Veteran support structures appear to be helping

Jessica SarterFranchise Finance

Many different demographics have struggled to pull through the recessionary period more than others, and veterans are among the most affected. However, several organizations and government agencies have stepped up efforts to correct this problem, offering financial support and guidance to former military members who are returning home.

One such program is the International Franchise Association’s Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative (VetFran). The IFA works with the U.S. Department of Veterans, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Veterans Corporation, along with other members of the program like BoeFly, to provide veterans with entrepreneurial opportunities.

BoeFly is a lender-borrower matching firm that helps create the most efficient loan application process. Borrowers fill out one loan application, while the firm uses complex algorithms to match them with the best possible lender. With thousands of participating lenders, users of the site are guaranteed a preferable outcome.

USA Today recently reported that VetFran has helped many returning veterans get a fresh start and beat the unemployment rate by becoming new franchisees. According to the news provider, more than 4,000 veterans have opened a new business in the last 10 months.

Steve Caldeira, IFA president and CEO, explained to USA Today why he thinks military members are excellent franchisee candidates.

“Veterans are used to following structure and systems,” he said. “If you look at the basic tenets of franchising, it’s all about following system, structure, a proven business model. … If you run your franchise operation and mirror those qualities from the military, more often than not you’re going to be successful.”

The Panama City News Herald recently reported that one U.S. Marine, Chris Gately, has weathered the economic downturn and managed to open his own gym. While Gately was able to find financial support through the franchisor, Workout Anytime, others have taken advantage of the myriad federal and private initiatives.

The SBA actually has an entire department devoted to service member assistance, the Office of Veterans Business Development. Through the Patriot Express Pilot Loan Initiative and several support structures, the government agency works to boost veteran entrepreneurship in the nation.

Some of these efforts seem to have been working, as recent data has shown that the unemployment rate of veterans in several categories has dropped. Earlier this month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total unemployment rate of veterans dropped from 8.6 in July of 2011 to 6.9 percent last month.

Substantial drops occurred in the rate of unemployed Gulf War-era II veterans – those serving in combat that took place from 2001 to the present day – which recorded a decrease from 12.4 percent in July of 2011 to 8.9 percent last month, according to BLS data.

The franchise industry has shown signs of life, and in many ways has beaten the recessionary hardships evident throughout the last five years. Veterans should consider taking advantage of these programs to start their own business ventures.