What is a VBOC?

The Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) Program is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Veteran Business Development and is directed by the Small Business Act (Title 15 U.S.C. sec 637 (b)) to participate in the Defense Department’s Transition Assistance Program.

The Southern California (SoCal) VBOC coordinates and facilitates the Boots to Business program held at Vandenberg AFB, Edwards AFB, Fort Irwin, Los Angeles AFB, Naval Base Ventura, Twentynine Palms, Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Naval Station San Diego and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar military bases. These programs are taught by staff members of SoCal VBOC and the SBA District Offices along with staff from SBA Resource Partners (SDBC, SCORE, WBC).

There are 22 VBOCs around the country, with two locations in California – one in Sacramento and the other at MiraCosta Community College District in Carlsbad, California.

The SoCal VBOC opened in 2016 and serves transitioning service members, Guard, Reserve, Veterans of all eras and military-connected family members in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Imperial Counties.

Serving Veterans and their spouses in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Imperial Counties.

Due to COVID-19, our team is working remotely, therefore, please send us an email as we currently do not have access to the telephone system and voice mail. Thank you.

Meet Your Director – Keli Benham-Anthis

Keli Benham-Anthis, Associate Director, SoCal Veterans Business Outreach Center

Keli Benham-Anthis is the Director for the SoCal Veterans Business Outreach Center.  She is a progressive-minded professional with more than 20 years of combined experience in education, small business development, economic development, civic and non-profit management, workshop curriculum development and presentation, hospitality and tourism, project coordination and community outreach.

Her passion is assisting veteran entrepreneurs to start or grow their businesses through marketing, business plans and access to capital. Keli received her MBA from Cal State University Chico.

Meet Your Business Consultant – Maria Hughes

Maria Hughes, Business Consultant, SoCal Veterans Business Outreach Center

Maria Hughes serves as a Business Consultant for the SoCal Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) at MiraCosta College since July 2019. Her subject matter expertise is finance. She also provides general business counseling for start-ups and existing businesses. She also represents the SoCal VBOC at Veterans outreach events in Southern California.

Prior to joining the SoCal VBOC team, Maria was the Lead Lender Relations Specialist and Veteran Affairs Officer for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) San Diego District Office. She was responsible for marketing SBA’s financial and management assistance programs in San Diego and Imperial Counties. She served as a financial resource for the San Diego District Office and provided training to banks and borrowers as needed. As the Veterans Affairs Officer, she provided financial training support for the SBA’s Boots to Business Program since its inception on 2013. She has assisted small businesses in obtaining financing and referring them to additional Resource Partners. Her other responsibilities included working with the SBA’s Surety Bond Guaranty program, assisting businesses to obtain bonding for their projects. Prior to SBA, Maria worked for the Navy at Naval Oceans Systems Center (formerly SPAWAR) as a contract negotiator. As an SBA team member, she was a frequently-requested speaker and panelist at many government and military functions, UCSD, USD and CIBU, as well as other finance and business events.

Maria also has experience as an ICU RN and a medical reviewer in the insurance industry. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Finance, a Master of Business Administration Degree in Finance and a Juris Doctorate (JD) Degree. She is certified as a legal nurse consultant through UCSD (LNC). She is a proud Vietnam War Army Veteran.

Meet Your Business Consultant – Ayanna Robert

Ayanna Robert, Business Consultant with the SoCal VBOC

Ayanna Robert is an Air Force disabled veteran and Marine Corps military brat. She is a business consultant and solution-oriented transformational leader and educator with diverse leadership skills in the implementation of policy, strategy, business modeling, change management, and organizational effectiveness. Ayanna has recently taught Boots to Business/Reboot, Strategic Business Planning and Business Basics for both of the California Veterans Business Outreach Centers, funded by the Small Business Administration. She is the Dean of Business and Head of Corporate Learning of Royal Falls University, a virtual business platform for existing business owners. In addition, she has  provided leadership education to business owners and leadership teams within small to medium-sized entities for over 20 years.

Ayanna has worked in a multitude of private and public industries: Publishing, Oil & Gas, Supply Chain, IT, Radio, Cosmetic and Beauty, Non-Profit, and Government as a leader in Marketing, Public Relations, Strategic Planning, Change Management, Accounting and more.   She holds an MBA in Management from Tulane University, Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Texas State University, Certificate of Entrepreneurship and Financial Statement Analysis certificate from Tulane University. Ayanna has owned businesses for over 20 years, led a multitude of projects and is a published author. She is currently a candidate for an EdD in Organizational Change and Leadership designation at the USC Rossier School of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her three children, traveling, dancing, singing, reading, writing and quiet time at the beach.

Meet Your Business Consultant – Traci Cole

Traci Cole, Business Consultant with the SoCal VBOC

Traci Cole has over 20 years of experience in marketing, product development, entrepreneurship, consulting, and finance. She has worked for large corporations, startups, government agencies, and small boutique firms as well as founding several small businesses in the caregiving and eco-friendly industries.  She thoroughly enjoys working with and inspiring Veteran Small Business entrepreneurs as they work towards their dreams.  Her educational background includes a BS in mathematics from the University of Michigan, an MBA in finance from the University of Detroit, and a Masters in Engineering Management in marketing from Northwestern University.

Meet Your Administrative Support – Carrie Welsh

Carrie Welsh, Administrative Support, SoCal Veterans Business Outreach Center