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From Battlefield to the Business World -- Veterans Make It on Their Own

Another helpful resource for veterans is SCORE's Veteran Fast Launch Initiative , which provides scholarships for veteran small-business owners to attend SCORE workshops and seminars. The initiative, launched in 2011 as part of the White House's Joining Forces campaign, SCORE, an offshoot of the SBA, provides mentoring to small business owners through 340 nationwide chapters and 12,000 volunteer mentors.

Franchising is a popular employment option for returning military soldiers because of its reliance on proven systems and procedures, which the military also relies on.

Through the International Franchise Association's VetFran program, franchise brands generally offer franchise fee reductions and other support for qualified military veterans.

The IFA stepped up promotion of its VetFran program last year through the government-endorsed campaign Operation Enduring Opportunity. Under the initiative, the franchise industry committed to hiring within existing franchises and recruit as franchise business owners 75,000 veterans and military spouses, plus 5,000 wounded warriors, by 2014.

More than 150 franchise brands across industries joined the IFA's VetFran program since the announcement of Operation Enduring Opportunity, bringing the total to 530 franchise brands that are now actively hiring and assisting military veterans to become franchise business owners.

Since 2011, 4,314 veterans have been able to open up franchises through the initiative, the IFA says.

"Successful franchises run on proven and structured systems, and members of the military are used to implementing systems, following procedures and striving for operational excellence, which leads to success in franchising," said IFA president Steve Caldeira.

Still, for all the effort being put into motion to turn more military vets toward entrepreneurism, in the end it is all about money. Starting a business or a franchise requires savings that not many military vets (especially the younger veterans) are like to have.

One new organization taking an initiative to help more veterans access capital is The Veterans Business Fund , a not-for-profit organization created to provide financial assistance to veterans. It plans to launch on Monday its first low-interest loan for veterans.

The organization was established in response to the high unemployment rate among veterans, many of whom are skilled through their military experience to become successful small-business owners, but lack sufficient equity capital to qualify for a small-business loan.

All principal and interest paid to the organization will be made available to future veteran entrepreneurs requiring assistance in meeting the equity requirements for a small-business loan.

The fund was established by BoeFly, an online marketplace connecting small-business owners with more than 2,400 lenders, in conjunction with the IFA, SCORE, SunTrust (STI) and others.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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