Did you know that nearly 1 in 10 small businesses in the U.S. is owned by a veteran? Together, they employ nearly 5 million American workers and produce more than $1 trillion in sales every year.
Last week was National Veterans Small Business Week, Nov. 5 to 9, and we recognize those who serve, their important role in our economy, and their contributions to rural America.
Staff Sergeant Josh and Amanda Kushen reached out to our small business program in May 2018. They connected with Center for Rural Affairs Loan Specialist Craig Eberle who provided them with information and helped them work through a plan for their business, Wildcat Furs.
Josh is active Army Guard/Reserve going on 15 years of service, and Amanda’s full-time job is a federal contractor for the Army National Guard. They say there is balancing to be done among his family life, work schedule, and small business.
“It can prove to be overwhelming at times, but I am trying to establish a foothold now before I retire from the service,” he said. “If I can do that, then I can continue my retirement working for myself and allow for more time with family.”
Wildcat Furs offers dry and wet tanning services, along with fur and pelt processing for shipment to international fur markets or local buyers. Josh pursued the business idea after he saw an opportunity for a possible retirement and career plan after departing the military.
He has hunted for most of his life and recently pursued a passion for trapping, which led to tanning hides.
“I showed a close mentor of mine, who then recommended a few people to me for tanning services,” Josh said. “This proved a need for this service locally for individuals and taxidermists alike.”
He said in the taxidermy world, very few individuals do their own tanning, so the majority is sent out to be tanned.
“This is considered a niche market and can prove to be very lucrative if people like the finished product,” Josh said. “In the end, it is all about preserving the animal and the memories that coincide with that experience, whether the customer be young or seasoned.”
Craig worked with Josh and Amanda as they considered ideas for the business.
“In the end, I decided to start smaller than I originally anticipated, but it was for the best when it comes to growth,” Josh said. “Every decision along the way, Craig and REAP were there to answer my questions and provide advice on things I may not have considered.”
Josh and Amanda obtained a start-up loan and operate as a sole proprietorship. They are also in the process of renovating their shop and upgrading to high-end equipment.
“My experience from start to finish bringing my vision to fruition has been a pleasant one, and I would recommend REAP to anyone looking to start their own business,” Josh said.
At a Glance
116 West Fairview Street, Campbell, NE 68932
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