When he retired from the military in 2013 and settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Gary Peterson began to explore several career options.
In 2012 he read an article about a local charity needing support to fix one of its aging vans. He took on the challenge and fixed that van, and sold another vehicle for $4,000. That led him to realize that he could help raise more money for local charities.
He launched One Community Auto to help local nonprofits raise money for their causes. Instead of sending donated vehicles to auction, he refurbishes and sells them at his retail location, dramatically raising the value of those vehicles so that everybody wins—donor, charity and the new car owner.
“After serving 23 years in the United States Air Force, I had the work ethic and dedication to run a small business, but I didn’t have the business background,” Peterson recalls. “I quickly realized that there were tons of resources to help me get up to speed.” He started attending SCORE workshops to do just that.
One Community Auto was selected as one of 102 state winners in the 2017 American Small Business Championship. At the time, One Community Auto worked with 11 local organizations to funnel sales revenue back into the community.
Peterson started with the Startup Basics Workshop to get a broad understanding of what was needed to run a small business. “I was also able to evaluate myself and if I could actually do it,” he says. As he launched, he attended several webinars on nonprofit business planning and connected with a mentor to work on marketing challenges.
Peterson worked with volunteer mentor Peter Mikelson, who helped validate his business idea and provided strategic direction.
Peterson has also attended SCORE’s previous Boots to Business program for veterans, and later graduated from the SBA’s Emerging Leaders program. “My learning continues,” he says.
One success story is Gary Peterson, a retired Air Force (USAF) Major and the owner of One Community Auto in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His firm was built upon a lifelong passion for automobiles and his post-service mission of giving back to the community.
After 23 years of military service, Peterson became a business adviser at his local Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC). While there, he was inspired to start his own company and, by working at the VBOC, he learned valuable insights on how to run a business. Peterson took the Boots to Business Reboot course, which helps veterans interested in exploring business ownership by leading them through key steps for evaluating business concepts and providing the knowledge required to write a business plan.
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