CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Veterans make up about 7.5 percent of the U.S. population, but the percentage is even higher when it comes to veterans who are business owners.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are nearly 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses, meaning more than 9 percent of American businesses are owned by veterans.
“It’s always better to work for yourself,” said veteran business owner Noe Bocanegra.
Bocanegra knows what he’s talking about. After all, he’s been working for himself for more than 40 years.
“I started my own business in 1981,” he said.
Bocanegra's latest business is War & Peace at La Palmera Mall. By his count, it’s the 12th store he's opened, however he didn't know if he'd reopen after he closed his shop at Sunrise Mall.
“I stayed home for four months and I was going crazy,” said Bocanegra. “I couldn’t stay retired. I had to keep working.”
‘War & Peace’ caters to veterans with a wide selection of military decals and insignias. It's the only local shop selling this kind of merchandise, which is why it's successful. It's a lesson Bocanegra learned when he was the first in town selling wrestling T-shirts.
“I bought a couple dozen shirts,” Bocanegra recalls. “I sold them all in two days.”
Now, there’s a company helping up-and-coming entrepreneurs get their foot in the door of the small-business world.
“We look at all the ways people are making money in today’s economy, and if they’re interested, we look at small-business ownership,” said Wendy Taylor.
Taylor, a career-ownership coach with The Entrepreneur's Source, wants to help more veterans become business owners like Bocanegra. For 35 years, The Entrepreneur’s Source has offered help to aspiring business owners.
“They are educated, and become aware of new things about themselves that they can carry on to any job market,” said Taylor.
The Entrepreneur Source’s courses are free for veterans. The company works with established businesses, offering franchise opportunities nationwide.
“We have more than 300 franchises in 37 different industries in our wheelhouse,” said Taylor.
Bocanegra says he once had thoughts of being a franchisee.
“I wanted to buy a Taco Bell,” he said. “I contacted them; I had the money to buy one, but they said I had to buy five.”
With his fast-food dreams now a thing of the past, this Vietnam veteran is happy where he is. Though he knows it won't last forever.
“I hate to close it down because the veterans love this store so much and it’s working really well,” Bocanegra said. “It pays the bills, it makes a little extra money, so it’s good.”