It starts with an idea – that “Aha!” moment when you realize your business concept has the potential to be great. But it takes work, dedication and commitment to make that idea a reality. Entrepreneurs with military experience – whether service members, veterans or military spouses – are uniquely positioned to succeed as small business owners.
Jilan Hall-Johnson is a military spouse who used her experience and skills to turn her bruncherie idea into a fully baked business. After her husband, DeMarco Johnson, was stationed in Billings, Montana as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, she was on the hunt for new employment opportunities in the area. Assistance for military spouse employment in Billings was limited, so she decided she was ready to explore entrepreneurship as the next step in her career.
Jilan knew she had a great idea, and the passion and drive to be a small business owner. But she wasn’t sure how to start her business. She decided to turn to her local Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) at Big Sky Economic Development for guidance and support. Jilan and the Big Sky VBOC immediately began working together to put her business idea on paper. The VBOC helped her develop her business plan, establish a marketing strategy, acquire a business location, find access to capital, and accomplish so much more right in her local community.
The VBOC then referred Jilan to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Big Sky. The SBDC gave Jilan additional assistance and business counseling, and registered her for Boots to Business Reboot, where she was introduced to the skills, knowledge and resources she needed to launch a successful business.
With a solid foundation of business fundamentals under her belt, Jilan was ready to take the next step in her entrepreneurship journey. The SBDC worked with her on financial projects and helped her put together a loan package. Jilan applied for and received SBA 7(a) financing for $290,000. The SBDC and VBOC worked together to help Jilan apply for a local grant package, which helped her receive over $13K in grant funding for leasehold improvements to her restaurant.
From there, The Sassy Biscuit Company was born. The Sassy Biscuit Co. is a biscuit shop and bruncherie known for innovating and elevating the magnificence of the biscuit, using local and wholesome ingredients. “I’ve learned so much through the military” said Jilan. “When opening up this company, I took a lot of the things that I learned as a military spouse and brought those into my business.”
As Jilan reflects on her small business journey, she believes that “as an entrepreneur, there’s so much that you can add to your community and to your family.” Jilan and DeMarco are now running their successful business in Billings together – Jilan as the brains behind the business and DeMarco as the muscle behind the vision – with expansion plans in the works. Get ready Dover, New Hampshire! The Sassy Biscuit Co. is coming to a neighborhood near you.
America’s SBDCs proudly serve America’s veterans. Learn more here.
This blog was originally written by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development.
Please note: As the situation around Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve, the top priority of America’s SBDCs and the SBA is to continue to support the small business community, including the military and veteran small business community. Please visit americassbdc.org/covid19 and sba.gov/coronavirus for information.