MILITARY MIGHT: Valor Fund brings vet businesses to life

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AURORA | You can’t miss Cynthia and Dennis Scott’s bright red bus as it rolls into festivals around Colorado.

The bus, which doubles as the kitchen for the Aurora couple’s food truck business, Cyndy’s Food-Lish-Us, stands out even in a crowd of garishly-decorated food trucks because, well, it’s the biggest of the bunch.

But not long after they launched the company last year, and with significant cash dumped into turning that 30-foot bus into a old-school diner on wheels, they needed a loan for equipment and to give them a little breathing room as Cyndy’s Food-Lish-Us got rolling.

“We needed that cushion for the what ifs,” she said.

With impeccable credit histories, and considering the fact that the business already owned that 30-foot-long asset outright, Cynthia Scott said she figured getting a loan would be a breeze.

“Yeah, that didn’t happen,” she said with a grin.

Frustrated with the trouble they had getting a loan — lenders insisted on more cash collateral, not the bus — Cynthia Scott got connected with some local business groups and eventually the Colorado Enterprise Fund.

Dennis Scott served four years in the U.S. Army back in the 1970s, but the couple hadn’t thought his military service could help them get the loan they needed.

Turns out, it could.

Earlier this spring the couple scored a loan through CEF’s Valor Fund, which helps veteran-owned businesses like theirs get off the ground.

“They have been a huge blessing for us,” Dennis said.

This month CEF announced that the year-old Valor program, which helps veterans and Gold Star families, had received more than $2 million in just the last two months, including a $2 million investment from Bank of America and $25,000 from the Xcel Energy Foundation.

“We are thrilled to expand our relationship with Bank of America by partnering with them to serve veterans. Their substantial investment of $2 million will help us scale up this effort in Colorado,” Ceyl Prinster, CEF’s President and CEO, said in a statement.

CEF’s goal is to grow the Valor program to about $4 million, money the nonprofit says will be vital to “vetrepeneurs” looking to start a business after their military service.

“While access to affordable small business capital for vets and their families continues to be a challenge, it’s encouraging to see organizations like Bank of America and Xcel Energy Foundation step up to help our veterans pursue their dreams of owning small businesses,” Prinster said in the statement. “This funding ensures that veteran entrepreneurs who have honorably served our country are set up for success so they can grow and create more jobs across Colorado.”

CEF, which started in 1976, provides loans for as much as $500,000 to finance small businesses and start-ups unable to obtain funding through traditional banks.

Cynthia Scott said the loan has been a huge help and allowed the company not just to grow but to cover the often-pricey registration fees at the festivals where they sling her classic diner food. The goal, she said, is food that people expect at an old diner or at grandma’s house — everything from roast beef to hamburgers to meat loaf or chicken and waffles.

That menu, just like their big red bus that once shuttled passengers around Northern California, is part of what helps set the company apart, she said.

“You go into an old time diner, and you just feel comfortable,” she said.