“They have an advantage, especially if they are going after government contracts,” said northern Nevada SCORE counselor Ray Lee.
Through government programs and federal Small Business Administration loans, veterans can access several unique tools to boost their business. SCORE, part of the Nevada Small Business Development Center at the University of Nevada, Reno, is one of the business consulting services that aims to help veterans find these resources.
For example, Lee said, persons returning from active military service have access to contracts that have been set aside for them by the government.
“Big businesses … set aside a certain amount of work for veterans,” he said, adding that they are similar to contracts set aside for minority business owners. “They have that slight advantage if they have government work.”
Sparks graphic design artist and photographer Mike Ritter was one Vietnam vet who took advantage of these types of contracts. Ritter owns 1 and Only Graphics.
“I went down to Hoover Dam and photographed all their archives,” Ritter said.
The large job took him almost a year to complete and gave the small business owner enough of a financial boost to provide for his business needs for a while, he said.
Ritter found the contract through a Department of Defense alert system called the Procurement Outreach Program.
“Basically, I get a listing of new contracts that match my job descriptions,” Ritter said. “Whether or not they pan out is another story. ... I get them from all over the country. But sometimes it happens that I see one like that one at Hoover Dam.”
Ritter was lucky. According to Lee, a successful small business, no matter what one’s military status is, requires patience and a lot of hard work.
“Some people think that all they have to have is an idea. And it is as important to have a dream as it is a key success factor, but they also need patience,” he said. “It takes time to develop a business. It takes money, patience and drive.”
Lee and SCORE may be able to point veterans in the right direction in regards to financing, as well.
One example Lee used was the Patriot Express Loan, available through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The loan is available for veterans or their spouses and, according to the SBA’s Web site, is offered by SBA’s network of participating lenders nationwide. Loans are available up to $500,000 and qualify for SBA’s maximum guarantee of up to 85 percent for loans of $150,000 or less and up to 75 percent for loans more than $150,000 up to $500,000. For loans above $350,000, lenders are required to take all available collateral.
The site’s fact sheet further states that interest rates are generally 2.25 percent to 4.75 percent over prime depending upon the size and maturity of the loan.
The SCORE counselors receive referrals from the Veterans Business Outreach Center, which is located in Sacramento.
For more information on the Veterans Business Outreach Center, call (916) 393-1690. Veterans can also call the SCORE offices directly at 784-4436.