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Retired Air Force Colonel Turns to ODU's Veterans Business Outreach Center for Help in Launching Business

During a 32-year military career, Horace Moss was tasked with doing vital computer and communications work for the U.S. government.

He ran President Ronald Reagan's computer center. He was the only American representative on a high-level NATO computerized information-sharing committee. He was an honored guest at the White House.

But when Moss, who retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 2001, launched his computer procurement and consulting business late last year, the decorated military veteran felt like a brand-new recruit.

"It's like you're in a fog out there," said Moss, who founded H.A. Moss Enterprises LLC on Dec. 21, 2009. "I had no idea where to go, what to do, what order it had to be done in, and all of those things are very important (for military procurement)."

Through a mutual contact, Moss was connected with Old Dominion University's Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC), a unit of ODU's innovative Business Gateway initiative.

"When you start a new business, you're out there alone. I came here and asked for help. They've helped with clearing up that 'fog,' and knowing exactly what I have to do and when I have to do it. They helped me with some financial ends, too. I'm so thankful."

H.A. Moss Enterprises, which provides a variety of computer hardware and software consulting solutions, is based in Hampton Roads.

VBOC Director Cindy Walters, a veteran herself, said she bonded with Moss right away. "We immediately hit it off," she said.

"Some of our first conversations were about structuring his company in the way that would benefit him. We talked a lot about the opportunities for procurement, particularly for service-disabled-veteran businesses. We looked at appropriate kinds of teaming with other partners in the community, to make sure that whatever business Horace was going after we could hit it 100 percent."

That interaction sums up exactly why the VBOC was created in the first place.

Funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the only such center in Virginia (and one of 11 nationwide), the VBOC provides outreach, assessment, long- and short-term business training, counseling, electronic and online assistance, and other technical assistance to veterans and U.S. military reserve-component business owners and entrepreneurs.

Walters said the centers across the country are tapping into a wellspring of ingenuity and entrepreneurship that runs deep in America's veterans.

"Horace spent 32 years in the military. He has so many connections. The business that he's doing now is so complementary to what he was doing in the military," Walters said.

"That is a really, really good formula for success. There are always going to be these transitional hurdles, but I think he has the skills, the knowledge and the ability to really be successful. I anticipate he will grow in exactly the way you'd want to grow - conservatively but solidly," she added.

Walters said veterans who have success in business tend to hire other veterans, further growing this reservoir of talented, dedicated employees.

Moss would love to hire other veterans, as well as other qualified employees. Right now, his business needs to grow a bit, which is all the more challenging given the current state of the economy.

"It could be better, but it's looking up," Moss said. "I have some contracts, and I'm looking for more contracts."

Walters said the VBOC has tried to be there at every step. "His successes are my success. His pains are my pains. I really do feel very connected with the things he's going through. I'm always trying to find ways to help his business, but also help him. If he gets a bump in the road, he'll come over here to get pep talks."

"My last e-mail simply said, 'Help!'" Moss confided with a smile.

"We kind of wrapped our arms around what he was trying to do and I think he left that day feeling like he had a good pep talk," Walters said.

Moss appreciates the support.

"If I'm not successful, it won't be from lack of trying," he said.

This article was posted on: November 11, 2010

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