Help for veterans starting a business

Many incentive programs offer support for military veterans opening or growing a business. With Veterans' Day upon us, here are a few tips for getting started.

By Jessica Seid Dickler, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- When David Demyan looked into starting a staffing business last year, he had no idea he might be eligible for a discount as a Vietnam veteran.

"It was a nice surprise," said Demyan of the $8,500 he saved when he opened up an Express Personnel Services franchise in Boca Raton, Fla.

Demyan served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1967 to 1973 and was told by Express Personnel that that made him eligible for a 20 percent discount on his franchise fee, thanks to VetFran, a subsidy program through the International Franchise Association.

"I used that money to purchase the sign on the front of the building which has really helped out a lot," he said.

More than 14 percent of businesses in America are owned by veterans, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. And many programs are available to help servicemen and women returning from Iraq - as well as other U.S. military veterans - who want to start a business or grow an existing one.

Federal programs

With 26 million veterans in the U.S., the SBA and its Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) provides assistance, outreach and support to those interested in starting or expanding a small business.

"Veteran-owned businesses make significant contributions to the economy and because of their unique technical and leadership skills acquired through military service, they can become successful entrepreneurs," said SBA Administrator Stephen Preston.

To that end, the SBA grants more than $1 billion in loans to veteran-owned businesses annually.

Meanwhile, the SBA's Veterans Business Outreach Program provides entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling and mentoring to eligible veterans who own or are considering starting a small business.

The Center for Veterans Enterprise, a division of the Department of Veteran Affairs, also offers resource assistance for veterans and service-disabled veterans who are considering starting or expanding a business.

In addition, the Department of Veteran Affairs can help veterans find programs in their area that will help with business start-up, financing, training, procurement and business development.

For would-be franchisees

For veterans considering buying a franchise, there's VetFran, a program started by the International Franchise Association in Washington, D.C., that offers discounts and other assistance to veterans.

More than 200 participating franchisors provide financial incentives to veteran franchise buyers that are not available to civilian franchise investors.

Some franchisors waive training fees, others discount franchise fees, but all agree to offer a better deal to veterans than any other qualified investor.

For example, Juice It Up!, a franchised smoothie and juice bar chain, lowers its initial franchise fee to $15,000 from $25,000 per location for all eligible veterans.

Synergy HomeCare, a franchise that provides in-home care to individuals requiring daily living assistance, provides a 20 percent discount off the total franchise fee. PostNet, a franchise that offers shipping, printing and copying services, offers a 15 percent reduction in the initial franchise fee.

Since the program began, more than 600 franchises have been acquired by veterans through VetFran and another 150 contracts are currently in negotiation.

Veterans "have worked within one of the biggest and most sophisticated systems in the world," said Terry Hill, vice president of communications for the IFA. "That works very well within a franchise system."

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