By Lorrie DeFrank

By Lorrie DeFrank

Assisted by the JAX Chamber, Sara Slettebo has grown the business her mother started at home on a computer to a national defense contracting firm that employs more than 50 people. She is president of Jacksonville-based ReMilNet, LLC, which leverages retired military, veterans and other subject matter experts to support customers around the world in acquisition management, cybersecurity and program management efforts. For example, it is currently supporting a U.S. Marine Corps customer with their worldwide supply and logistics IT system.

In recognition of her own achievements and her commitment to help other small business owners succeed, Slettebo was named a Small Business Leader of the Year by the JAX Chamber’s Entrepreneurial Growth Division in 2016. She continues to mentor women business owners and speak at emerging business events.

Despite suffering from a serious illness that would take her life two years later, Slettebo’s mother, the wife of a Navy veteran, started the business in 2003 to bring veterans and retired military back to the workplace to offer services the federal government lacked internal resources to provide. “Customers could get smaller projects done quickly. Leveraging retired military created a win-win for them and, ultimately, taxpayers,” Slettebo said. “After she passed away I took it over to keep her legacy alive.”

Though not exclusively military but still a woman-owned business, ReMilNet employs a higher than average percentage of veterans, military spouses and retirees—“plus non-military persons like myself who want to make a difference,” Slettebo said.

Born in Virginia and moving often with the Navy, Slettebo has lived more than 20 years in Jacksonville where her father retired. She received degrees in business management and transportation and logistics from the University of North Florida and worked at a Fortune 500 company before joining ReMilNet in 2005. Seeking more local work for her company, she reached out to the JAX Chamber and was immediately impressed by its abundance of programs for intermediate- and advanced-level businesses as well as startups.

 “The Chamber has been a wealth of information. I’m fortunate to be on the receiving end of it,” she said.

 In 2014, Slettebo was accepted into the first cohort of JAX Bridges entrepreneurial growth program that connects smaller companies with opportunities to do business with larger corporations and provides entrepreneurial education support. During those four months participants developed capability statements that they used to make pitches to major corporations to find other opportunities for revenue streams, she said.

Her biggest takeaways: 1) Project confidence and don’t limit yourself based on the size of your business. 2) Work on your business, not in it.

She said JAX Bridges helps owners reach their business goals. She credits the program with giving her the confidence and resources to expand ReMilNet by about 35 employees in the past 18 months.

Slettebo completed JAX Chamber’s 9-month pilot Regimentor Program to help build regimen for more sustainable businesses, which included mentoring and coaching based on JAX Bridges’ 8 Principles of Business Connection. She also served as a mentor for the year-long ATHENAPowerLink program offered through the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center that provides expert advisers and mentors selected to meet each business owner’s needs.

“Sara has always been an advocate for family-owned and veteran-owned small businesses. She entered the JAX Bridges program as an entrepreneur seeking opportunities to connect with larger companies. In sharing her JAX Bridges experience with others, Sara emphasizes that many of the skills she gained from adopting its principles provided an opportunity to better showcase her entrepreneurial capabilities,” said Carlton Robinson, vice president, JAX Chamber, Entrepreneurial Growth.

“JAX Chamber’s knowledgeable staff is very successful at catering to businesses of all sizes. I made lifetime connections,” Slettebo said. “They gave me confidence to go after things I thought were too much of a stretch.”

She believes JAX Chamber’s innovation is exceptional.

“They are always thinking outside the box on how entrepreneurs can be better,” said Slettebo. “They watch the landscape and if they think something will be valuable to entrepreneurs, they share it with us.”