and thank our veterans and military families.  Beyond expressions of gratitude, we can use our purchasing power to ‘shop local’ and support veteran-owned businesses and local retailers who are pillars of our communities.”

“Operation Made is a mission driven marketplace that helps veterans and military spouses grow their businesses.  Unlike any other gift shop in New England, Operation Made only sells items made by those who serve,” said Nicole O’Brien, owner of Operation Made.  “We are very grateful to Senator Reed for taking time out of his busy schedule to stop by our store and support local veteran artists.  With National Veteran Business Week coming up, his support of our mission to encourage entrepreneurship in the military community helps to validate our purpose.”

“Nicole’s is such a great story.  Seeing her take an idea and turn it into an extremely successful business is just another example of the hard work and commitment members of the military and their families have to getting the job done.  Utilizing all the resources available to you, like the SBA resource partner network, is something all small business owners should do.  We love seeing success stories like Nicole’s, and salute all those who protect and serve our country, only to come home and enhance our communities and state with the successful small businesses they operate,” said SBA District Director Mark Hayward.

“The Center for Women & Enterprise (CWE) and our Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) of New England are honored to support veteran small businesses in Rhode Island, including the wonderful team at Operation Made.  Service members and their spouses, in all stages of their military journey, are able to access our services to support their entrepreneurial journey.  We currently serve 84 veteran small business owners in Rhode Island and celebrate their successes, support them in times of challenge, and honor the way that they translate their training and experiences in the military into mission driven businesses that span industries and serve the people in the state of Rhode Island.  We also need to emphasize the importance of buying local now, more than ever, our local businesses need the support and patronage from Rhode Islanders.  For more information on the opportunities we offer to aspiring or established entrepreneurs, visit our website: www.cweonline.org,” said Rhode Island Center for Women & Enterprise, Director Doris De Los Santos.

After the tour, Operation Made hosted its weekly “Feed Your Freedom Fridays,” an outdoor barbecue in front of the store offering $5 lunch with the goal of expanding Operation Made to assist even more veterans and military families.