One of the best things about entrepreneurialism and franchising, in general, is the assistance and resources available to U.S. veterans in our country. Several years back, a large scale push began with the specific aim of reintegrating our former service members into civilian life. For some, it meant job training and placement through a myriad of government-sponsored programs. For others, it meant lending a helping hand to establish a business of their own.
We’ve spoken before on the Proven Match blog about why veterans make such good candidates for entrepreneurial ventures. Their military training has provided them with skills such as organization, discipline, ambition, and perspective that even many college-educated graduates lack. And the statistics back up the claims. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were over 20 million veterans active in the labor force as of 2014. Of these, approximately 2.4 million owned their own business. How much of a direct impact do they have in the franchising arena? Based on a study by JP Morgan Chase & Co., veteran-owned franchises in the domestic market directly contributed to jobs for over 800,000 Americans. These businesses, in turn, generate more than a $41 billion contribution to the GDP.
So what resources are available for veterans wanting in on the entrepreneurship path? Lots, as it turns out.
Let’s begin with VetFran. Founded in 1991, the organization’s sole aim was to provide returning veterans with a leg up when entering the world of franchising. In 2001, the International Franchise Association stepped in and reinvigorated the program. According to VetFran’s website, “[the organization’s] member companies have grown into a large network of over 650 franchise brands that voluntarily offer financial discounts, mentorship, and training for aspiring veteran franchisees and veterans seeking employment. VetFran’s most recent survey shows that over 238,000 veterans and military spouses found opportunities in the franchise industry as either employees or franchise owners. There are over 6,500 veterans that have become franchise business owners since 2011.”
The twin pillars of VetFran’s outreach efforts include both mentorship and scholarship. The Mentorship program offers interested vets a pairing opportunity with an established franchise party. Mentors share knowledge, contacts, support and goal-setting exercises designed to create a new generation of veteran-owned franchisees. The ultimate goal in each case is to assist transitioning veterans with the tangible options available to them within the franchise sector. The Scholarship program pairs veterans with programs from participating VetFran corporate sponsors, all of which can be found on the Resources page of their website.
Another large supporter of veterans entering the franchise world is the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Several years ago, the SBA established a financial assistance program under the title, SBA Veterans Advantage Program. While the SBA does not directly lend money, it utilizes a network of funding options designed to lend up to $350,000 for those who qualify. In addition, veteran applicants no longer have to pay any upfront fees to access the funding. For a full list of application requirements, please visit the SBA Veteran’s Advantage website.
The U.S. Small Business Administration also operates 16 Veteran Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) across the country. Veterans (and their spouses) can visit one of the centers to learn how to get started down the entrepreneurial path upon leaving the service. Their flagship program is dubbed “Boots to Business.”
As you can see, there are multiple ways for U.S. veterans to engage and learn about how to become an entrepreneur or franchise owner. These successful programs and finance initiatives will no doubt continue to help craft the next generation of small business owners of America.
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