By The Chicago Crusader
WVON’s America’s Heroes Group weekly talk show on August 24, included two pro-veteran friends, Lynn Lowder, and Dale Eisenberg, founders and co-CEOs of Veteran Business Project (VBP). Their Chicago area non-profit helps military veterans get into business for themselves.
Eisenberg, the son of a WWII veteran noted that post-WWII, 49 percent of veterans ended up owning their own businesses. Community banks saw the value of veterans and willingly provided them small business loans. Eisenberg noted, “The effect on post-WW-II from the efforts of those veteran small owners was legendary.”
Today, only 4.5 percent of post-9/11 veterans own their own businesses, as community banks no longer seek to lend to entrepreneurial veterans. Five years ago, Lowder and Eisenberg set out to change that situation and the Veteran Business Project was born.
Rather than promote veterans starting up a new business, Veteran Business Project (VBP) created its one-of-a-kind “vharmony” business matchmaking model, matching veterans looking to get into business with already established, profitable businesses looking to sell.
Lowder, a Marine Vietnam veteran, said “Starting a business is one thing, but how about buying a business that is already established, successful and ready for a new owner to take the wheel?”
Their “vharmony” business model makes a lot of sense and many others have felt the same, as seen from the public reaction to a recent Stars and Stripes article about VBP and a Chicago Fire Boat.
Eisenberg took on an effort to help two Chicagoland Navy veterans who wanted to buy a 1935 historic Chicago Fire Department boat they found in Wisconsin and bring it back to its Chicago home. Chicago natives Ray Novak and Eric Totsch were already cruise boat captains, but they felt the Chicago Fire Department boat was so uniquely “hometown Chicago” that it would be a big hit. And they were right about that!
Since starting up their business “Chicago Fire Boat Tours,” they’ve seen first-hand how much their fire boat appeals to all ages. They have experienced an increasing number of people, from all age groups who have enjoyed memorable tours along the Chicago River, as well as along the lakefront. Both veterans give much credit to Dale Eisenberg and VBP for making their business dream come true.
Currently, Lowder and Eisenberg have teamed up with the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) program, designed 40 years ago by the Department of Treasury. The CDFI program was designed to help spark the economies of inner-city and rural areas by providing accessible low-interest loans to entrepreneurs.
Lowder and Eisenberg want to take their “vharmony” program into Chicago’s South Side, where along with CDFI loans,
they can locate and match established businesses look-ing to sell with veterans looking for businesses to buy and operate. It can be a true win-win for the seller, the new veteran owner/operator and the South Side community and its economy.
Veterans looking to get into business for themselves and current business owners looking to sell, should go to the VBP website at: www.veteranbusinessproject.org and register.
Lowder and Eisenberg are caseworkers who will be with the veteran every step of the way in locating a business—from the due diligence, preparation of business/financial documents, to closing and business coaching thereafter.
“This is an ongoing team approach that we’ve established,” said Eisenberg, emphasizing, “Our veterans are in business for themselves but never by themselves alone.”
Lowder and Eisenberg will return to WVON as monthly guests. Their contact information and more about Veteran Business Project can be found at: www.veteranbusinessproject.org.
This article originally appeared in The Chicago Crusader.