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Taking Vets

Special programs are fighting for veterans starting businesses.

With the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, more and more soldiers are finishing their tours of duty and returning stateside. According to a recent study from the SBA Office of Advocacy, 22 percent of veterans are either purchasing or starting a new business, or considering it. Here are a few special programs aimed at helping veterans become entrepreneurs:

The SBA coordinates a number of programs, including training, counseling and helping veterans find financing for their businesses. The Veterans Business Outreach Program, for instance, provides business training, mentoring and counseling at Veterans Business Outreach Centers nationwide. For infomation, check out www.sba.gov/vets.

SCORE also provides specialized mentoring to veterans. Many returning reservists and National Guard soldiers may not know about all the services and programs available to them. The Office of Veterans Business Development at the SBA publishes a guide for aspiring veteran entrepreneurs entitled Getting Veterans Back To Business, available online at www.sba.gov/reservists, which is full of resources and checklists for returning veterans. If you're a service-disabled veteran, take a look at The Office of Federal Contract Assistance for Veteran Business Owners, a new program that provides information and guidance on procuring federal contracts. William D. Elmore, associate administrator for Veterans Business Development, points out the services are for all veterans--not just recently returning ones.

And if you're looking to buy a franchise, the International Franchise Association has implemented the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative, or VetFran, which works with different franchise companies to offer special rebates for veterans. Each franchise offers something a bit different, such as waiving the franchise fee or training costs. Says Terry Hill, vice presi-dent of communications at VetFran, "The focus is to reduce the initial investment cost for veterans." Visit www.franchise.org and click on "Programs & Services" for more information.

Aspiring entrepreneurs can also look to The Veterans Corp., a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing training and support to veterans looking to start businesses. According to Judith Gillespie, managing director for program development at The Veterans Corp., seminars and events are held around the country to help veterans with access to capital, training, networking and market information. (The cost of seminars varies--some are free, others charge small fees.) Plans are in the works for online training as well. The website is chock-full of resources and information.

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This article was originally published in the August 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Taking Vets.

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