Boots to Business

Veterans can fulfill entrepreneurial dreams

By WILLIAM WRIGHT Staff writer
Posted 7/9/17

During his transition to military retirement, Michael Mac Donald retired from active federal service and explored his options for a career outside of the United States Army.

What he soon …

This item is available in full to subscribers

Boots to Business

Veterans can fulfill entrepreneurial dreams


During his transition to military retirement, Michael Mac Donald retired from active federal service and explored his options for a career outside of the United States Army.

What he soon realized is a striking disadvantage that veterans face in not knowing all the free programs available to them and how accessible they are.

The free veteran’s entrepreneurial “Boots to Business” program, for example, had not been made available in Cleveland until now. It is designed to be “an experience that will help the veteran and their families realize their entrepreneurial dreams and aspirations — whatever they may be,” said Michael, who entered the Army in 1990 and retired in February 2017 as a master sergeant.

“Unless you are aware of the programs and resources available to you, you would not know who to ask or where to begin,” Michael said. “For many, it can be a knowledge factor, accessibility, and/or economic. These factors are my driving force behind providing this no cost opportunity to our community of veterans and their families.”

Success of the nine-week program is measured by how many veterans complete the course and apply what they learn by becoming part of the growing field of veteran-owned businesses.

The classroom and online program is designed to give veterans instruction and training they will need to launch or continue to grow their entrepreneurial venture, said Mac Donald.

Classes will be held at Cleveland State Community College, 3535 Adkisson Drive in the Technology building, room 115 starting July 18, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. They will continue each Tuesday through Sept. 12, 2017, when graduation is scheduled. Doors open at 5:15 pm.

Taught by top-notch instructors and supported with testimonials from guest speakers and actual veterans who are already succeeding in their entrepreneurial careers, the content and exercises each veteran will complete is designed to further their understanding of the steps and activities associated with successfully launching and growing a business venture, according to Michael.

David Hudson, director of Tennessee Small Business Development Center, located at Cleveland State Community College, said, “We have never offered this program before, but think it could be very useful.”

Michael added, “Unlike large military installations that have ample resources and funding to provide these opportunities to their transitioning service members and their families, Cleveland and the surrounding East Tennessee valley severely lacks those basic resources, primarily due to the location and lack of perceived need.”

But the need is definitely there, according to the former master sargeant who was deployed to six of the seven continents over his military career. He pointed out the discrepancy in the national unemployment rates. As of May 2017 unemployment was 4.7 percent for veterans and 4.3 percent for non-veterans. As for Tennessee, the unemployment rate as of May 2017 for veterans was 6.1 percent, but only 4.0 percent for non-veterans.

The Department of Defense provides a transition program that allows all service members to choose one of three options: 1. College Preparation Track. 2. Resume Builder Track and 3. Entrepreneurial Track.

Realizing that veterans are natural entrepreneurs — already accustomed to discipline, following orders, being decisive, being leaders and being accountable, it would seem that such well-trained men and women would be at the top of today’s hiring preference.

Michael explained, “With a masters in aerospace engineering under my belt and little fondness of working at someone else’s schedule, my wife, Lesley, and I decided to pursue a business of our own.

“Veterans have a sense of self-discipline that enables them to conceptualize their ideas and research to seek and engage the supporting organizations and agencies that exist to support these veterans and their families. Organizations such as TSBDC and Small Business Administration are here to help those veterans with their vision of business ownership.”

Last year, TSBDC advised 232 different business owners, adding some $3.6 million in investments and 130 jobs to Cleveland’s economy. Michael and Lesley (who was born and raised in Cleveland), are enjoying managing their new veteran- owned business in the Cleveland area — Highland Acoustic Solutions Inc. — a manufacturer of fabric-wrapped acoustic panels, baffle and cloud systems that absorb, diffuse and reflect sound and noise.

“The United States of America has a wealth of opportunity for all who seek it and apply themselves,” Michael said. “Regardless of current events and economic shifts, veterans are part of the American people. Veterans are just like you and me. They come from our hometowns. They also have hopes and dreams, families to raise and lives to live. They want what their neighbor wants, freedom to exercise their God given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Their unique ability to succeed where others have failed only lifts up the community they live in and share. When a veteran succeeds, we all succeed.”

The Tennessee Small Business Development Center serves Bradley, Meigs, Monroe, McMinn and Polk counties. Its free business services provide the convenience of a local adviser who can help explore your business idea or talk about your existing business and any issues you may be facing in an effort to help you to succeed.

To attend the free Boots to Business program, apply at the Tennessee Small Business Development Center inside Cleveland State Community College at 3535 Adkisson Drive or contact TSBDC Director David Hudson at 423-478-6247 or email:

For further information about Highland Acoustic Solutions, visit: or or email: or call 888-865-0456.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment


Print subscribers have FREE access to by registering HERE

Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE

We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.

If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.

Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE