Recent updated procedures for Chapter 31 Self-Employment Program reaffirm that franchises remain an eligible form of business model for Veterans who qualify under the program. The Self-Employment track is designed for Veterans who have the necessary job skills to start a business. Self-employment may also be the right track for Veterans who have limited access to traditional employment or require a more accommodating work environment because of a disability.
The intensive nature of the evaluation and planning process is lengthy and can take several months to complete. Franchises may be approved if they are endorsed as part of the viability analysis of a proposed self-employment business plan.
Besides the standard factors the franchisors and financial supporters may be scrutinizing, a VA Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) will be asking: Will the Veteran’s disability pose any barriers to operating the business? If yes, what reasonable accommodations can be developed to address those barriers? What qualifications does the Veteran possess to ensure he/she can start and operate a business? What skills and/or knowledge will the Veteran need to acquire to operate this business? Why does the Veteran want to start this type of business? The VRC will pose these questions to the Veteran in advance of his/her meeting with the consultant who will be assisting in the development of the business plan. This can ensure that all questions are addressed initially, reducing the likelihood that the Veteran will propose an incomplete business plan.
To be a good steward of government resources, the VRC is responsible to assess whether the business plan is feasible given both the Veteran’s personal situation and reasonable prospects for success. Viable franchise concepts with track records can therefore help create credibility for a self-employment plan. Many of the critical elements for developing a business, such as recommending potential funding resources, assisting in developing a funding package and suggesting marketing strategies are already provided by franchisors. In addition, specific franchisor training requirement and objectives can complement any needed remedial training such as accounting, business management and/or economics coursework to provide insight into certain aspects of running a successful business.
Veterans are responsible for actively participating in the self-employment process from the onset of service. The Veteran must agree to use resources to assist in the development and implementation of a business plan. It is imperative that the Veteran has a clear understanding of the self-employment process before the pursuit of this track to employment. The intensive nature of the evaluation and planning process is lengthy and can take several months to complete. An informed Veteran will be better prepared to anticipate and work within the self-employment framework and timeline. Veterans seeking to apply for Chapter 31 Self-Employment benefits would benefit greatly from reviewing M28R, Part VI, Section A, Chapter 9 of the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Manual. That knowledge combining with the scope and operating requirements of a specific franchise will help a VRC evaluate the feasibility of a self-employment plan.
VBS Founder and Managing Director, Jim Mingey, is a decorated Vietnam veteran raised from a proud military background. An entrepreneur for more than 35 years, Jim can relate on a personal level to the needs of the veteran small businessperson, and possesses the practical knowledge to implement his experience in today’s market. Jim participated in the EBV Program at Purdue University, is a mentor at American Corporate Partners, developed the first approved franchise training program for the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program at Veterans Administration, and was instrumental in forming the first equity fund in the United States exclusively for veteran owned small businesses and franchises: The Veterans Opportunity Fund. Jim intends to keep on ‘advocating’ for veterans in franchising.