For 16 years, Paul McArtor was a U.S. Air Force acquisitions officer. With one overseas deployment to Afghanistan under his belt, the Florida native was working at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in Charlottesville, when he was offered early retirement. He and his family were enjoying Charlottesville, so they decided to stay.
After returning to civilian life, McArtor decided to go back into real estate, where he had some previous experience.
“As part of preparing for that career, I was told to reach out to as many people I knew. That’s called your ‘sphere of influence’, he said. “Because I was new to the area, I had a total six people on that list. Not a very big network at all.”
That got McArtor thinking.
“I was sure I wasn’t the only veteran coming out of active duty starting a new career,” he said. “I was wondering: what if we get a group of local veteran business owners together with the goal of making each other succeed?”
He picked up the phone, reached out to about 15 of those businesses and pitched the idea.
“They all liked the idea. That was enough affirmation for me to get the ball rolling,” he said.
That was four years ago. Called the Charlottesville Veterans Business Network (CVBN), the group now has about 40 members and meets once a month. On average, about a dozen or so people attend a meeting. Although McArtor has not set himself any goals, he hopes more veterans will join the network in the future. All branches of the military are represented in the group.
“The main goal of the group is to help each other succeed,” McArtor said. “Our members are working in various disciplines. We have insurance guys, attorneys, real estate professionals, just to name a few. One member is a procurement specialist at the university, which helps business owners deal with UVa. We discuss all aspects of doing business, learn from each others’ experiences and get better at what we do. That’s what the group is all about.”
He emphasizes the networking group is for veteran business owners and professionals.
When McArtor, who is now a licensed realtor with Avenue Realty and franchise owner of the Kid to Kid resale store in town, founded the networking group, he had only two conditions for joining members.
“One, we don’t buy from or sell to each other. I’ve been part of business networking groups before, and oftentimes that would be the case. Not here,” he said.
“Second,” said McArtor, “members of the group help their peers, even if they own competitive businesses. That’s where our military background is important. We feel an instant connection to each other because of our shared experiences. And our mindset is always to be honest, honorable and have integrity. This is about vets helping vets.”
McArtor, for instance, specializes in military relocation as part of his real estate work.
“One member of the group wanted to know how to get in that real estate market as well. And so I coached her to get there,” he said. “And when I was thinking about becoming a franchise owner, I learned from other franchise owners in the group about how to do that. There’s enough pieces of the pie to go around.”
For now, the Charlottesville Veterans Business Network is not a legal entity.
“It’s pretty loosely organized. That gives us flexibility too,” McArtor said. “There are no bylaws or meeting minutes. That might change in the future, but for now members are happy with how things are organized.”
McArtor feels it’s important to mention what the network is not.
“We are not an advocacy group. We are also not political and we don’t lobby,” he said. “There is no other agenda than helping veteran business owners and professionals succeed.”
McArtor hopes that in time, more veterans will join the group.
“It’s helped me enormously. There is so much expertise in the group that helped me get better. I’ve been able to get better connected in the community and use the networking group as a source of information,” he said. “And Charlottesville has a lot of veteran owned businesses and professionals. More than you might realize. As far as I know, a group like this is unique to the area.”
If you are a veteran and would like more information on the Charlottesville Veterans Business Network, contact to Paul McArtor: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Charlottesville Veterans Business Network also has a Facebook page to learn more about the network and the businesses associated with it.