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New program aims to help female veterans-turned-entrepreneurs

With one in five post-9/11 female veterans temporarily locked out of the job market, hundreds of ex-military women have discovered a promising financial side door: self-employment.

A new survey of 800 female veterans-turned-entrepreneurs finds that 55 percent say the leadership skills they learned in uniform ultimately pushed them to become their own boss.

But nearly half of those same women acknowledge they don’t have a business plan to help navigate their next two years, while 28 percent report their greatest need is learning how to find and retain new customers, according to the poll conducted by Capital One Financial Corporation and Count Me In For Women's Economic Independence, a nonprofit.

To help bolster the growing pool of female veterans who have launched small businesses — and, simultaneously, create more jobs for ex-service members — Capital One and Count Me In have partnered to launch the Women Veteran Entrepreneur Corps (WVEC).

Hatched as a training and mentorship program, WVEC aims to help female small business owners who are veterans (as well as their spouses or domestic partners) overcome common entrepreneurial pitfalls and plot future revenue growth.

For seed money, Capital One said it has committed $800,000 toward the program.

“The energy and motivation that women veterans bring to their business ventures is unmatched, and we are very excited to use our experience helping women reach their entrepreneurial potential to help this important — and growing — group of new entrepreneurs,” Nell Merlino, founder and President of Count Me In, said in a prepared statement.

Beyond the money and research, Count Me In and Capital One plan to christen the WVEC initiative with a conference and business-pitch competition for women small business owners who are military veterans on Dec. 3 and 4. The event is slated to take place in McLean, Va., and is expected to attract hundreds of women veterans and business growth experts to participate in a variety of panels and workshops — some led by women veterans.

To help women prepare for the December WEVC event, Count Me In also will host for business owners a series of free “pitch parties” in select U.S. cities. At those gatherings, participating women can practice their two-minute business pitches and get instant, expert feedback, the nonprofit said. Individuals can register for the WVEC pitch parties and the December conference by clicking hmere.

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