Less than a year after starting eMerging Entrepreneurs, Inc., Laurel Hill native T.J. Breeden was recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change.”
Breeden, who attended the University of North Carolina after graduating from Scotland High School in 2000, recently found his private consulting firm floundering with the deterioration of the economy. He started eMerging Entrepreneurs in December 2011, narrowing his focus to military and minority communities.
A nonprofit organization, eMerging Entrepreneurs is based in Durham, and provides small business training and entrepreneurial services primarily to former and reserve military members.
“When we deal with people in the military community, they have wonderful skill sets, great leadership, a technical background, but a lot of them are just seeking that push of someone to provide them with the business acumen to support the logistical work,” said Breeden.
The organization, which currently has 26 client businesses, helps military veterans and those transitioning out of active duty to best utilize their specific skill sets.
“For someone who’s served in a combat zone, we show them how those skills translate into an entrepreneurial endeavor and how the work they’ve been doing over 10 to 12 years of active duty translates into a small business venture,” Breeden said. “A lot of our military have a lot of great skills in engineering and health care and end up in government contracting, but a lot of them have the question of how to make themselves eligible for government contracting.”
On June 27, eMerging Entrepreneurs will host “Momentum 2012,” a job fair, education fair , and small business symposium for military veterans, military spouses, reserves, and active duty members transitioning out, at the Fort Bragg Officer’s Club. Breeden hopes that the organization can double its list of clients through similar expos and outreach programs. Last month, Breeden was recognized by the White House Office of Public Engagement’s “Champions of Change” program, which rewards and provides a forum of American innovators. Breeden, as chairman of eMerging Entrepreneurs, was recognized along with the leaders of 10 other organizations serving veterans nationwide.
“It was sort of unbelieveable that they would acknowledge the work that we were doing and then give us the platform to go to D.C. and showcase that work,” said Breeden. “I was the only civilian organization that was there - I took pride in that, to say that civilian organizations like mine and others throughout North Carolina really want to support the military.”
Breeden’s visit to the White House included a self-guided tour and a panel discussion in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with the other 10 individuals in his Champions of Change category, which was broadcast live on the White House website. Breeden and his counterparts also contributed to the White House blog with information about their respective organizations.
“We’ve now created a network among ourselves,” Breeden said. “We support each other’s projects because we all have the same goal: we all want to support our veterans.”