By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
As a lieutenant colonel, Irving Donaldson led the 369th Infantry Regiment, also known as the Harlem Hellfighters, into Iraq in 2004.
His Iraq service came at the tail end of a long military career for Donaldson, who also served for a time in Kuwait. It was during his tour of duty there that he got an idea for a business he wanted to start when his military service ended and he returned to civilian life. Today, he is the proud owner of Blue Alert LLC, a Canarsie-based company that does embroidery on shirts, jackets and accessories, as well as digital printing.
How did he come up with the idea for the business? “You have to patch your name into your uniform a lot when you’re in the service. That’s how I got the idea to have an embroidery business,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle. While still in Kuwait, Donaldson helped local residents with their embroidery needs by hooking an embroidery device to a computer to make the process move faster.
Donaldson retired from the army in 2006, founded Blue Alert in 2007 and has been devoting himself to the business ever since. He believes his time in the service helps him as a business owner. “In the military, you encounter the unforeseen. It prepares you to look ahead and identify problems that are coming so that you can get to work on solving them,” he said.
Donaldson is one of thousands of military veterans who own businesses in Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce has launched a new effort to assist veteran-owned businesses. Tuesday, June 10, the Chamber of Commerce is hosting a veteran business seminar at the Fort Hamilton Community Club, located on the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton, with the United War Veterans Council and the Army Week Association.
The theme of the event is "Make Your Business Grow." The seminar will feature a discussion of how to help veteran business owners strive in today's economy.
"Our veterans are the backbone of our nation and we want to do everything we can to make sure they have a fair shot at the American Dream," said Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. "The Chamber's Veteran's Council is dedicated to helping business owners overcome the obstacles that face any business, and putting veterans in touch with our Brooklyn Connects program, which helps connect businesses to federal, State and City contracts."
The seminar, which will take place from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., will feature panelists including representatives from the office of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, ACRE, Team HEVO, Investors Bank, the Department of Small Business Services, the Small Business Development Corporation and NYC Business Solutions. There will be information booths for veteran entrepreneurs, businesses that provide veteran services and newly reintegrated and disabled veterans who are looking to transition into their own businesses now that they are home.
Donaldson said that veterans like him aren’t looking for a handout, but that they could use hand. “I started out as a home-based business. I’ve never received anything from the city, state, or federal government. And I know I need help,” he said.
Hurricane Sandy caused $100,000 of damage to Blue Alert. Donaldson recovered, but operates the business out of another merchant’s store on Avenue L when he would rather have his own storefront.
Donaldson, who first joined the Army National Guard in 1976, spent 30 years serving his country. His impressive resume also includes a career in the New York Police Department. He is a retired lieutenant.