As a veteran, you’ve served your country bravely and honorably. You may be considering your next job opportunity and wondering if now is the time to start your own business. That’s an exciting new challenge! The good news is that there are many business resources specifically available to veteran-owned companies.
A recent Small Business Administration study showed that veterans with two decades or more of service were more likely to be self-employed. Moreover, the SBA 2012 Veterans Report shows veterans own more than 2.4 million U.S.-based businesses.
And why not? Applying skills learned in the military world to entrepreneurial pursuits is not a stretch. Leadership, resilience, calm under pressure, strategic thinking, maturity, discipline, dedication - these are many of the keys to success, whether in the armed forces or in the business world.
In fact, some of the rock stars of the corporate world — Lowell McAdam (Verizon), Frederick Smith (Fed Ex CEO), Daniel Akerson (former General Motors CEO) — sport military pedigrees. For these blue-chip leaders, it seems lessons learned in the military carried over to business acumen.
Many ex-military service men and women have found that entrepreneurship offers the chance to develop the unique, valuable skills they learned during their service. If you’re a veteran looking to delve into your own entrepreneurial venture, know that you have many places to turn for support.
Here are some of the resources that help aspiring veterans-turned-business owners with the education, funding, mentoring, and support to realize their dreams:
The SBA offers a full complement of services geared toward helping veterans start businesses, as well as ongoing support once these businesses are off the ground. Their loan programs help veterans secure funding, while their educational centers are geared toward providing new business owners with support. Once your business is up and running, the federal contracting program for certified Veteran-Owned Small Businesses helps with government contract work.
The Office of Veterans Business Development is a segment of the SBA. This department offers free resources to veterans in need of business assistance. They focus on business plan development and contracting opportunities. Their website has a plethora of information for veterans — including their Operation Boots to Business program.
The VA also offers programs to support your veteran-owned business. Furthermore, they work to stimulate veteran-owned entrepreneurial success with contracts, including Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs).
The Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities
The SBA partners with Syracuse University to offer its free “boot camp” training program to veterans at eight business school campuses across the U.S. The course is geared toward service-disabled men and women and focuses on small business management and financing.
The “boot camp” program is now offered at the following campus locations:
- Syracuse University
- Cornell University
- E.J. Ourso College of Business at Louisiana State University
- University of Connecticut School of Business
- Mays Business School at Texas A&M
- UCLA Anderson School of Management
- Florida State University’s College of Business
- Krannert School of Management at Purdue University
Operation Endure and Grow
Operation Endure and Grow is aimed at National Guard and Reserve members, their families, and their business partners. Their online training courses focus on how to launch and grow a small business.
Transitioning from the armed services to the world of business can be a tough adjustment. ACP’s nationwide mentoring program helps veterans successfully navigate the transition to the civilian workforce. Their services include mentoring, career counseling, and networking with corporate and academic professionals.
Service Disabled Veterans Grants
The VA offers special consideration for service-disabled veterans in the form of self-employment grants. To qualify, you must submit a business plan for review.
After approval, the VA will determine whether you fall into Category I or Category II. Category I is for veterans who have the most severe level of service-related disability. Category II is for veterans who face challenges but have a lesser degree of disability. The amount of the grant will be based on the Category designation. This grant may be used for all business-related expenses and does not need to be repaid.
Interested veterans should meet with their local VA office to discuss these grants with a self-employment counselor.
In addition to some of these larger, public entities, there are a number of private options:
Hivers and Strivers is an angel investment group dedicated to helping your veteran-owned business get started. It is owned and managed by graduates of US military academies.
The Veterans’ Opportunity Fund (VOF) is the first venture capital firm dedicated to investing in veteran-owned business. The VOF focuses on East Coast businesses, with an emphasis on tech, health, and specialty manufacturing.
One of the most challenging aspects of starting a new business from the ground up is securing the necessary funding to back your dream. While there are grants and SBA programs available to veterans, you may also consider financing through a microlender. Microlenders, such as Accion, provide loans for start-up and operational business costs. These loan programs may not be available from more traditional lenders and are often easier to get than traditional bank loans.
Thank You For Your Service!
Now that your military service has ended, turning the skills and life lessons toward a new dream is a goal within your reach. The federal government and private entities offer many programs to support veterans, such as yourself, as you hit the entrepreneurial ground running.
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