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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Small Business Administration aims to turn NH veterans into entrepreneurs

The winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan means that a lot of veterans are going to be returning to civilian life, which means more people will need help in this sometimes difficult transition, particularly when looking for work.

But they aren’t the only veterans who could use a little help, which is why the Small Business Administration is launching a program called ReBoot to help veterans start their own businesses – an expansion of a program called Boots to Business that was targeted at veterans of the current wars. ...

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The winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan means that a lot of veterans are going to be returning to civilian life, which means more people will need help in this sometimes difficult transition, particularly when looking for work.

But they aren’t the only veterans who could use a little help, which is why the Small Business Administration is launching a program called ReBoot to help veterans start their own businesses – an expansion of a program called Boots to Business that was targeted at veterans of the current wars.

“The initial Boots to Business was directly the result of winding down the military efforts and the increasing number of veterans coming back into the civilian workforce, recognizing that a disproportionate percentage of veterans are unemployed,” said Greta Johansson, district director for New Hampshire of the federal Small Business Administration. “But it was realized there are a lot of people who are already transitioned out who could benefit.

“ReBoot will be open to any veterans no matter when they transitioned out.”

The program will feature two-day seminars with topics such as “Introduction to Entrepreneurship”

The topic of helping veterans was the subject of a recent roundtable at Nashua Community College
featuring some national SBA officials.

New Hampshire is interested in helping its veterans partly because they tend to be young adults, an age group the state is trying to lure and keep as a counterbalance to the state’s aging demographic.

The roundtable, which featured several business owners, as well as officials, pointed out that veterans face more than just obvious difficulties such as lack of business connections after years spent out of the country.

“One thing we heard that remains a challenge – universally, not just here – is financing,” Johansson said. “Conventional commercial financing for startup businesses is a challenge, and small loans is a challenge.”

She said on average, “between 6 percent and 8 percent” of Small Business Administration loans go to veteran-owned businesses.

“These are service businesses, construction business, franchises, manufacturers – it really runs the full gamut,” Johansson said.

One factor that is changing in the landscape is the increasing number of female veterans, a reflection of the military’s changing gender mix.

“There is a greater percentage of women looking to entrepreneurship as their next option and an increasing number of women veteran owners,”
Johansson said.

She cited one survey which discovered that while women were around 15 percent of the veteran population, they made up almost one-quarter of “new veterans’ entrepreneurship efforts.”

For more information about Boots to Business, visit www.boots2business
reboot.org
.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).