Column: Veterans SCORE big with Small Business Resources

Question: I am a retired career veteran. Now I that I'm no longer on active duty I would like to capitalize on my years of military training by beginning my own business. Does SCORE know of any resources for veterans to help defray some of the startup costs?

Answer: Our SCORE counselors are frequently asked how veterans can take advantage of funding specifically set aside for those who have served our country. Good News! There are several funding sources to help both start and make improvements to a veteran-owned business.

The definition of a veteran-owned business is one in which a vet's ownership and control is at least 51 percent. This designation also includes Active-Duty Military service members participating in the military's Transition Assistance Program (TAP), and it also applies to Reservists or National Guard members and the current spouses of any of the above military designations.

There are several funding assistance programs available that have been designed specifically for veterans. For example, the Small Business Association (SBA) offers the Veterans Advantage Loan Program. These loans feature the SBA's lowest interest rates for business loans and can be used for most business purposes, including:

• Startup costs

• Equipment purchases

• Business-occupied real-estate purchases

• Inventory

• Infusing working capital

• Managing your business

• Expansion

• Preparing your business for the possibility of your deployment

• Setting up to sell goods and services to the government

• Recovery from declared disasters.

Not only do these loans have the SBA's lowest interest rates, the fee relief benefits of the program have recently been renewed and expanded. The upfront guaranty fee on SBA Express loans of $150,000 to $350,000 is 0 percent and for non-SBA Express 7(a) loans up to $5,000,000, the fee is reduced by 50 percent. However, it is important that you are aware that this benefit expires Sept. 30, 2015, so if this is something that would be advantageous for implementing your plans, you should start the process right away.

Another valuable source of information is www.vetbiz.gov, established by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to assist veteran entrepreneurs with starting and expanding their businesses in the federal and private marketplace. This site also includes a database listing businesses more than 51-percent owned by veterans or service-connected disabled veterans-a valuable tool for promoting your new business to potential federal and private-sector customers.

In addition to Northern Arizona SCORE, many of SCORE's chapters throughout the country have established programs or outreach specifically tailored for veterans. The Vetraplex, a project mentored by Northern Arizona SCORE, and begun by Gary F Ridout, is a franchise headquartered in Cottonwood that employs and assists vets and their families to locate jobs or find resources to begin a business. Vetraplex offers services to the public such as handyman and other various related skills, all provided by veterans. You can find more information on the services offered through the Vetraplex at www.vetraplex.com. In Cottonwood call 928-284-2022, in Prescott call 928-776-3020 or email gary@vetraplex.org.

Any veterans interested in gathering more information or discussing their particular situation are strongly advised to contact the SBA office in Phoenix located at 2828 N. Central Ave., Suite 800, phone 602-745-7200. In addition to personal counseling, this office offers Veterans Resource Seminars quarterly.

And don't forget to contact your SCORE counselor to help you start your venture off in the right direction. You can request a counselor at www.scorenaz.org.

Don't miss this important event! Enhance Your Bottom Line by Managing Customer Service. Co-sponsored by: SCORE, Small Business Development Center and the Regional Economic Development Center. Wednesday, May 20, 2015, 7 to 9:30 a.m. $20 includes breakfast and workshop, at Yavapai College Prescott Campus, 1100 E. Sheldon St, Room 19-147. To register contact Katherine.White@yc.edu or call 928-776-2008.