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Nation’s top business official holds veteran entrepreneurship discussion in Phoenix

Left to right, small business owner Eli Crane, SBA administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, small business owner Angela Cody-Rouget. (KTAR Photo/Mike Sackley)

PHOENIX — In celebration of National Small Business Week, the country’s top small business official and member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet held a discussion in Phoenix to talk about veteran entrepreneurship on Thursday.

Maria Contreras-Sweet, a Small Business Association administrator was joined by Eli Crane and Angela Cody-Rouget, two veterans who have started small businesses in the Valley, to speak at the Arizona Biltmore about what it means to own a business as a veteran.

Crane, a former Navy Seal, started the bottle-opener company Bottle Breacher and Cody-Rouget, a former major in the United State Air Force, started the professional organizing company Major Mom. Both were featured on the ABC show Shark Tank.

Contreras-Sweet said vets are trained to be focused and disciplined, but sometimes need help making the transition from military life into the business world.

“(Small Business Association) knows that veterans are stars and can just about do anything,” she said. “Nonetheless, we owe it to them to make sure we are there to assist them.”

She said the association in Phoenix has programs that can help veterans who want to enter the business world and become entrepreneurs.

“We help people who have been wounded warriors,” Contreras-Sweet said. “(We help them) learn about entrepreneurship. Their caretakers also qualify for this.”

The association also offers programs and outreach centers with free counseling, Contreras-Sweet said, that are available to veterans who want to transition to the business world.

These programs include the boots to business program that helps military members transition out of uniform and into civilian life and entrepreneurship.