Posted at 12:25 PM
Blog post by Michele Bartram, BusinessUSA Chief Marketing and Customer Success Officer
Last month, the Department of Commerce’s BusinessUSA team was awarded an inaugural President’s Award for Customer Service by the White House at the Unlocking the Full Potential of America’s Federal Workforce event. Chosen as one of only five entries from hundreds submitted all across federal government, BusinessUSA was recognized for the ongoing service provided to America’s military veterans under their Veteran Entrepreneur Initiative done in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
BusinessUSA is a presidential initiative created by Presidential Memorandum on October 28, 2011, co-managed by both the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce. The President directed the creation of BusinessUSA as a centralized, one-stop platform to make it easier for businesses to access the right government resources to help them from starting up to going global. Combining a website, contact center, mobile apps, social media like Twitter and LinkedIn, and other customer communications channels like a popular email newsletter, BusinessUSA gathers, organizes, optimizes and distributes business assistance information about funding, programs, services, articles, tools, regulations, training and events from across federal, state and local governments.
Since its launch in 2012, BusinessUSA has built up an impressive array of business assistance content and quick-search tools called “wizards” that enable users to quickly pinpoint the right resources for their business needs. In addition to a Business Training Portal, Worldwide Business Events Calendar and Local Business Assistance Finder, some of the most popular tools on BusinessUSA include: a new State Resources Portal; Start a Business; Grow Your Business; Access Financing; Explore Government Contracting; Learn about Taxes and Credits; Begin Exporting; Expand Exporting; Health Care Changes; Find Regulations; Seek Disaster Assistance; and specialty pages for businesses owned by Women, American Indians and Alaska Natives, and Veterans.
It was this last area—resources for veterans—that led to the Presidential award-winning Veteran Entrepreneur Initiative. To build the first-generation Veterans Resources wizard, BusinessUSA had originally collaborated with one of its initial 24 federal partners—the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). So when the VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (VA OSDBU) found that military veterans were coming to them not just for information on how to get a veteran-owned business verification or learn about VA procurement opportunities, but were also asking the VA for advice on how to start or grow a business, obtain funding, find business training, and other business issues, the VA OSDBU team approached BusinessUSA for help.
Assembling motivated team members from both sides, many of them veterans themselves, BusinessUSA and VA set an ambitious goal of making it easier for the over 21 million U.S. military veterans to find the right government resources to start or grow a business.
In under 90 days, BusinessUSA collaborated with VA OSDBU on transforming its Veteran Entrepreneur website and streamlining its internal veteran business customer-facing processes—while revamping BusinessUSA’s own website, contact center, mobile app, and marketing—to create a simple, unified customer experience (CX) across both agencies for future and current veteran business owners searching for assistance.
In the first nine months since the relaunch in July 2014, the VA website saw a 78% increase in veterans coming to its VA Veteran Entrepreneur Portal. This in turn drove 8,838% more veteran visits overall and 9,576% more new veteran users to the revamped BusinessUSA website and Veterans Resources tool. Even more gratifying is that fact that in just the first year, over a quarter of a million veteran entrepreneurs have been serviced by the combined BusinessUSA and VA veteran entrepreneur portals, and they keep coming back for more.
One enthusiastic user is U.S. Army veteran Janet Simmons, President and CEO of Innovative Global Security Solutions (IGSS), a VA-verified Veteran-Owned Small Business, who said: “The Veteran Entrepreneur Portal is a great resource to help with business setup, strategy, operations, forecasting, and financing – all in one location. This has become my ‘go to’ website for all my business information needs. Very impressive.”