By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Eddie Scott is a savvy businessman.
He’s also a proud U.S. Marine.
And he would be the first to tell anyone he wouldn’t be where he is today without his military career.
“It made me. The Marines gave me my work ethic,” he said.
Nearly 20 years ago, Scott left Tupelo for Parris Island, S.C., to begin a five-year stint with the Marines.
“I grew up that day when I stepped off that bus,” he said.
The discipline and training he received paid huge dividends, and the experience helped Scott turn an idea into a successful business.
Computer Universe was founded in Tupelo in 2001, and a second store in Pontotoc opened this year. Scott has the green light to open other stores as well.
Scott is among more than 26,000 veterans who own businesses in Mississippi. Nationwide, there are about 3 million veteran-owned businesses.
Veterans are twice a likely to open their own businesses than non-veterans, according to U.S. Census Bureau and veterans-related groups.
There are no clear-cut reasons why that’s the case, but Scott said it all leads back to the structure of the military.
“It’s the training, the intregrity – not that others don’t have integrity. But it’s a different level. And there’s the work ethic,” he said.
Veteran-owned businesses are an economic force as well.
According to veteranownedbusiness.com, they post annual sales of more than $1.2 trillion, employ nearly 5.8 million people and generate annual payroll of more than $210 billion.
Veteran-owned businesses also are slightly more likely to offer benefits such as health insurance, contributions to retirement plans, profit sharing and paid leave than businesses overall.
IDEA TO REALITY
Scott knew much about diesel mechanics, having worked on a farm growing up. When he joined the Marines, tractors gave way to light armored vehicles and their electronics and hydraulics.
After the Marines, he worked for a computer company in Oklahoma City that later became publicly traded. Scott said he learned a lot about running a business from the experience, and he was ready to return to his roots.
“I’ve been all over the world but there’s no place like Northeast Mississippi,” he said “I wanted to come home.”
He and his brother, Joe, came up with the idea of a computer sales and service business in Tupelo.
“We started building computers in the garage,” Eddie Scott said. “Then we opened a store next to Dodge’s and the rest is history.”
Starting with three employees, the company now has 19. More will be added if Scott’s expansion plans come to fruition.
“I’d like to think we can grow to 10 stores eventually,” he said.
Veterans have been opening their own businesses since the Revolutionary War, and it’s no different today.
As they return home from Iraq and Afghanistan, some have jobs to return to, while others are looking for something else to do.
Would-be entrepreneurs have a host of programs they can tap for financial help and advice.
For example, the U.S. Small Business Administration has the Patriot Express Pilot Loan Initiative and the Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
The federal government also has special programs such as Public Law 106-50. Passed in 1999, it establishes a goal for the government to spend at least 3 percent of federal contract dollars with service-disabled, veteran-owned businesses.
And organizations like the National Veteran-Owned Business Association promote national campaigns like “Buy Veteran.”
Scott said the Veterans Administration has provided him a loan for his home, as well as a small business loan. He also gets medical care through the VA.
But perhaps the most impactful benefit has come simply from being in the military.
“I think the biggest thing was the training and all the things you go through,” he said. “You have to have discipline. The promotion system is merit-based. If you want to get anywhere at all, you have to excel at what you do. You have to work hard at everything. That applies to life, too.”
The military experience can’t be duplicated, said Scott, firmly believing everyone would benefit from it.
“I’d sweat that sweat again,” he said.
Besides, he said, where else does someone have the opportunity to travel the world. Meeting new people and new cultures, he said, was enlightening.
What better way is there to prepare to serve a diverse customer base?
“I’ve been to 30-plus countries,” Scott said. “I’ve been elbow-to-elbow with people who are white, brown, black, yellow, red, you name it. I can talk to anybody.”