Resources to Help Fuel Your Veteran Small Business Ideas
Do you have a knack for entrepreneurship? If so, you may consider joining the ranks of the 2.5 million veterans who started their own business right out of the military or shortly thereafter. Imagine what it would be like to use your teamwork skills, mission first mindset, and organizational expertise to create a veteran-owned small business of your own and shape the economy on a local or global scale.
The perfect time to take advantage of the many resources available and launch your veteran-owned business is now, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. To get you started, the first article of Empire Resume’s series entitled, Veteran Entrepreneurship, will briefly discuss some of the programs and sources of information to help you get on the right path such as:
- Boots to Business
- Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program (SDVOSB)
- VA Loans for Business
- VA Small Business Grants for Veterans
- Veteran Small Business Resources
But before we begin, we’d like to introduce you to the nation’s #1 resource for small business, and the one you’ll hear the most – the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Get to Know the Small Business Association
The SBA is an extremely helpful federal agency that makes it possible for entrepreneurs, including veterans, to pursue the American dream and leave their mark on the world. According to the SBA website, the agency provides counseling, capital, and contracting expertise and is considered the go-to resource and voice for small businesses.
Not only is the SBA the ultimate resource for business, the agency plays an auxiliary and coordinating role in various programs in support of small business ventures.
A recent study by the SBA suggests that former service members are 45% more likely to own small businesses than non-veterans, indicating that the military bolsters self-employment.
Boots to Business
Boots to Business (B2B) is a two-day educational and training course offered by the SBA through a contract with the Department of Defense. This program can help you explore your self-employment and business ownership opportunities by giving you a solid foundation.
The program provides knowledge in the what to do and how to get started department of starting a business, including information on developing a business plan, the keys to access start-up funds, government contracting opportunities and more.
Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program (SDVOSB)
Many veterans leave the military with the desire to make things better. If you’re injured in the line of duty and wish to start your own business, you can be recognized as a disabled veteran small business owner under the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program (SDVOSB).
This program allows disabled veterans with small businesses to compete for federal contract awards. However, your business must meet certain qualifications in order to use this designation and represent your business as this socioeconomic status.
To learn more information concerning how to qualify and register your business for this type of status, review the VA’s Vets First Verification Program.
Loans for Veterans
When you’re looking for money to start a business, the Department of the Veteran Affairs’ Veteran Entrepreneurial Portal is a great tool that connects veterans to services, resources, and financing options. Much like a veteran can receive a home loan to secure a house, veterans can also get a small business loan to fund veteran-owned businesses.
For this reason, many people ask, “So, does this mean I can go to the VA for a loan?”
No, it does not.
It’s important to note that the VA does not provide loans for business. The VA may provide training through Small Business Development Centers, but they do not offer loans. The VA recommends working with the SBA and its loan programs.
Additionally, as of this date, there’s no way to access monies from the GI Bill to start a business, although several bill proposals had been introduced to push for veterans to use their GI Bill benefits to become an entrepreneur.
The SBA offers three types of loans for veterans — the SBA Express Loan has a maximum borrowing amount of $350,000. Next, is the SBA’s 7(a) loan program provides up to $5 million, and the Veterans Advantage loan offers up to $350,000 in capital.
The final type of financing option is the Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan (MREIDL). This loan services reservists who are called back to duty while running a business. The low interest loan provides the funds for the business to meet its usual, customary, and necessary expenses that could have been met had the owner not returned to duty.
These loans can cover start up fees, equipment, real estate and more. However, don’t turn a blind eye to organizations outside of the government to back your business. Failure to look towards non-governmental sources of funds results in unclaimed money for your business.
There are several non-profit organizations, community institutions like Veteran LLC, and independent entities such as StreetShares Foundation and Warrior Rising, with a team filled with veterans to help make your small business dreams come true.
Your favorite military credit unions and banks such as USAA, Navy Federal Credit Union and a host of many others often offer small business loans to help you jump start your business as well.
VA Small Business Grants for Veterans
Lack of access to capital is a fear that destroys the dreams of many veteran entrepreneurs when it comes to starting a business. It’s the primary reason many companies around the world are never launched.
Although getting a business loan is an outlet for obtaining cash for your business idea, a grant may serve as a better option because a loan requires repayment, a grant does not. Essentially, a grant is free money gifted to an individual or entity to serve a purpose.
Thanks to the VA’s Self-Employment Program and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (VR&E), service-disabled veterans may be able to obtain grant funding to take care of fees, supplies, and marketing materials associated with starting a business. Contact your local VA office to speak with a counselor to see if you qualify.
Again, you should always apply for financing outside of the federal government. If not, you risk leaving money on the table that was meant for you. For example, Facebook is giving $20 million to small businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans throughout the U.S. And just recently, a Louisville veteran-owned business won a grant from FedEx.
Veteran Small Business Resources
There are several small business resources for veterans. In fact, many are not discussed here. But with some research, which is something that every entrepreneur becomes well-versed in, you may come across the VA Small and Veteran Business Programs website as well as the:
- Office of Veterans Business Development
- Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP)
- Small Business Development Centers
Make sure to carve out time to visit the PTAP Centers by locating the one nearest you in your state. The PTAP offers services to veterans free of charge, with a host of additional resources for you, military families, and military spouses, at your fingertips.
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Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for service-members transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.