If you’ve been disabled while serving our country, you may wonder what the next chapter has in store. After active duty, it can be tough to find a niche in civilian life – especially with a disability. But military service has given you a ton of useful skills that you can use to start your own business. And to help you do just that, there are a number of programs out there designed to help support your new venture.
Self-Employment Grants for Service-Disabled Veterans
The Veteran Administration offers a self-employment program for service-disabled veterans. In order to be considered for this program, interested candidates are asked to prepare and submit 1) a business plan and 2) their specific funding estimates.
Based on the information provided, the VA assesses whether the service-disabled veterans qualify for Category I or Category II self-employment funding. Category I veterans are determined to have more severe disability than veterans in Category II.
This program offers a broad range of benefits for veterans, including grants which may be used for self-employment start-up costs. These grants may also be used to purchase equipment, inventory, education, additional training, and licensure frees. Note that these funds come in the form of grants, not loans – you don’t have to repay them.
In order to apply for this self-employment program, veterans may contact their local VA office. Counselors will work with interested applications to determine their qualifications and assist with the application process.
The government reserves a certain portion of its private-sector contracts for small businesses and businesses owned by women, minorities, and disabled people. As a service-disabled veteran, you can qualify for these “set-asides.”
Street Shares (Online Loans)
Street Shares matches investors and small business owners interested in supporting veteran-owned businesses. Veteran-owned businesses apply for funding directly on the site and receive a response to their funding request in less than one hour.
The process involves an online application, a community bid to fund the loan, and then – if approved – funds are deposited in the business owner’s account. The loan amounts provide up to $100,000 of funding for qualified veteran applicants. The socially-influenced business model seeks to boost the number of veteran-owned U.S. companies.
For more information on applying for Street Shares funding, visit their website.
Venture Capital Funding (Private Funding)
The Veterans’ Opportunity Fund (VOF) seeks to invest up to $3 million in veteran-owned or managed businesses. VOF’s investment focus is on healthcare, business services, and manufacturing. In order to be considered for funding, VOF requires 1) veteran status 2) an application, and 3) a comprehensive business plan.
For more on how to apply and the resources available, visit TCP Venture Capital.
Hivers and Strivers (Angel Investors)
Hivers and Strivers is an investment group run by US military academy alumni. The company invests up to $1 million per veteran-owned business venture. Hivers and Strivers are looking for a return of more than ten times their initial investment, so they back veteran-owned businesses whom they believe show vast growth potential.
To complete an application or to learn more information, visit Hivers and Strivers.
The Bottom Line
If you’re a service-disabled veteran, you’re eligible for government-supported and private programs to help you get your small business off the ground. Currently, close to 3 million businesses are owned by veterans, nationwide. In other words, you have access to the tools, resources, and support you need to start your own business. So get out there!