Reservists design businesses to withstand deployment

Kelly Broome is a defense contractor and consultant who has long wanted to go in business for himself. But he is also an Army reservist, and every time he considered starting his own business, he found himself deployed — to Haiti, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

He needed help figuring out how he could run a business while being stationed overseas. So a little over a year ago, he and his accountant wife, Laura Broome, enrolled in Operation Endure and Grow, a Small Business Administration-funded education program for National Guard and reservists. The online program aims to help servicemembers and their family members learn to operate businesses even while deployed.

Laura had initially thought she might use what she learned in the program to start a craft and quilting store, but after more study, the two eventually agreed to pursue a franchise.

“We wanted something that already had a working model,” Kelly said.

Today, the Broomes run two branches of ARCpoint Labs, one based in San Antonio, Texas and the other in Austin. ARCpoint Labs processes drug, alcohol and DNA-tests for businesses, schools, governments and individuals for purposes ranging from employment background checks to infidelity charges.


Members of the US Army National Guard and reservists participate in Operation Endure and Grow to learn to run businesses even while deployed. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post) (NIKKI KAHN/THE WASHINGTON POST)

For the Broomes, the business made sense. The couple could work bankers hours, and only one of them had to work fulltime. Since ARCpoint Labs is a national franchise, they could follow an established model. “Knowing what the business plan is, and with technology, as long as I can have communication with [Kelly] I can take care of things on my own,” Laura Broome said.

Operation Endure and Grow helped the Broomes learn how to analyze markets, formulate business plans, and delegate the workload if Kelly Broome were deployed again. So far, Kelly Broome hasn’t been deployed since the Broomes started running the Arcpoint Labs.

The SBA and Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management offer the eight-week virtual course regularly every two months for 50 people every session, though enrollment varies widely based on deployment cycles, according to Syracuse entrepreneurship professor, former Air Force officer and Operation Endure and Grow founder Mike Haynie. The course involves an online video, Webinars, flexible homework assignments (to accomodate deployment), virtual office hours, and discussions with other classmates.

As of now, there are no other SBA initatives for national guard and reservists, though military spouses and women reservists can participate in another SBA-backed program for women called V-WISE (Veteran Women Igniting the Spark of Entrepreneurship).

SBA funding for Operation Endure and Grow may run out in 2013, Haynie said. If the SBA chooses not to renew the funding, the program will have to pursue private funding. The funding process will be competitive, according to the SBA, although a decision could be made as soon as November of this year.

Mohana Ravindranath covers IT and small business for the Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication.
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