CHICAGO (WLS) -- Lynn Louder loves talking to customers, especially fellow veterans, and there are plenty of them here at Rosie's Home Cookin'.
The restaurant is decorated for Veteran's Day Friday, but that's not much different any other day. There is even a missing man table dedicated to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The restaurant serves as a business model for the veterans Louder and his partner coach as part of their non-profit Veterans Business Project. It's dedicated to helping veterans to start businesses once they are out of the service.
"It's very easy for these veterans to fall into the cracks. We want to give them a helping hand to show them a way to show them a way they can create a future for them and their families," Louder said.
The Veterans Business Project has helped get almost 500 veteran-owned businesses get off the ground. Or in the water; Chicago Fireboat Tours is owned by a couple of Navy veterans who were able to buy a 1936 model fireboat and put it into service as giving tours.
"When we first saw this boat for sale it was just a dream. And when we started talking to them and they made that dream a reality," said Ray Novak of Chicago Fireboat Tours.
Captain Novak worked in the engine room on a Navy vessels, but when he got out of the service he said, like many veterans, he needed help figuring out what to do next. The Veterans Business Project helped him come up with financing and a business plan.
"They helped us with a business plan and get our name out there. The moral support we needed," Novak said.
Louder is a Marine who served in Vietnam. Now he views himself as something of a matchmaker. V-Harmony helps veterans connect with businesses for sale, opening doors many veterans never knew existed.
"Many of these vets being the captain of their own row boat than trying to fit in in the engine room of a big ship, in other words a corporate setting," he said.
Chicago Fireboat Tours is doing well enough that they are adding to their fleet. They purchased a former Navy training boat and plan to put it in service in the spring.