Success Stories


'Boots to business:' Outreach center helps veterans cultivate job opportunities

Adam Shidler

There was one thing that Shidler developed in the military that he knew would appeal to many civilians: his passion for coffee. In 2013, he began to experiment with various home brewing methods and he spent the ensuing four years perfecting his skills. His goal was to open his own coffee shop in Weslaco, but at first, he had more questions than answers.

“What kind of estimates do I need? What kind of pricing information,” Shidler recalled asking. “What kind of business plan do I need to have? Who do I need to talk to? No one tells you where to start.”

That’s when Shidler turned to the Veterans Business Outreach Center at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. Funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, VBOC acts as a one-stop shop for transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses who want to start, purchase or grow a business. Located nationwide, VBOCs provide transition assistance programs, including Boots to Business and Boots to Business Reboot, as well as business development assistance, such as training, counseling, mentoring and resource referrals.

Elite Oilfield Construction

Elite Oilfield ConstructionU.S. Army Sergeant Leonel Garza was finishing up his third tour of duty in Iraq at the end of May 2008. When he arrived back home in the United States, he attended a seminar on services available to personnel leaving the service at Fort Stewarts, Ga. Garza had made up his mind that he wanted to work for himself while on active duty. “While I was in the military, I had so many bosses. I thought it would be nice to be my own boss and make my own hours,” Garza related. “I had my own ideas and had done some research. I had worked up a business plan, before I went to see the people at the veteran’s center,” he recalled. But his visit to the VBOC was a real eye opener for Garza, “What Mr. Alonzo Gracia did was take it to a whole new level. He gave me so much information outside of what I was doing about what other companies and competitors were doing,” he said. VBOC also helped Garza find financing, even though he came to the table with his own capital.

He eventually wants Elite Oilfield Construction, his company, to branch out to servicing construction sites and outdoor events. In the long run he hopes to have a fleet of 30 units, which would be an investment of $40,000.