Programs can help veterans start businesses

 

There’s been much talk about veterans returning from two wars having a hard time finding work. What hasn’t been discussed much is veterans creating their own jobs through entrepreneurship.

Champions of the effort applaud the idea of veterans being able to hire their brothers and sisters in arms.

Phillip Selleh is one such champion. He is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, serves in the National Guard and is the program manager of a Department of Veterans Affairs effort called the “VA Accelerator.”

More than 1.6 million service personnel have transitioned from military and Department of Defense employment to the civilian workforce in recent years, Selleh says. This does not include the 60,000 military members who are expected to return from Afghanistan by the end of next year.

“This is where veterans starting businesses is so critical,” said Selleh, who has entrepreneurial experience. “Veterans are used to taking risks, used to running large-scale operations, used to managing people, resources and money, and used to doing everything possible to make sure the mission is accomplished. They have all of the qualities of a entrepreneur, and veterans have to start taking care of other veterans.”

If you are a veteran considering starting a business, there are several programs that may be of help:

VA Accelerator: This VA program provides an online learning environment of eight curricula and five programs that focus on entrepreneurship, franchise ownership and employment. The education material covers everything from the initial self-assessment and business-plan preparation to the launch and operation of a successful businesses. Veterans can also receive mentoring and other services.

Veteran Entrepreneur Portal: Run by the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, it gives links to resources for financing and instructions on winning VA contracts.

Small Business Administration’s Veteran-Owned Business Programs: Among its resources are specialized financing programs, such as the Patriot Express Pilot Loan Initiative and the Operation Boots to Business initiative. SBA has a number of Veteran Business Outreach centers and an Office of Veterans Business Development.

VetFran: For those who have dreamed of their own franchise — whether a McDonald’s or a UPS store — the International Franchise Association runs the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative, or VetFran for short. The initiative includes more than 530 IFA franchiser member companies offering financial incentives, training and mentoring to veterans interested in small business ownership or a career path in franchising.

Veterans served the country in war, and they can serve again helping rebuild the economy. This may be the time to strike out on your own to pursue your dreams.

Dortch is president of the Diversa Group, which specializes in federal employment.

 

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