Arsenal Of Help For Veteran Entrepreneurs - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

Arsenal Of Help For Veteran Entrepreneurs

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(KCEN) -- For years, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans has been well above the average for civilians.

Now many of them have taken matters into their own hands by starting their own businesses.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that one out of every ten small businesses is owned by someone who served in the Armed Forces.

There are several government and non-government programs and resources in place to help them see their dreams come true.

"We've been in business here for two years. It's been a dream of ours for a while," says former Army Sergeant First Class Mark Sheppard.

He owns My Tutor and More, providing affordable education services to students of all ages at his location just outside of Fort Hood.

Sheppard says his biggest hurdle was taking that first step, and he adds, "Getting information on how to start a business -- that was tough also, but there are a lot of services for veterans out there."

He started at Fort Hood's Army Career and Alumni Program, (ACAP).

Like all Military Transition Assistance Programs, (TAP), it offers Operation Boots To Business, which prepares soldiers, veterans, retirees, civilian workers, and family members for small business administration.

"The information is just incredible. They give you so many sources and resources that will help you get started," says Sheppard.

Former Army and National Guard Sergeant  Ryan Smith, stayed near Fort Hood too, creating the Ryan Smith Home Selling Team in Temple-Belton
.
He says, "The biggest challenge for me, starting a business in central Texas, is that nobody knew who I was."

A program called the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans offers training in areas like that at some colleges, including Texas A&M.

For those thinking about buying into a bigger corporation, nearly 600 franchises in a group called VetFran offer perks, like discounts and incentives, to vets.

Financing can be tough too, but the Small Business Administration offers a host of workshops and resources and also can cut and waive loan fees.

The non-profit Veterans Business Fund uses donated capital to help former service members build and expand small business, and repayvets.com uses crowd funding.

Sheppard has found his calling teaching at for his own business, but to get there, he first had to take full advantage of the learning opportunities his years in the Army afforded him.

Now his business space and clientele have just about doubled in two years.

"So, the business is growing, and we've very excited about it," says Sheppard.

Resources for Veterans:

http://www.hood.army.mil/dhr/acap/acapframeset.htm
http://boots2business.org/
http://whitman.syr.edu/ebv/About/
http://www.vetfran.com/
http://www.sba.gov/content/veterans-business-outreach-centers
http://www.veteransbusinessfund.org/how-it-works

Reporter: Sophia Stamas sstamas@kcentv.com

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