Editor’s note: Michelle Stockman is an independent consultant with her company, Fort Smith-based Msaada Group. Stockman earned a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University-Chicago in communications and fine arts, and earned a master’s in entrepreneurship from Western Carolina University. Her thoughts on business success appear each week on The City Wire.
Three cheers for all our U.S. Veterans! I am honored to exercise my civil liberties in writing this week (and every day) thanks to the heroic actions of each generation’s heroes protecting our country. Your sacrifice for myself and millions of others is greatly appreciated.
In your service to our country, we know that you have put your dreams, families, careers and businesses on hold in order to fulfill your commitment to serving in our armed forces. Many people and agencies recognize that sacrifice and have created programs to assist. One such agency who has really stepped up to help veteran business owners is the Small Business Administration (SBA).
The SBA offers several programs to help veterans learn about and open their own entrepreneurial business. The Veterans Business Outreach Program (VBOP) is designed to “provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling, mentoring and referrals for eligible veterans owning or considering starting a business.” The SBA runs the VBOP program out of several regions across the country with Arkansas included in the Texas regional office.
The SBA VBOP program offers pre-business planning, business plan preparation, strategic planning and feasibility analysis, business counseling and mentorship working closely with the veteran seeking to start or run their business.
Similar to the VBOP program, the SBA supports the Small Business Development Center network that also offers business support services to veterans. Also, the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) offers free assistance and mentorship to veteran business owners. Both have a presence in Arkansas through the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center and the Northwest Arkansas SCORE chapter.
Beyond business services for veterans, there is an alternative option for veterans to obtaining capital that may be needed for the business. The Patriot Express loan developed by the SBA, targets veterans, service-disabled veterans, active duty service members eligible for the military’s Transition Assistance Program, reservists and National Guard members, military spouses and widowed spouses of our service members.
The Patriot Express loan is intended for use on start-up costs, equipment purchases, inventory purchases, business expansion needs, preparing the business for the possibility of a military deployment, and recovery from declared disasters. Additionally, the Patriot Express loan utilizes the lowest interest rate allowed through an SBA backed business loan. Generally, the loan will charge 2.25%-4.75% above the prime interest rate.
In Arkansas, many local banks will work with veterans to provide this loan option in conjunction with an organization by the name of Arkansas Capital Corporation (ACC).
While our country provides great assistance to our veteran owned businesses, the final support network is upon us. As a thank you gift to our service men and women who are also business owners, become customers of those businesses. Help them keep their dream alive as they have allowed ours to stay alive.
Stockman can be reached at [email protected]