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When you leave the military, the biggest question is "what's next?" It's a scary job market right now, but the skills you've received in the military make you highly marketable. The Legion sponsors dozens of veterans hiring fairs each year, and our employment experts also provide tips to writing resumes, networking and making a strong impression in the interview process.

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Social lending for veteran-owned businesses

Mark L. Rockefeller is the co-founder & CEO of StreetShares.com, an interactive marketplace where lenders bid to provide shares of commercial loans to veteran-owned small businesses. He is a Legionnaire and veteran of the Iraq War.

If you’re a veteran small business owner looking for a business loan, you owe it to yourself to look beyond the typical channels of big banks and costly merchant-advance lenders. Social marketplace lenders are a great way to get in front of investors, tell your story, and obtain a business loan.

Here are three reasons why social lending makes sense for veteran-owned businesses:

  1. Social lenders look beyond a credit score. The rigors of military service can take a toll on a credit score. As a result, veterans face unique challenges when looking for a business loan with lenders who only consider the numbers. But on an alternative social-lending marketplace, individual investors bid to back a portion of a loan to a business. Because individual investors set their own interest rate, they are able to consider any factor they wish. Other factors – such as the borrower’s “pitch,” group affiliation, business model, location, online presence, and customer reviews – are all important to social-lenders. This “whole picture” evaluation is beneficial to veteran-owned businesses.
  2. Internet-driven for tech-savvy veterans. Social lenders operate exclusively online, but operating virtually is nothing new to veterans. Whether operating a cutting-edge weapons program or getting trained on the latest communications systems, most 21st century veterans are very comfortable with technology. Further, the 2.5 million combat veterans in the Iraq-Afghanistan war generation are no strangers to mobile banking and video-conferencing home to loved ones from abroad. Who needs to visit a bank branch? Military veterans don't.
  3. Social lending is based on moral obligation. Here's how social lending works (and it really does): Individual investors bid to back portions of individual loans to small businesses of their choosing. The best bids are then combined into single loans and paid out to the businesses. Then the small businesses operate, profit, and pay back their loans. Repayments are made to individual investors who have lent out their own money. Business owners know that if they default, they are impacting real people, not just some distant, big bank. And that matters. In fact, the reported average annual default on these loans is just 3%-4%. Moral obligation creates loyalty - something veterans know a lot about.

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