A retired U.S. Army master sergeant who has run her own consulting firm in Columbus for more than a decade has launched a nonprofit organization aimed at publicizing and supporting military veteran-owned businesses throughout Ohio.
In March, Regina Rembert of Pickerington launched Think Veterans First to support veteran-owned businesses and veteran entrepreneurs.
The organization got its 501(c)(3) nonprofit certification May 31 and has launched a website, buyvet.org. It also publishes a monthly newsletter through the website designed to help veteran entrepreneurs form a network through which they can collaborate and support each other.
For now, Rembert said, she is seeking to reach out to veteran-owned businesses and entrepreneurs through those means and through the “rally point” she has established at the National Veterans Memorial Museum at 300 W. Broad St. in Columbus.
She said she hopes to identify and contact Ohio veteran entrepreneurs to help them network and promote their businesses.
“We advocate for and support veteran-owned businesses,” Rembert said. “We want the smaller businesses that can’t afford it to get the publicity they need for free.
“The goal is to identify who your business is, what you do and where you are located. I think that if people knew who they were and what they did, they would support them.
Rembert founded Brightstar Consulting LLC, 3128-H E. 17th Ave. in Columbus, in March 2008, two years before she retired from the Army. The business is a training, professional-development and human-resources consulting firm.
“I retired from the Army after 22 years in 2010,” Rembert said. “I retired a master sergeant, and I was the chief paralegal for the 416th Theater Engineer Command, located in Darien, Illinois.”
Rembert said her military service “means everything” to her, calling it “one of the most important and best decisions” she ever made.
“I have wonderful friends that are like family to me,” she said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at without the military.
“I didn’t think I’d like it. I loved it.”
As Rembert develops Think Veterans First, she plans to hold regular meetings, similar to chamber of commerce luncheons or events, to help veteran entrepreneurs network and build their businesses.
She also wants to develop an internet app that would allow veterans and members of the general public to identify veteran-owned businesses and services.
She said she would like to network veteran entrepreneurs throughout Ohio at first and then expand from there.
“In the military, you learn teamwork, you learn leadership, you learn esprit de corps,” Rembert said. “I thought, ‘What if we all support each other?’
“There are about 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses across the U.S. In Ohio, there are just under 1,000 registered with the Department of Veterans Affairs. I know there’s more in Ohio.”
In the meantime, Rembert is working with local, state and federal leaders to garner support and publicity for her organization and seeking corporate sponsors to help fund development of the app.
She said she is expecting Columbus City Council will declare Nov. 1 to 8 as “Buy Veteran Week,” an effort she hopes will bring publicity to veteran-owned businesses in central Ohio.
Additionally, she is working with U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Upper Arlington) to obtain an endorsement of her organization that might help it gain sponsorships and publicize it to other veterans.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and veterans are the backbone of our nation,” Stivers said. “When our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines return to civilian life, they return with impressive leadership skills and a desire to continue improving their communities, and it’s great to see so many channel that into creating jobs for their neighbors.
“We absolutely should be supporting and promoting our veteran-owned small businesses, and I’m grateful to have Think Veterans First as a partner in achieving that goal.”
Locally, Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce president Theresa Byers called Think Veterans First “another fabulous addition to our community.”
“By creating a network of veteran entrepreneurs and business owners that can work together and share best practices, we will see a continued growth of our business community,” Byers said. “Supporting our small businesses is more important today than ever before.
“We need our small businesses to thrive. Think Veterans First will assist in this by reaching out to veterans, military and veteran organizations, as well as local governments and the community at large to encourage the support and collaboration and ultimately the promotion of the Think Veterans First campaign.”
Rembert said she hopes the organization – which to this point has operated in the shadow of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – will flourish as it becomes better known and can hold more events that draw veterans together.
She said she sees an abundance of potential and particularly is eager to become a resource for veterans as they come out of active service.
“I want to reach out to those coming out of active duty to help them find out what their next chapters are,” Rembert said. “I want to talk to them about the benefits of entrepreneurship.
“I want to pay it back to the military, and I want to pay it forward because I wouldn’t be where I am without the military. I owe them everything, really.”