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New nonprofit gives veteran small-business owners a boost

Sep. 14, 2013 - 01:25PM   |  

A new nonprofit is helping vets start and grow their own businesses with advice, mentoring and cash.

The Veterans’ Pathway to Business Success is so far very limited in scope — only honorably discharged Florida residents who served in Iraq or Afghanistan are eligible — but the group is seeking corporate donors in hopes of expanding beyond Florida.

“I am in full fundraising mode right now,” said Executive Director Charlotte Laurent-Ottomane, shortly after arriving in the Washington, D.C., area to meet potential donors.

Laurent said the group launched earlier this year and has so far given out $85,000 in startup money to three grant recipients, with plans for a fourth next month. Vets must submit a business plan and be chosen by Veterans’ Pathway to get the money, but once they do, it’s theirs — no repayment, no interest.

Veterans’ Pathway does more than just write big checks, however. The group helps vets develop business plans prior to submitting them for consideration, after which select vets receive grants, she said. But the help doesn’t stop there.

“We follow up with them. It’s not ... just giving them the money. We have a mentoring program,” Laurent-Ottomane said. “It’s very much a holistic kind of comprehensive program.”

The process will come full circle when the veteran entrepreneurs helped by the program find success and are able to themselves help aspiring veteran small-business owners, she added.

“It’s not a handout,” Laurent-Ottomane said. “It’s a different kind of program, which allows them to, I guess, pull it together to help themselves and to help other veterans.”

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