When Dr. Win Somboonsong won Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year for Eastern Pennsylvania, it was just the latest achievement in a fascinating journey to becoming a successful small business owner.
Somboonsong is the owner of Bella Azie, Inc., with restaurants including Teikoku in Newtown Square, PA and Azie Media in Media, PA. As a Seedcopa borrower, he was able to expand his restaurant group, which won him the Small Business of the Year award in 2017. But his success story starts years before.
Somboonsong was born in Philadelphia. Soon after, he returned with his family to Thailand where he lived until the age of 15 when he returned to attend Valley Forge Military Academy. After graduating high school and college, he entered the United States Navy ROTC program to complete his Master’s degree and was later commissioned as an Ensign.
Somboonsong completed his education by earning a Ph.D. in structural engineering at Drexel University while assigned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard and Willow Grove Joint Air Base.
Leaving the U.S. Navy as a Lieutenant (O-3), Somboonsong entered private business as a structural engineer specializing in design/renovation of large suspension bridges, including the renovation of Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
He left engineering and entered the restaurant business in order to better support his family. Working closely with his spouse, Sutilda Somboonsong, he opened Teikoku restaurant with the aid of an SBA 504 Loan issued through Seedcopa, an affiliate of the Chester County Economic Development Council.
His collective restaurants have a long history of strong financial performance and cash flow, even during times of economic difficulty. The success of Somboonsong’s initial signature restaurant, Teikoku, has fueled the creation of more restaurants in Delaware and Chester Counties under the Win Signature Restaurant moniker that employs hundreds of individuals.
If you’re transitioning out of the military and interested in starting your own business, consider this: Thanks to the perseverance, adaptability and determination you gained during active duty, you already have the skills needed to become an entrepreneur. In addition, Seedcopa works with the SBA and its low-interest loan programs to make special consideration for veterans.
Through its extensive work connecting veterans with the ideal loans for their small businesses, Seedcopa offers the following tips:
Funding for veteran-owned small businesses
Many veterans are ideal candidates for the low-interest, long-term fixed rate loans offered through the SBA’s SBA 504 loan program. Key features of the program:
- Typically, small business borrowers make a 10% equity injection, a bank or credit union finances another portion of the project cost, and a CDC, through the SBA, finances another portion of the project cost guaranteed by the federal government.
- 10, 20 and 25-year fixed rate options
- Used for owner-occupied commercial land, property, construction or equipment with total project costs from approximately $100,000 to approximately $15,000,000.
These loans are facilitated by SBA-certified development companies like Seedcopa + SeedcoDE. We help:
- Properly explain your business plan in the loan application so it has the best chance possible of being accepted for a loan
- We lay out financial projections, leadership plans and business strategy that resonates with lenders
- Lenders tell us that many applications they receive are only 60 percent complete, making it difficult to close the loan. We ensure your application is both accurate and robust.
Veteran entrepreneurship training programs
Along with the SBA 504 Loan program, other SBA programs feature customized curriculums, in-person classes, and online courses to give veterans the training to succeed. These programs teach the fundamentals of business ownership, SBA resources, and small business experts.
- Boots to Business: An entrepreneurial program offered on military installations around the world and a training track of the Department of Defense (DOD) Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Boots to Business Reboot extends the entrepreneurship training offered in TAP to veterans of all eras in their communities.
- Women Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program (WVETP): Provides entrepreneurial training to women veterans, women service members, and women spouses of service members and veterans as they start or grow a business. SBA funds these entrepreneurship training programs available exclusively for women veterans through grantees:
- Service Disabled Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program (SDVETP): Provides entrepreneurship training program(s) to service-disabled veteran entrepreneurs who aspire to be small business owners or currently own a small business. SBA funds entrepreneurship training programs for service-disabled veterans through grantees:
o Veterans Entrepreneurship Program (VEP) – Riata Center for Entrepreneurship, Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University
o Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans – St. Joseph’s University – St. Joseph’s University
- Veteran Federal Procurement Entrepreneurship Training Program (VFPETP): Delivers entrepreneurship training to veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses nationwide interested in pursuing, or are already engaged in federal procurement.