Bravery. Determination. Discipline. Leadership…qualities inherent in all veterans. Turns out…they also make for strong, successful entrepreneurs.
One of the biggest roadblocks to starting or expanding a business is obtaining capital. This is a tough roadblock for anyone but can be particularly tough for veterans returning to civilian life. SBA has placed an emphasis on providing support to veteran-owned businesses and recognizes the major impact they have on our economy.
According to the 2019 Annual Business Survey (ABS), covering reference year 2018, veteran-owned businesses made up about 6% of all businesses, with an estimated $948 billion in receipts, approximately 4 million employees, and about $178 billion in annual payroll.
From Boots to Business
Andrew (AJ) DeBuono is a U.S. Marine Corp Veteran who served as an E-4 Marine infantry squad leader. He was awarded two Purple Hearts after serving tours in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2005-2009 and has undergone 13 surgeries to repair damage done by a rocket-propelled grenade that hit his Humvee.
Upon returning to civilian life, AJ found employment in the automotive industry. After working for two different companies and gaining hands-on experience, he became the owner and operator of Diehl Auto Repair in 2016. Diehl Auto had been in operation since 1989 as a one-stop-shop for all auto servicing, repair, and maintenance needs. AJ’s mission in taking over the business was to, “be the trustworthy shop in an often un-trustworthy industry”.
In 2017, AJ utilized SBA 504 financing to purchase the property Diehl Auto was operating out of. In 2022, the company saw an opportunity to expand to a second location four miles away and once again brought in Growth Corp and the 504 Loan Program. “By opening our second location it helped expand our visibility and increased our customer base at our first location. And because the first location was already established, we saw accelerated growth in the second location.”
Why 504 Financing Was Attractive
When asked why the 504 was an attractive financing option, AJ said, “The SBA 504 loan increased our access to capital and was very attractive to us because of the lower down payment and lower, fixed interest rate. We also appreciated that SBA financing required us to do a little more due diligence than other financing programs. We actually passed up on one location because, after doing a little more research, we uncovered issues that would not have been uncovered without going through the 504 program.”
Diehl Auto Repair has an incredibly loyal following and tons of rave reviews online. In fact, Diehl Auto Repair was named a Yelp top shop, a Nextdoor favorite shop, and a Google favorite shop. The community love doesn’t stop there either…Diehl is often a host for various fundraisers in its shops, all with the goal of giving back to the communities in which they live and work.
When asked if he had any advice or anecdotes for anyone else looking to start or expand a business, AJ said, “Something that was said to me, which is great advice…make sure to stop, step back, and appreciate what you have built. Too many people are go-go-go and forget to stop and appreciate the journey.”
The expansion of this veteran-owned business created jobs in a community with a comprehensive revitalization and community development plan in place.