“Starting a new business is one of the scariest things you’ll ever do,” cautioned Dick Woodall, who should know: The U.S. Air Force veteran took a chance three years ago and started Preferred Business Partners.

He was among a handful of knowledgeable folks speaking at the Sept. 28 meeting of the Veterans Business Support Coalition, sponsored by the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce, at Slate Street Billiards on Southern Boulevard.

The coalition was formed in February 2020 for assistance and advocacy of the city’s veterans, as RRRCC President and CEO Jerry Schalow understands there is a large former and current military population in the City of Vision, as well as the county and surrounding communities.

Support for those who have served, as well as providing strategies and advice for them with a business venture, are important — and this 19-month-old coalition provides that.

“We wanted to bring ‘em all in, so everyone has a source to go to,” explained Susan Sheridan, in charge of events management and member accounting for the chamber.

The resources are numerous, says USAF veteran Rich Coffel, director of operations at the New Mexico Veterans Business Outreach Center.

“Everything we do is free,” he said — and added 107 veteran-owned businesses are in Sandoval County. But not all of the numbers he went over were good ones: “Over 600,000 businesses closed during (the pandemic),” he said. “We’ve helped 61 businesses start up since March 2020.”

Rich Coffel

Woodall’s firm specializes in payroll, human resources and risk-management services; workers compensation insurance; and employee benefits.

“Workers compensation was my focus,” Woodall told the group of nearly two-dozen, the coalition’s largest attendance to date.

His father broke his back at work and, after several months of recuperation and being unable to return to his job, was released from that job. It would have been nice if his father’s employer had workers compensation at the time, Woodall said, urging everyone to purchase it — “the least-expensive type of health care insurance in the world.”

Premiums are based on the danger of the work, thus someone doing work as a roofer, for example, would have higher premiums than someone sitting at a computer monitor.

But no matter what type or size of business a veteran may want to start, Coffel said, “If anybody tells you you don’t need a business plan, they’re crazy.”

And you have to constantly update that plan, he advised, giving a local example of one success story whose owner initially planned to open a security firm, then branched out to teach concealed-carry courses.

Coffel told attendees the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Small Business Development Center, the Women’s Business Center and other organizations have a lot of resources.

The group’s next meeting — open to all veterans seeking business advice — is planned for 4:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at Brew Lab 101, 3301 Southern Blvd. More information is available at rrrcc.org or by emailing riochamber@rrrcc.org.

Gary Herron | Observer staff writer