On the morning of April 1, 2013, I awoke with a new vision for my Golden Years. My plan was clear: enroll in school to study human services and psychology and start a non-profit organization for Combat Veterans and their families. This plan was the culmination of many conversations I had with my older brother who is a Vietnam War Veteran.
I had no idea what I was getting into. I had, in the past, been very successfully self-employed in the roofing business. I had experience in for profit business, knew the ins and outs, where to start and how to carry the day to day responsibilities. I taught myself bookkeeping, payroll, taxes, etc., and when I sold the business I only owed $10.35 to the IRS in FUTA taxes!
However, I did not know a thing about non-profits. The first thing I did was enroll in school since I knew I wanted a Master’s degree in psychology. No sweat there. In fact, it was a piece of cake to enroll. Next, I sent an application to the Arizona Secretary of State to register the name of my non-profit. Unfamiliar with the process I really thought that was all I needed to do, but I was far from finished.
I soon received mail from the Secretary of State which contained an official certificate of name registration, plus a letter directing me to the State Corporation Commission, where I was informed that I had to file an application as a non-profit organization along with articles of incorporation, by-laws, and policies. I also was told that I would have to file a form 1023 with the Internal Revenue Service, at the cost of $850.00, for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. After all, who would want to donate to my non-profit if they could not deduct the amount of the gift?
I spent many hours during the summer of 2013 creating all of the legal documents myself. Everyone I talked to told me to hire an attorney to do this work, but I could not afford one, and there was not one willing to provide the service pro-bono. When those documents were written, edited, rewritten, and polished, I mailed them, along with the accompanying fee, to the Arizona Corporation Commission. Then I began the long work of completing the 32 page IRS form 1023, with a plethora of explanatory attachments for each question asked. Meanwhile I was attending school, carrying a full course load.
My non-profit gained corporate status in September 2013. Since I was running out of funds I solicited donations to pay for the 1023 filing fee, and finally received enough money in November to file the form with the IRS. Everything was moving right along, or so I thought. I began participating in Military events, getting to know leaders in the Military community in Arizona, quickly moving forward with my non-profit. But December 31st brought everything to a halt to the progress for several months.
On that day I discovered a lump in my right breast. On January 13th, 2014 I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and ten days later underwent bilateral mastectomies. Because I had little or no aftercare in the home, I returned to the Bay Area in California to be near my family. However I remained undaunted. I dissolved the corporation in Arizona, reapplied in California, was approved by the Secretary of State, and on May 18th, 2014 I received notification from the IRS that A Circle Of Warriors had been approved as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization!
So what have you learned here? That you CAN create a business you can be proud of despite obstacles that may appear in your path. Here are a few things to remember when creating that business:
1. Have your ducks all in a row, dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Know just what you are getting into and be prepared for all legal aspects associated with your business. Try having some money set aside to live on if you do not have an income.
2. Be proactive and involved. Join organizations that will help promote your own business. Go to mixers, network, get to know the people who can help you.
3. Be prepared for let downs. Many times during my experience I found that I had to re-submit paperwork. Be patient. Don’t be discouraged by this. It’s okay to make a mistake. Rely on the expertise of the agencies you are applying to. They are there to help.
4. Don’t give up if you become ill. It doesn’t last forever and once you are well you can get back up and continue where you left off. I have done just that, moving forward with my non-profit, and I know that I will be successful!