In addition to risking their lives to protect the freedoms we hold so dear, many United States veterans are finding time to engage and actively participate in their communities in another way – as small business owners.
According to a recent report released by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), veteran owned businesses account for just over 2.5 million, or 9.1% of all businesses in the U.S. These businesses span multiple industries and at the time of the report, veteran-owned firms were responsible for employing 5.03 million people. That’s a considerable merit to add to their already invaluable service to our nation.
While there are a variety of business loan opportunities to help anyone take action on their entrepreneurial aspirations, there are several programs that focus on assisting veterans and active service members in opening their own business.
If you’re a veteran looking to open a business, or if you know someone who is, these programs are worth looking into.
Boots to Business
As is the case with many things in life, a solid foundation is the key to success. To help veterans and their spouses accomplish this goal, the SBA offers a program called Boots to Business. This entrepreneurial training program provides lessons on business fundamentals, like developing a business plan, as well as information on a variety of resources that SBA offers to help participants gain access to the capital needed to start a business.
SBA Express Loan
SBA’s Express Loan program extends loans, up to $350,000, to small business owners, and while the program isn’t specifically for veterans, the SBA does extend a special offer for those who served in our military. Veterans who qualify for this loan also will qualify for some great perks, like zero upfront fees, making it easier to get started.
StreetShares is a veteran owned and run company that works to connect entrepreneurs with investors. Though being a veteran isn’t a qualification to receive their services, they are exuberantly patriotic in their endeavors and highly favor veteran small business owners.
StreetShares offers term loans, contract financing, and a new Patriot Express line of credit. As an added bonus, their claim to fame, and many of their reviews, is based on the ease and speed that accompany an otherwise burdensome process.
Hivers and Strivers
Hivers and Strivers is in an Angel Investment group that helps young veterans, particularly those that graduated from a U.S. Military Academy, with start-up funds. The group typically invests anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million, but if larger financing is needed, they will work with other investment groups in their network to syndicate deals and gain access to the required capital.
The Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, otherwise known as V-WISE, is a training program for female veterans who are interested in owning or managing a small business. This empowering program is offered to veterans and active military members as well as female spouses of veterans or active military members.
While this may not be a finance based program, it does provide female entrepreneurs with the tools necessary to start a business. Included in the program, participates will find a 15-day online course, 3-day entrepreneurship training event, and ongoing training, support, and mentorship, all of which are invaluable in the path to business success.
Veteran Entrepreneur Portal
Hosted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal is an excellent resources for veterans interested in starting a business. To accomplish this goal, they have partnered with Business USA, and they offer specific resources under the following categories: Start a Business, Access Financing, Grow Your Business, Find Opportunities, and Resources for Veterans.
The Veterans Business Fund
Full disclosure, the verdict on effectiveness is still out for this group, as they have not started accepting applications, but if your business plans aren’t in the immediate future, or if you’ve had trouble obtaining financing from other sources, it’s worth keeping tabs on this group. The Veterans Business Fund (VBF) is a non-profit that aims to help veterans who may not have sufficient capital to otherwise qualify for a business loan.
Despite not currently extending financial assistance, the group is supported by big names like the Syracuse University Burton Blatt Institute, International Franchise Association’s VetFran Program, and SBA, which is promising.
If you’re a veteran who is pursuing a path in entrepreneurship, these groups serve as excellent resources to find the information you’ll need on your journey. Have another website or organization that you found particularly helpful? Let us know!
This article was originally written on July 4, 2017 and updated on September 7, 2017.