Are you a veteran with an interest in business ownership? 250,000+ veterans transition to civilian life each year. On this Veteran’s Day, if you are thinking about starting a business there are resources that will help you launch or grow your big idea. There are government programs and funders 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 19 Resources for Veteran-Owned Business.
1.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 connect veteran business owners with federal procurement and commercial sector opportunities.
2. Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) This is a one-stop-shop for transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses looking to start, purchase, or grow a business. There are 22 VBOC centers in 19 states across the US. VBOC’s offer business development assistance such as business plan workshops, concept assessments, mentorship, and resource referrals. You can also participate in the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program (TAP), including courses Boots to Business and Boots to Business Reboot which offers an overview of entrepreneurship and the fundamentals of owning a business and the online course Boots to Business Revenue Readiness Course in partnership with Mississippi State University. VBOC’s also offers great networking opportunities to connect with other veterans in your area.
3. Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program 3% of government contracts are set aside for service-disabled veterans each year. The government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate in the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business program. Joining the disabled veterans’ business program makes your business eligible to compete for the program’s set-aside contracts. You can still compete for contract awards under other socio-economic programs you qualify for.
4. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) There are more than 850 SBDCs located across the country. 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’ll also assist with government certification for women, minority, veteran-owned and a service-disabled veteran-owned business. These certifications are needed to pursue government contracts.
5. Institute for Veteran and Military Families The Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) is launched in June 2011 to serve all 25 million U.S. veterans, focusing on the social, economic, education and policy issues affecting them and their families post-service. Syracuse University host and runs the national program to provide industry leadership. J.P. Morgan Chase is a founding partner of the institute. IVMF offers 8 national entrepreneurship programs including Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) which helps women veterans and female military spouses turn an idea into a growing business. The Startup Training Resources to Inspire Veteran Entrepreneurship (STRIVE) program which leverages networks and education resources in local communities to support and advance veteran-owned businesses, VETSource which helps veteran businesses gain valuable resources, information, and best practices around corporate supplier diversity and procurement readiness, and The Veteran EDGE Conference which convenes the fastest-growing veteran-owned businesses in the U.S.
6. Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans Since 2007, the Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans has been held on college campuses across the country to provide access to higher education-level training for veterans interested in entrepreneurship. This program is part of (IVMF) at Syracuse University and includes three offerings.
- 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
7. V-WISE Female veterans looking for support can look to V-WISE They offer a three-phase training program which includes a 15-day online course, a 3-day entrepreneurship training conference, and V-WISE Ignite a 1-day training event. They have a robust online community with ongoing mentorship and support as you launch or grow your business. This program is sponsored by (IVMF) and serves honorably discharged women vets, active duty service members, and female spouses/partners.
8. Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) is a non-profit founded in 2012 to provide active duty service members, veterans, and their spouses with access to mentors, educational programming, and a robust community of experts and peers in Colorado to help them innovate and build impactful businesses.
9. SCORE is a national non-profit that offers business mentors to veterans wanting to start a small business and you can meet with your mentor in-person or online. As the nation’s largest network of volunteer business experts, SCORE is an invaluable resource for new business owners.
10. VetToCEO, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that supports veterans and transitioning military members to succeed in business ownership. They offer training resources and guidance, assists veterans in leveraging their skills to start or buy a business. VetToCEO’s programs are FREE and facilitated by veteran entrepreneurs, exclusively for veterans of all military branches.
11. VETRN The Veterans Entrepreneurial Training & Resource Network provides Veterans and their family members Free Executive MBA program in entrepreneurship. This program is a six-month curriculum based on a course in strategic business planning, business cash flow, and financial management, and is a collaboration with Interise, the developer of the highly successful, award-winning “StreetWise MBA” program.
12. 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 become certified as a veteran-owned small business.
13. Veterans Institute for Procurement The National Center for Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP) is a FREE veteran entrepreneurship program that specifically addresses federal procurement. VIP offers a platform with three (3) in‐residence educational training programs for owners and principals of VOSB/SDVOSBs. VIP Programs include VIP Start, VIP Grow, and VIP International. Qualified participants from SDVOSBs and VOSBs nationwide are enrolled on a first come first served basis for each class.
14. VetFran If you are a veteran who is interested in a franchise business, VetFran connects transitioning veterans with franchising opportunities. Buying into a franchise is an excellent option for 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.
15. 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. This program offers in-person courses and their Launch Lab Online. This gamified, interactive platform allows veterans at their own pace to walk through a four-mission course. You can network with other veteran business owners through its Bunker Brews events in 20 cities and The WeWork Veterans in Residence program which offers 6-months of free co-working space to 10 veteran companies in 14 cities and our CEO Circle program offers the next stage of programs for veteran companies looking to grow.
Funding for Veteran Owned Small Businesses
16. 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.
17. LiftFund is a non-profit organization that helps finance new small business and startup companies. They believe in leveling the financial playing field for women and minorities and building a community of shared success through entrepreneurship.
18. 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 applicants who can pitch their business.
19. StreetShares provides fair and honest funding options to veterans, including business loans, lines of credit and account receivables financing. This organization was founded by military veterans.
As a veteran, you should seek out any resources that can help you on your journey to start a business. Running a start-up can be a lonely road. Take advantage of the networking events to meet like-minded folks. Some of these programs can really give you an advantage over your competition. Transitioning to business ownership could be a great second career for you or your spouse. The world is still waiting on a better mousetrap so go for it.