Resources to help military veterans grow their business
Many veterans have translated military experience into thriving businesses. Leadership, dedication, and attention to detail are attributes that are just as important in a small business as they are in the armed forces. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy 2017 report on military business owners, 9.1 percent of all U.S. businesses are majority-owned by veterans. Perhaps more impressive is that over 85 percent of those companies were started from the ground up.
Starting or maintaining a business is a challenge, no matter what experience an entrepreneur brings to the table. Thankfully, veterans have access to unique resources that can help provide funding, job training, and connections to federal work contracts.
Here’s a closer look at some of the many resources available to help you get your footing as a veteran small-business owner.
U.S. Government Business Resources for Military Veterans
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is one of the very best resources for business-minded vets. This government-funded organization has a dedicated arm specifically for veterans called the Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD). The OVBD oversees Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs), which are hubs that offer a wide variety of services from business plan workshops to technical training and are found in several states, including Hawaii. VBOCs may also be able to help get veterans access to lending programs that offer special rates and terms for veterans, such as SBA Veteran Advantage fee relief on a loan.
Another program the SBA runs is the highly successful Boots to Business initiative. It was created to give active military nearing the end of their service a head start in the business world. Boots to Business is offered on-site in many military installations around the world. For veterans who may have missed out, the Boots to Business Reboot is offered to vets of all eras to help establish business roots in their own communities.
Casting a wider net, the Veterans Entrepreneur Portal (VEP) is available online to aid with the creation, growth, and funding of businesses by providing federal resources and training to veterans.
And finally, for female veterans, the SBA runs over one hundred Women’s Business Centers throughout the country. Though these centers aren’t veteran-specific, they are still able to help female veterans locate resources designed to support their businesses.
Reputable Non-Government Veteran Business Resources
There are many non-profit and private business programs created specifically to help veterans. Several of these programs are staffed by ex-military personnel who understand the challenges veterans face when entering competitive business environments. Some of the most well-known and highly regarded include:
- Warrior Rising – This non-profit was founded by veterans to help promote the idea of “vetrepreneurs,” a style of business leadership built on a foundation of military values. Services they provide include training, mentoring, and financial advice.
- Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) – EBV programs are run by Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families. These programs are unique because they draw upon the combined knowledge of academic higher learning and military programs.
- VetFran – VetFran is a non-profit that specializes in helping veterans who want to enter the world of franchise businesses.
- American Corporate Partners – This respected non-profit connects vets with experienced business mentors from leading companies. Training and support are available for vets who specifically want to develop a small business.
- Patriot Boot Camp – Founded in 2012 by a group that included Colorado Governor Jared Polis and Techstars Co-Founder David Cohen, Patriot Boot Camp’s goal is to assist veterans entering the tech world as business owners.
Lesser-Known Helpful Veteran Business Resources
Once vets are ready to put their training and knowledge to work, there are many general-use resources that are helpful to help keep their business connected to their customers.
- Several cell service providers offer discounted military rates for individual lines — a great benefit for vet-run small businesses that don’t have the need or desire to invest in land-line phones.
- A free internet speed test can make sure your current service can handle the additional bandwidth required to run tasks such as virtual meetings, webinars, and other work that relies on high-speed internet.
- Many companies offer military discounts that go hand in hand with business needs such as rental cars and hotels for business travel, office equipment, and computers. Sites like MilitaryBenefits.info have up-to-date lists of businesses that offer veteran discounts.
A Final Thought: Find Inspiration in Stories of Success
Transitioning from military life to civilian business can be challenging, but it’s also exciting. It’s easy to draw inspiration from veterans like Noah Currier, whose company, Oscar Mike, is a successful, growing T-shirt business that employs many disabled veterans. Stories of successful veteran entrepreneurs abound, and yours could be next.
Thanks to a variety of programs from the government and private sector, military veterans have a wide variety of resources available. Leveraging veteran-focused programs and resources can help your new business thrive or accelerate growth in an existing company.
Written by: Elaine Thompson
Elaine is a digital journalist with a technical writing background. She currently focuses on all things sustainability and tech, and has a passion for helping small businesses and families succeed in their local communities. Elaine has written for a variety of online publications.