Colorado Enterprise Fund Surpasses $3.08 Million in Small Business Loans for Military Veterans
The VALOR program has helped 44 U.S. military veteran business owners in Colorado since its launch
November marks the two-year anniversary of the Colorado Enterprise Fund’s (CEF) loan program. It was created to support U.S. military veterans and Gold Star Families (surviving spouses and children of veterans) in Colorado. The Veteran Access Loan Opportunity Resource (VALOR) program was launched on Veteran's Day in 2017 and provides discounted loan rates and extended terms for military veterans and Gold Star family members who are unable to secure financing through traditional banks.
CEF’s VALOR loan program offers micro and small business loans up to $500,000 for working capital, equipment, inventory, property improvements, business purchases and commercial real estate. The program offers a loan rate that is discounted 2% from standard CEF rates with loan terms of up to ten years and interest-only periods of up to six months.
The VALOR program has helped 44 U.S. military veteran business owners in Colorado access $3.08 million in small business loan capital and 335 hours of business coaching support since the program launched. Through the program, 19 veterans (43% of program lending) have started new businesses, creating 70 jobs. In total, the program has helped veterans create or retain 227 jobs in Colorado. Army Veterans make up half of VALOR program borrowers, with 22% Air Force, 17% Navy and 13% Marine Corps. Veterans. Throughout the Denver-metro area and Boulder County, CEF has provided 25 VALOR loans totaling nearly $1.5M in investments to grow the area’s small business economy.
In July of 2018, CEF received a $2.2 million investment from Bank of America (BOA) to advance the VALOR loan program to impact more Colorado military veterans who want to start or grow their businesses. The bank is recognized as the VALOR program presenting sponsor. The Xcel Energy Foundation also funds this effort through a $25,000 program grant to help veteran entrepreneurs gain access to business resources and build capacity in Colorado. Due to growing demand, CEF plans to expand the VALOR loan program to $5 million by the year 2021 with additional investors.
“It’s encouraging to see how successful our VALOR loan program has been since its launch two years ago – it paints a clear picture of the large number of veterans who have small business dreams after they have honorably served our country,” says Ceyl Prinster, CEO and president of CEF. “Access to affordable small business capital for vets and their families continues to be a challenge and our goal is to help veterans get set up for success so they can grow and create more jobs across Colorado.”
One of the most recent VALOR loan recipients in the Denver area is the Full Battle Rattle Food Truck started by veteran borrower Michael Gropper. The truck serves deli-inspired cuisine with Brooklyn-style sandwiches and breakfast bagels and employs veterans who have received training through the company’s Culinary Arts Boot Camp for Veterans Program. A 501 © 3 non-profit organization, the Boot Camp’s mission is to support the veteran community by providing both camaraderie and job training to those veterans facing homelessness, unemployment and who struggle with transitioning into civilian life. Gropper is a proud eight-year U.S. Army vet who served as a Food Service Specialist and decided it was time to fulfill his dream of serving other vets in need. Michael’s loan from the Colorado Enterprise Fund provided him with the working capital he needed to start his business and set the wheels in motion for success and growth.
"My experience working with CEF has made the stress of starting a new business less stressful,” Gropper says. “With the support, nurturing and guidance of CEF, I have found that the process of obtaining a loan was one that was less difficult for a new business starting out."
Another Denver area VALOR loan recipient is Duane Topping of Topping Designs, a women’s fashion label for “those wanting to shed their labels.” Based in the Denver suburb of Wheatridge, Duane retired from the US Army in 2012 and found himself struggling with PTSD. He began sewing as part of his therapy and, with the support of his wife, he found his way out of the darkness through clothing design. His approach to design combines smart styling with a touch of an adventurous attitude. CEF provided Duane with the funds to refine his branding for Topping Designs and start on a path of success.
“CEF made a huge difference in the brand,” Topping says. “As a military veteran, it is difficult to navigate the landscape outside of that regimented arena. As we grew our brand, we discovered that many [mainstream financing] options were not open to us. But, CEF believed in us. It was more than the financial help, it was their ability to understand the things we didn't know about business, and their willingness to step in and show us what we needed. The faith in what we are doing was important, it was like a family member saying, ‘reach for your dream, it's ok’.
Those interested in applying for the VALOR loan program can submit a loan inquiry form online or call 303-860-0242 to speak with the lending team.
About Colorado Enterprise Fund
Founded in1976, Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) provides loans up to $500,000 to finance small businesses and start-ups unable to obtain funding through traditional banks. CEF has dispersed over $80 million in startup and growth capital to over 2,300 businesses, and created or retained more than 18,000 jobs in the state. A non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), CEF is based in Denver with lending services available statewide. For more information, visit: www.coloradoenterprisefund.org