Why should veterans start their own business?
Looking for a second career after leaving the military can be a challenge and that is why in our current economic environment a growing number of veterans are choosing to become entrepreneurs. In fact, The Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy recently reported there were over 379,000 veteran-owned employer businesses in the U.S., and 6.8 percent of all employer businesses were majority owned by one or more veterans.
There is approximately one veteran-owned firm for every 10 veterans, and veteran-owned companies employ approximately 5.8 million Americans, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Veteran-owned businesses are often more successful than the average startup, but they still need mentorship, funding and support to make their business dream a successful reality.
What are the resources available for veterans to start their own businesses?
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) programs are developed by veterans, service-disabled veterans, reservists, active-duty service members, transitioning service members, and their dependents or survivors. SBA programs perform a number of functions for veterans including providing access to capital and preparation for small business opportunities, and connect veteran small business owners with federal procurement and commercial supply chains.
The Veterans Business Outreach Center Program is an initiative that oversees Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) across the United States. This small business program has resulted in a number of success stories and offers veterans business plan workshops, concept assessments, training and mentorship for eligible veterans.
Veterans can use SBA tools like Lender Match to connect with lenders.
Veteran entrepreneurship training programs feature customized curriculums, online courses, in-person classes, and to give veterans the training to succeed. These programs teach the fundamentals of business ownership and additionally provide access to SBA resources and small business mentors.
For vets who are transitioning from military service to the world of entrepreneurship, there is a plethora of resources, including free training, education, funding and networking events, to help ensure their new venture is successful.
Boots to Business: An entrepreneurial program currently offered on military installations around the world and a training track of the U.S. Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program (TAP).
Women Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program (WVETP): This program provides entrepreneurial training to women service members, women veterans, and women spouses of service members and veterans as they start or grow a business.
Service-Disabled Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program (SDVETP): This is an entrepreneurship training program that services disabled veteran entrepreneurs who aspire to be small business owners or currently own a small business.
Veteran Federal Procurement Entrepreneurship Training Program (VFPETP): This delivers entrepreneurship training to veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses nationwide interested in pursuing, or already engaged in federal contract procurement.
Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business program: This is a contracting assistance program that allows eligible service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses to bid on set-aside contracts.
Military spouse resources
Military spouse entrepreneurs and business owners have access to the same small business programs and resources that are available to service members and veterans.
What are the benefits of veterans starting their own business?
RE/MAX, FedEx, Walmart and GoDaddy were all started by military veterans. Many successful veteran entrepreneurs attribute their success to their military skills, discipline, work ethic and finding a lucrative idea.
Military experience translates directly into the business world. Many veteran entrepreneurs take the same type of technology that they used in intelligence for special operations forces to conceptualize and build a data fusion and content analytics tool.
Impact of Covid-19 on veteran businesses
Small business owners across the country have suffered the most in the COVID-19 pandemic, and veteran-owned businesses have suffered as well. In March of 2020 when the virus hit the U.S., many cities across the country went into lockdown, forcing millions of businesses to temporarily close. Sadly, many of those businesses never reopened. Business ventures that did make it had to adhere to new rules including social distancing, which added to their operational costs, and less traffic. The financial suffering has been particularly difficulty for restaurants, gyms, bars, and other customer intensive enterprises.
The federal government has taken steps to help struggling small business owners, signing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act into law in March 2020. This multitrillion dollar program provides aid to small business owners, including veterans, through forgivable and low-interest rate loans. The Paycheck Protection Program, has proven to be a lifeline for many small business owners. Business owners have been offered forgivable loans if the proceeds go to keep staff on the payroll. The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans have provided business owners with low interest rate loans they have 30 years to pay back.
What are the financial steps for starting a business?
Writing a business plan
After veterans have a feasible idea for a business, it’s time to start creating your road map to success. A business plan outlines an entrepreneur’s business goals and the plan to achieve them. Business plans are crucial if you want to get a loan or attract investors. Venture capitalists, private banks, and other lenders will want to know you’ve thought through every aspect of future business growth.
Veterans have many more incentives and funding options available to them than civilian entrepreneurs.
With crowdfunding, business owners receive investments from individuals donating to the business – because you are not securing debt in the form of a loan, you’re not usually required to pay the money back.
Here are some resources for making crowdfunding work for your small business startup:
Veteran specific investment groups
Venture capital firms provide investment dollars for veteran’s startup businesses in exchange for partial control, equity or a seat on the board of your company. Some of these firms work exclusively with veteran entrepreneurs. Here are some investment options for veteran entrepreneurs:
Hivers and Strivers: This angel investment group focuses on early-stage investments to support startup companies founded and run by graduates of U.S. military academies.
Veteran Ventures Capital: Veteran Ventures provides investment opportunities to businesses with veterans in leadership positions.
Task Force X Capital: TFX is a venture capital firm with veteran-led advisory board that is focused on early stage veteran startups.
1836: This nonprofit makes direct investments in veteran-owned businesses.
