Colorado program helping military veterans start small businesses
COLORADO SPRINGS — Transitioning from military to civilian life can be daunting for many veterans especially those trying to start their own business.
The good news – there’s a new program trying to help them. The VALOR Loan Program, part of the Colorado Enterprise Fund, was started two years ago on Veterans Day. It offers veterans and other family members loans up to $500,000 to help them become small business owners, something News 5 learned was a struggle to do before this program came along.
Retired Lieutenant Colonel William Linn said, “Sometimes you do feel totally alone to try to figure out what chapter two looks like.”
After serving 28 years in the Army Linn was ready for a change.
“I think what most veterans struggle with is getting something post-military that gives them the same passion and fulfillment that they had in uniform.”
After wrapping up his military career in 2017 he and his wife decided they wanted to their start their own business.
“We really wanted to do something that still focused us to our passion and it was really about military history. It was about the legacy of military service.”
Thus Heritage Arsenal, a military museum consulting business in Colorado Springs, was born.
“We work with military museums around the world, actually, all the way from northern Ireland to here in Colorado…we can build exhibits and we can go in and certify a collection to bring them to national standard. We can also offer specialized artifact storage off-site from their facility.
Getting the museum to where it is today wasn’t easy. Linn shared that they got turned down by several banks for a business loan. It wasn’t until they got connected to the Colorado Enterprise Fund that things turned around. They received over $152,000 from the VALOR Loan Program to build their business.
Linn said, “Without CEF we couldn’t have even started.”
Former Army Captain Woody Briggs faced similar challenges in getting a loan.
He said, “I lost count at 18 banks that kept just saying no.”
Eventually he and his wife, also a veteran, learned about CEF.
“I reached out and coincidentally at the same time the VALOR Program came out.”
Briggs became the very first loan recipient and is now an owner of Brass Brewing Company in Colorado Springs. He’s fulfilling a long-time dream, but also helping people just like him.
“A lot of our regulars that come in are still active and then some people are thinking about transitioning out so I feel like I can do some mentorship through that.”
The VALOR Program is not only allowing veterans like Linn and Briggs to make a living, but also giving them the chance to to serve their fellow man in a new way.
Those with CEF shared that since 2017 47 veteran small business owners have accessed this program with $3.3 million borrowed.
to learn more about the VALOR Loan Program.