An initiative intended to provide support and resources to veteran-owned businesses has been launched.
In 2019, the Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce started EDGE, which stands for Engage, Discuss, Grow, Educate and is a peer-to-peer support and mentoring program designed to push personal and professional growth by fostering close business relationships among chamber members.
On March 18, the PACC held its first meeting for the Veterans EDGE program, which mirrors the original EDGE program, and is designed to support veteran-owned businesses and businesses that employ veterans.
“It’s an opportunity for veteran business owners or business owners who employ veterans to get together and talk about our businesses and help each other,” said Danny Dickerson, founding member of the Veterans EDGE program and owner of Rising Eagle Property Services LLC. “It’s an opportunity for veterans in the business community to get together and support each other.”
The Veterans EDGE group has six members, Dickerson said, and meetings are planned 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the third Thursday of each month at Operation Meraki, 12933 Stonecreek Drive.
Interested business owners can attend two meetings at no cost. After that, the cost is $300 a year or $25 a month, which goes to support PACC programs.
Dickerson retired from the U.S. Army in 2018 after 25 years, including tours in Iraq (2003) and Afghanistan (2015).
He said he hopes Veterans EDGE gives business owners the confidence to discuss challenges they’re facing because issues will be shared with other vets.
Through the discussions, members can help others in need find support for everything from mental-health issues to small-business grants and successful business models.
“It’s different when you’re talking to other veterans,” Dickerson said. “You just understand each other.
“By targeting vets, we’re narrowing our focus to a specific group of people we think can support each other more.”
Michael Thomas, a member of the PACC Board of Directors, chair of the PACC Veterans EDGE committee and founder and executive director of Operation Meraki, is a first responder who spent more than 10 years in the U.S. Army.
He said after he left the military, he struggled to find work, lived in his car and battled post-traumatic stress disorder and night terrors.
Thomas said the program will help veterans who own businesses learn their value and strategies for success, in addition to getting them the support and resources they need to compete in the business world.
“It’s part of the community that’s starting to thrive,” Thomas said. “I don’t think veterans need to be civilians after their service is through.
“I think they need a new mission.”
Thomas said the Veterans EDGE program supports the nonprofit Operation Meraki’s mission to reintegrate veterans into the workforce. He added that both his organization and the Veterans EDGE program provide resources, including for workforce development and wellness.
“We want to create sustainable, workable employees and, potentially, entrepreneurs that will help Ohio and other states … to build a viable workforce,” he said. “I want to improve veteran businesses in the community, and I want to connect with them and get them better resources.
“Ultimately, the goal is to cultivate the veteran business community and see if we can get more businesses into the community and then help them succeed.”
Janis Francis, a member of the PACC Board of Directors and owner of The Humble Crate, Artisan Marketplace at 18 E. Columbus St., said she hopes the Veterans EDGE program will operate similarly to the original EDGE program.
“The point of the (EDGE) group is for businesses in all stages of growth and development to help each other,” Francis said. “Seasoned business owners, as well as brand new business owners, will certainly benefit from this group.”
Information about the Veterans EDGE program can be found at pickeringtonchamber.com/events/details/pacc-veteran-s-edge-group-15749.