Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Bob Abbott, Founder of The Vintage Veteran, located in Scottsville, VA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

The Vintage Veteran provides handmade, one-of-a-kind luxury gifts for weddings, corporations, birthdays, and celebrations of all kinds. Built in central Virginia by disabled combat veterans, The Vintage Vet is known for quality workmanship with a simple mission. To help other veterans find an outlet through woodworking and help reintegrate into civilian life.

Tell us about yourself

I'm an Air Force vet with two tours in Afghanistan as an Army contractor. I did not come home well. After a friend helped save my life in 2014, I became laser-focused on helping other vets in their own reintegration. In 2018 a Canadian woodworker and toolmaker named Rob Cosman flew other combat-wounded veterans and me to an intensive week-long hand tool workshop. Rob provided the training, the tools, and the peace of woodworking. From that point forward, I've been helping other vets learn the art of woodworking while building amazing pieces of art.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Looking at all the struggles I faced, common among solo entrepreneurs, the biggest accomplishment had to be finding my mentor through the nonprofit SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). My mentor Michael is an expert in my industry; he's blazed the trails ahead of me and is helping me follow in his footsteps. It's weird to say that my accomplishment is not something I built or hitting a sales goal but establishing that relationship with Michael and the SCORE organization is easily the greatest and most impactful accomplishment of my business.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Few of us are raised to be entrepreneurs. The dozens of daily decisions we have to make as business owners can easily overwhelm us. But those decisions aren't the hardest thing. The hardest thing is admitting that you don't know, that you need help...whether it be more education/training, more people assisting the business, or even help with writing a business plan. Admitting that you don't know can be one of the hardest things we do.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Get a mentor. In the military, we know there's only one way to get through a minefield, and that's to follow someone else. Find a trusted advisor who knows the industry you're in and the markets you should be focused on, which may not be the markets you currently focus on.
  2. Have a plan. An actual, written-down plan. If your plan is in your head, that's just an idea. Writing down your plan and getting your goals defined and in order is a necessity for success. You'll never win the game if you don't know where the goals are.
  3. Be willing to change. If you keep beating your head against a wall, hoping to get through, you'll end up with a headache. Change your viewpoint and your approach, and you will find a door to get through that wall. Don't get into bunker mode and just grit through it. If hard work was all that's needed for success, ditch diggers would be millionaires.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I cannot stress enough how important a mentor is for your business success. And mentors change as the business changes. Rob was the perfect mentor to get me started in my business, and Michael was the perfect mentor to help define my market and set a strategic plan. Get a mentor. An excellent starting point is checking out any nonprofits that help entrepreneurs. Check with your local community college or small biz development center, or do what I did and reach out to SCORE.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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