It’s the 5th annual National Veteran Small Business Week. If you’re one of the 250,000 veterans who transitions to civilian life each year and are thinking about starting a business there are resources that will help you launch or grow your big idea. There are government programs and non-profits whose mission is specifically designed to support veteran-owned businesses, reservists, active-duty service members, transitioning service members, and their dependents, spouses or survivors. Whether you need a business plan, financing, certification, a mentor, or just small business training, there are quite a few resources available. Here are the Top 10 Veteran-Owned Business Resources.
- SBA Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) This government organization is devoted exclusively to promoting veteran entrepreneurship, the OVBD facilitates the use of all SBA programs by veterans, service-disabled veterans, reservists, active-duty service members, transitioning service members, and their dependents or survivors. SBA programs provide access to capital and preparation for small business opportunities. They can also connect veteran small business owners with federal procurement and commercial supply chains. The Veterans Business Outreach Program oversees the Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) across the country.
- Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) This is a one-stop-shop for transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses looking to start, purchase, or grow a business. The VBOC has centers in 19 states across the US, where you can participate in transition assistance programs including Boots to Business and Boots to Business Reboot, as well as business development assistance such as training, counseling and mentoring, and resource referrals.. It’s also a great place to meet other veterans in your area. This small business program offers business plan workshops, concept assessments, mentorship, and training for eligible veterans. Find your nearest center.
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) SBDCs are often located at a university near you, and they are a great place to start. The SBDC Network is committed to empowering veterans with the tools and professional expertise to succeed in business. They offer free and low cost training for veterans and anyone else interested in starting a business. They will also walk you through government certification for women, minority, veteran owned and a service disabled veteran-owned business. These certifications are especially valuable to pursue government contracts or opportunities in the corporate sector.
- Veteran Entrepreneur Portal The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website has a robust section dedicated to veteran entrepreneurs. There, you can find resources for starting and growing a business, as well as financing and pursuing federal contracting opportunities. You can also find franchising opportunities, training and employment programs. This site provides educational resources to becoming certified as a veteran-owned small business.
- V-WISE Female veterans looking for support can look to V-WISE which stands for Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship. Female veterans often need special kinds of resources to launch and grow a business. V-Wise offers three-phase training program which includes a 15-day online course, a 3-day entrepreneurship training conference, and ongoing mentorship and support as you launch or grow your business. The greatest thing about this program is that it’s not only for honorably discharged women vets and active duty service members, but also female spouses or same-sex life partners of women veterans.
- VetFran If you are a veteran who are interested in a franchise business, VetFran connects transitioning veterans with franchising opportunities. Buying into a franchise is an excellent option for an entry into business ownership. With the branding and business processes already established for you, it’s less work to get an establish business model up and running than to build an independent business from scratch. Often, franchisors will offer a reduced franchising fee to veterans as a way to encourage them to buy a franchise, and VetFran can guide you to the best franchise for your needs. Their website includes a veteran franchise directory.
- Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans For more than a decade, the Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veteranshas been held on college campuses across the country to provide access to higher education-level training for veterans interested in entrepreneurship. The program, free for post-9/11 vets, includes three phases:
- 30-day instructor led, online course focused on business basics
- Nine-day residency at an EBV university, with access to over 30 accomplished entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship educators
- 12 months of support and mentorship program
- Bunker Labs This national non-profit built by military veteran entrepreneurs is designed to empower other military veterans as leaders in innovation by providing educational programming and small business resources. Through this organization, you can network with other veteran business owners through its Bunker Brews and CEO Circle events. They also offer in-person training and what they call Bunker in a Box, an online entrepreneur education platform.
Funding for Veteran Owned Small Businesses
- Lender Match is an SBA tool to connect veteran businesses with lenders. In addition, the SBA makes special consideration for veterans through several programs.
- SBA Veterans Advantage. Offers guarantees on loans approved to businesses that are at least 51-percent owned by veterans or military spouses.
- The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (MREIDL). Provides loans of up to $2 million to cover operating costs that cannot be met due to the loss of an essential employee called to active duty in the Reserves or National Guard.
- Hivers & Strivers If you’re seeking funding for your veteran-owned startup, why not work with an angel investor that only focuses on funding people who have served in the military. Hivers & Strivers provides early-stage investment for startups founded and run by graduates of the US Military Academies. Hivers & Strivers will make investments starting around $250,000 up to $1 million in capital for qualified application who can pitch their business.
As a veteran-owned business, you should seek any resources that can help you in business. Some veteran business owners have reported back to me that the best part of participating in one of these training programs is meeting people like them. Do a local survey to find any local organizations who are dedicated to helping you succeed as your own boss. Take advantage of anything that could give you an edge over the competition. Transitioning to business ownership could be a great second or third career for a veteran or military spouse.