Private loans for veterans are also a good option for veteran entrepreneurs. Here are two resources to look into:
Veterans Business Fund: This nonprofit offers non-interest-bearing loans to veteran small business owners.
Veteran Business Outreach Centers: VBOC centers offer referrals to independent grants for prospective veteran entrepreneurs, as well as training and counseling.
Unlike funding from a private bank, grants aren’t loans, that means you are not required to pay them back. Here are some veteran-focused sources for both private loans and federal grant funding:
The Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP): Created by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, it’s a searchable website where veteran business owners can find grants.
Warrior Rising Veteran Grants: This nonprofit supports veteran entrepreneurs, and offers grants, financing, mentoring and business support.
Idea Cafe Grants: Veteran entrepreneurs and existing small business owners can apply for $1,000 small business grants.
Support Groups and Education
There are many sources for education and support specifically designed for supporting veterans who want to be business owners. Here are just a few:
Veteran Institute for Procurement: This is a three-day, 27-hour program for veteran-owned businesses that want to enter into the federal marketplace and bid for lucrative federal contracts.
System for Award Management (SAM): SAM is an account portal for federal government contractors. It’s also free to register your business.
National Veteran Small Business Coalition: This organization is dedicated to helping veteran-owned businesses get first consideration for federal prime and subcontract procurement.
National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA): NaVOBA is a nonprofit that certifies businesses as Veteran Business Enterprises for American corporations looking to partner with veteran-owned and operated businesses.
Vets First Verification Program: Register your business for special opportunities to do business with the federal government.
Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program: Joining this program will give your small business an edge when competing for federal “set-aside” contracts.
Business Education and Training
Aside from financing your business, the biggest investment you’ll make as an entrepreneur will be in your knowledge and skills. Entrepreneurship requires a broad skill set, such as accounting basics and interviewing skills.
The GI Bill has helped cover all or some of the costs of higher education for millions of vets, which is good because education isn’t cheap.
Boots to Business Reboot: The Small Business Administration offers a two-day course teaching business fundamentals and techniques for evaluating the feasibility of a veteran’s business.
Through the Veterans Business Resource Center veterans and their families can get free business training and counseling.
Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV): EBV provides small business training to post-9/11 veterans and military family members who serve in a caregiver role to a veteran with a service-connected disability.
Vet to CEO: This is a free online program designed and facilitated by veteran entrepreneurs.
Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program and the S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation provide training programs to help transition service members into the civilian workforce with management training and hands-on experience.
Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE): V-WISE is a program that presents extensive training in entrepreneurship and small business management for female vets.
Networking and Mentorships
Many veterans are a tight-knit group, professional connections in the business world are just as important and can be as long-lasting as they are in the military. There are plenty of organizations, both nonprofit and paid, that work with veterans to connect them with business professionals and mentors.
Here are some other resources to connect veterans with partners in the business world:
Patriot Boot Camp: This free three-day event provides educational training and one-on-one mentoring to inspire and advance entrepreneurs in technology-related businesses.
American Corporate Partners (ACP): Connect with mentors in the business community to help grow your business. Membership in ACP is free for 12 months.
VetsinTech: This organization equips veteran entrepreneurs and their spouses with mentorship, educational programs, and workshops for tech startups.
SCORE: Find mentors, workshops and other resources for veteran entrepreneurs in your area.
Hire Heroes USA: This veteran nonprofit matches service members with successful professionals for one-hour phone call sessions.
Disabled Veterans Resources
There are many diverse educational and financial resources that are specifically designed for disabled veteran business owners, including Veterans Affairs (VA) grants and free comprehensive business programs at major universities.
Here are a few resources to help service-disabled veterans get their business going:
Veteran Readiness and Employment: The VA offers grant funding to purchase licenses and bonds, inventory, and specialized equipment for eligible veterans.
Self-employment grants: The VA offers a self-employment program for service-disabled vets. Those interested can contact their local VA office.
Dog Tag Bakery: This is a five-month fellowship for service-disabled veterans, caregivers and military spouses that offers Georgetown University classes and real-life work experience at a small bakery.
National Veterans Entrepreneurship Program: This innovative program offers free training for disabled veterans modeled on comprehensive entrepreneurship curriculum. Programs currently exists for Oklahoma State University, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the University of Florida.
Veteran Business Services (VBS): VBS partners with businesses and universities that offer veteran-focused programs for training and funding.
The Office of Veterans Business Development: Veterans, their dependents, and survivors can find small business training, resources, and opportunities at a nearby district office.
Military-transition.org: This website provides a wealth of data and resources to help with the transition from military to civilian life.
The Rosie Network: This nonprofit offers help with training, financing and networking resources for veteran small business ownership.
Starting a business is a challenge, but just like in the military, not a challenge you ever have to face alone. Investigate these organizations for yourself and you can rely on the advice and support of other service members.
What are some business ideas for veterans?
There are a lot of great business ideas for veterans that might be having trouble adjusting to living life in the civilian world.
Auto or Boat Detailing
Meal Kit Delivery
Personal Fitness Trainer
Disaster & Emergency Consultant
Military Preparation Coach