Please Salute a Veteran—He or She May be Your Favorite Small Business Owner

Veteran’s Day 2008 is coming up and many of these men and women are finding a new way to serve their nation when they return home from their tours of duty.  An ever-growing number of U-S military veterans are returning home and joining the ranks of entrepreneurship.   In fact, veterans account for 14 percent of small businesses nationally, including 7 percent that are operated by service-disabled veterans, according to the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee.  Numbering more than 5 million, these veteran entrepreneurs make critical contributions to the U.S. economy.  They continue to serve their country, community, and neighbors as job creators and innovators.

Why are military veterans enjoying the ranks of entrepreneurship in even greater numbers?  Vets are traditionally a good fit in small business because they are often self-starters with a demonstrated solid work ethic, have experience in managing others, and are trained to be results-oriented.  There are also a growing number of initiatives in to help veterans realize the dream of owning their own business.

One of these initiatives got its start in the nation’s heartland, Saint Louis, where the first Veterans Business Resource Center was established in 2004.  It assists all U.S. military Veterans, National Guard or Reserve members and active-duty personnel transitioning to civilian life to start businesses or expand existing companies. All services are at no cost to Veterans and include entrepreneurial training classes, loan application assistance and individual business counseling.  There are two other Veteran’s Business Resource Centers in the nation, Boston, Massachusetts and Flint, Michigan.  Boeing just made a large donation to help keep all three centers operating.  Many other private donors help keep these centers open for the veterans who need them

There is also a special loan program for military vets and their spouses by the Small Business Administration called Patriot Express.  Under the Patriot Express, the SBA guarantees up to 85 percent of loans of up to $150,000 to veterans, and up to 75 percent for loans of more than $150,000 up to $500,000 to veterans. The loans can also go to service-disabled veterans, reservists and National Guard members. Certain spouses also are eligible, including the widowed spouse of a service member or veteran who died during service or of a service-related disability. Active-duty service members participating in the military’s Transition Assistance Program, which offers job-search assistance to service members transitioning to civilian life, also may apply

The 21 Gun Salute program established earlier this year by the U.S. General Services Administration, aims to direct more GSA contracts to small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans. Officials want to allocate at least 3 percent of GSA’s contracting dollars, or $143 million, to service-disabled veteran small businesses in 2008, a mark the agency has struggled to reach.  The initiative also would help veterans find markets for their products while establishing a mentor program and partnering with veterans organizations.

SCORE- “Counselors to America’s Small Business” has a special outreach specifically for veterans and military community entrepreneurs. This includes valuable mentoring and resources to help veteran, National Guard and Reservist small business owners succeed.  SCORE is also a part of SBTV.com’s business organization page.

Another successful initiative for military veterans is through the International Franchise Association.  Franchised businesses offering hundreds of services and products are part of “The Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative” or “VetFran” program. Franchising is one of the fastest growing areas of small business in the nation, one out of every 12 U-S businesses is a franchise and a new franchise business is opened every eight minutes of every business day.  More than 1,200 U.S. military veterans have acquired franchises through VetFran since 2002!  Three hundred and fifty-two IFA-member franchise companies participate in the program offering vets discounts, typically discounts off the initial franchise fee which in some cases can lower up-front costs by thousands of dollars. No government funding or resources are used for the VetFran initiative that offers vets the “best deal” from 352 franchise companies. The IFA is a SBTV.com partner and you will find a lot more information about the many programs they offer under “organizations” on SBTV.com’s home page.

Please share the story of a military vet in your community continuing their service through entrepreneurship.  It would be one way to salute their contributions and sacrifices in the service of their country on several fronts!

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