The Veteran Loan Fund matches military veterans and their spouses with affordable capital from one of its growing number of member community development financial institution (CDFIs). This includes loans with single-digit interest rates, financial education, and a professional network of accountants, lawyers, and experienced business owners.
Many veterans find that the skills they hone in the military — like operational leadership, discipline and strategic planning — can be hard to translate into a resume in a way that makes sense to a hiring manager, said Grant Bennett, Director of the Veteran Loan Fund and a U.S. Army and Texas Army National Guard veteran. However, those skills translate very well to small business ownership. “Veterans make really good entrepreneurs,” said Bennett.
“Entrepreneurship can be a very rewarding career path as people transition out of the military, but veterans need more access to capital and expertise to operationalize their business plans,” said Jenny Flores, Head of Small Business Growth Philanthropy at Wells Fargo. “We support the Veteran Loan Fund’s vision for a more inclusive economy and are proud to offer seed funding for this national effort to boost veteran-owned businesses.”
In addition to a $3.5 million loan to the Veteran Loan Fund from the company’s Community Lending and Investment business, Wells Fargo provided a $1.5 million grant from its Open for Business Fund to make it possible for the CDFIs participating in the Veteran Loan Fund to offer affordable loans to eligible veterans and for the fund to break even.
“When a CDFI like ACE borrows $1 million from the Veteran Loan Fund, they also receive a $100,000 grant,” explained Bennett. “They can use the grant money as loan loss reserves, on operational expenses to build out their veteran programs or whatever they need to support their veteran programs, either on the balance sheet or operationally.”
Since the launch of the fund, member CDFIs have deployed more than $18 million in loans, helping create or retain more than 1,400 jobs and providing close to 5,000 hours of free technical assistance.