IF YOU GO
* What: Bunker Labs Chattanooga community chapter meeting* When: Monday, 5:30-7:30 p.m.* Where: OddStory Brewing Co., 336 E. M.L. King Blvd.
Bunker Labs, a national non-profit that helps military veterans start and grow businesses, is seen as a natural for Chattanooga with the city's growing entrepreneurial culture, organizers say.
"We're excited about the mission of the organization and the passion behind it," said Chattanooga attorney Dan Gilmore, who is helping spearhead the startup of the group in the city.
Up to a quarter of the 200,000 service members coming off active duty each year want to start a business, according to Chicago-based Bunker Labs. They and their spouses need places where they can connect with people, resources and support to achieve their dreams, according to the organization.
Gilmore, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer, said the Chattanooga chapter will host a panel discussion and networking event Monday at OddStory Brewing Co. on M.L. King Boulevard at 5:30 p.m.
Chris Linville, a Chattanoogan and Vietnam War veteran, will talk about his start-up of a medical equipment distributorship, said Gilmore. Also, Marcus Shaw, CEO of the Chattanooga nonprofit startup accelerator The Company Lab, will take part.
"We'll flush out the veterans who have plans or thought about" starting their own business, Gilmore said. "It's a good way of creating broader awareness."
Blake Hogan, executive director for Bunker Labs in Tennessee, said the group has 19 chapters around the country and it's working on community locations such as in Chattanooga.
"It connects business leaders with military leaders," he said, adding that veterans thinking of creating their own companies can see what success looks like from talking with experienced business people.
Through its local chapters, Bunker Labs provides educational programming, mentors, events, and local networks to help military veterans start and grow businesses.
Hogan said veterans often spend their early years "doing anything but developing a professional network." So when they return to civilian life, they don't know the right people to help them start a company, he said.
"We hold events and do programming to facilitate people building networks so they can get in front of the right people at the right time," Hogan said.
In so-called hub cities such as Nashville, Bunker Labs offers opportunities for veterans to test ideas and then develop those into a business model and work with up to 15 entrepreneurs.
Gilmore, who started an employment law and human resource consulting practice called Squire Strategies, said the Bunker Labs group also is working with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's entrepreneurship program.
He said that as veterans are leaving the military, there's not a lot of emphasis there about what they can do for themselves.
"They talk more about traditional opportunities," Gilmore said.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.