However, every entrepreneur needs mentorship, funding, and support to take their idea from concept to market. Fortunately, there are tons of resources dedicated to helping veterans get their business idea off the ground. From grants and loans to business mentoring and online workshops, here are some resources every veteran small business owner should know.
Small business loans for veterans
Finding a business loan from the Veteran’s Administration can be confusing. The VA doesn’t offer specific business loans. Instead, other entities, such as the Small Business Administration (SBA), will earmark loans specifically for veterans. If you decide to go for these types of earmarked loans, you’ll need to present various documentation, in addition to your business plan, tax information, financial statements, and other relevant business documents. Take these, for starters:
- Veterans and service-disabled veterans need to provide Form DD 214 as well as documentation confirming they have a service-related disability.
- Transitioning active duty members need to provide DD Form 2, “U.S. Armed Forces Identification Card (Active)” or DD Form 2, “Armed Forces of the United States Geneva Conventions Identification Card (Active)” and DD Form 2648 (active duty military) or DD Form 2648-1 (reservist).
- Reservists and National Guard members need to provide DD Form 2, “Armed Forces of the United States Identification Card (Reserve)”.
For military spouses and widows, there are other forms that may be required to verify your eligibility for some of these loans.
Where can you find small business loans for veterans? Here are some of the loan, grant, and banking resources exclusively available to small business merchants who’ve served (or in some case, are actively serving) in the military.
- Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan: From the Small Business Administration, this loan helps small businesses meet operating expenses if an “essential employee” is called to active duty. The interest rate on these loans is 4%, with a loan amount limit of $2 million and loan term max of 30 years.
- SBA 7A Loan Program: This loan program doesn’t specifically target veterans; however it is a popular option among the military community. These loans are a good option for established businesses looking for long-term financing — with larger loan amounts than the Express program offers (up to $5 million).
- SBA Express Loan Program: Veterans can borrow up to $500,000. The upfront guarantee fees, typically 2% to 3% of the loan, are waived for veterans, reservists, national guard members, and spouses who qualify. The main advantage of these loans is they have a quick turnaround time (replacing the popular Patriot Express Loan Program). You could get your loan in 36 hours compared with several weeks or months — but the underwriting criteria can be strict.
Business grants for veterans
Veteran business grants offer the advantage of free funding, as opposed to small business loans or other types of debt-based financing that you have to repay. The downside is that these grants can be time-consuming to apply for and quite competitive.
Make sure you meet the qualifications before dedicating time to completing the applications. And, learn about applying for government grants with this comprehensive guide on Business Grants for Veterans.
- The Military Entrepreneur Challenge: Offered by the Second Service Foundation, these grants award nonprofits or businesses with positive social, educational, community, or other impacts on the American military and veteran community. The winning business owner will receive $15,000 with prizes for runner-up and third place, too.
- Service-disabled Veteran-owned Small Business Program: Under this SBA program, veterans may apply for government contracts of up to $5 million if they own at least 51% of the business and have a service-connected disability. The federal government aims to award at least 3% of all federal contracting dollars to Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB) each year.
- Hivers and Strivers: This isn’t a grant opportunity per se, but rather an angel investment fund that finances start-ups founded and run by graduates of the U.S. Military Academies.
- Grants.gov: Use this database to search over 1,000 federal grant programs run by government agencies, such as the Department of Labor, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Commerce.
Other business opportunities for veterans
- UPS Franchise Opportunities: Not ready to make the leap into being a full entrepreneur? Consider becoming a UPS franchise owner. This company offers discounted franchise fees to veterans. Cut your teeth on running a business with the support of a big corporation backing you up.
- American Corporate Partners: This organization offers mentoring and job opportunities, pairing military veterans with companies like Allstate, GM, Coca-Cola, and IBM.
- Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab: For veterans living in Michigan, this is a three-month entrepreneurship accelerator for veterans and/or military spouses designed to provide education for those seeking to add $25,000 or more annual income to their household through small business activity.
- EBV Foundation: This foundation partners with the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans training program to help graduates develop business plans, find a mentor, and grow their business. Since 2009, it has given $506,850 in awards to 280 graduates of the EBV program.
Organizations for veteran women
There are many consulting opportunities exclusively available to women who are former military service members, as well as some organizations geared towards specifically helping veteran women.
- Veteran Women Entrepreneur Grant: This grant from Texas Woman’s University provides funding to female veterans who are starting or currently own a business. Apply to win one of $5,000 grants offered to 10 business owners in the state of Texas.
- V-WISE: This organization, which stands for Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, provides business education to women veterans and female military spouses or partners to turn an idea into a successful business venture.
- Resources for Women Veteran-Owned Businesses: Check out this list of resources from Self Made to learn more about what women veterans can access.
- Women’s Business Centers: This network of more than 100 educational centers run by the SBA assists women who seek to start and grow their own businesses.
Business mentoring, guidance, and advice
If you have a goal in mind and just need some guidance on how to achieve your next milestone, some of these training programs and mentorship opportunities might just be the thing you’re seeking.
- Veteran Business Outreach Centers: Run by the SBA, these centers are geared toward providing assistance to transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses looking to start, purchase, or grow a business.
- Veteran Fast Launch Initiative: This initiative, run by the nonprofit association SCORE, offers free software, mentoring, and other support to military veteran entrepreneurs.
- Boots to Business: Another SBA initiative, Boots to Business (B2B) is a two-part entrepreneurial training course with classroom elements and online modules to teach participants elements of early business ownership and forming a business plan.
- Patriot Boot Camp: This program is an accelerator focused on assisting military veterans and their spouses to build technology companies.
- Warrior Rising: This nonprofit organization helps veterans transition to “vetrepreneurs.” Participants go through a six-step business development program that includes training, coaching, mentoring, and networking — with the potential to present their business idea and compete for a startup grant.
- Bunker Labs: This nonprofit provides community, programs, and courses to help military veterans and military spouses start and grow successful businesses and startups.
What’s more, Clover has a ton of resources to help grow your business–no matter what your background. Learn about Clover Capital, an easy way to turn future credit card sales into working capital, with clear payback terms that give you the flexibility to grow your business. And, be sure to check out this guide to launching a business.
Finally, it’s worthwhile checking out these FAQs from the US government about starting a business as a US veteran. Starting a business can feel overwhelming, but a military background more often than not gives veterans the discipline and leadership skills it takes to be successful as a business owner. Good luck!
This information is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, or tax advice. Readers should contact their attorneys, financial advisors, or tax professionals to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter.