Many veterans leave military service with the experience, know-how, and leadership skills required to start a business. It may be daunting trying to find out where to start, but there are plenty of resources and grants available to budding entrepreneurs.
You just need to know their names! Below, we’ve listed some of the most popular and made sure they’re varied enough to fit a particular niche or area of business.
Veterans Business Outreach Center: According to data from the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau, businesses ran by veterans employ more than 5.5 million people.
This proves that veterans are capable of running successful businesses, but every budding business needs a little help to get it off the ground.
A good place to find out about options is the Veteran Business Outreach Center Program (VBOC), which is part of the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA).
The VBOC program has all the information you need to grow your business and caters not only to veterans, but military spouses and transitioning service members too.
There are 15 VBOCs in the United States offering business development assistance. This includes mentoring and training, as well as counseling and resource referrals.
VBOC can also help you assess your business concept, conduct a comprehensive feasibility analysis and they train veterans in areas like accounting, international trade, franchising, internet marketing, and more.
They also offer free business workshops and appointments with their experts so you can discuss your business venture face-to-face.
You may also qualify for certain government financing programs through the SBA, such as the Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan that helps cover operating expenses during active duty.
However, the SBA does not provide these loans directly but rather guarantees them while providing financial, technical, and management assistance to borrowers.
The National Association for the Self-Employed: They provide small grants to veteran-owned businesses up to $4,000. These grants are designed to help small businesses with hiring and training employees, advertising, and expanding the business.
There are certain eligibility criteria required for this grant, and when applying for the grant you must state how it will help you achieve your business goals. You must become a member of NASE to apply for this grant and include a business plan with your application.
Previous recipients of this grant have used the funds to upgrade computers, purchase marketing materials and farm equipment, as well as hire more employees, and build an online presence. This is a great option if you have a specific area in mind to grow your business.
Idea Café Grants: Unlike the other grants, this is a private grant that could still be very valuable. Idea Cafe is a private organization that offers small business grants.
Whether you’re a veteran who owns a business or is thinking about starting one, you could qualify for up to $1,000 in aid with this grant.
A plus side to this grant is that the qualifications are quite relaxed. All you need to do is sign up to the organization’s website and include your business plan in your application. Your business plan doesn’t need to be finalized and there is no entry fee.
If you have an original and innovative business in mind, you will have a good chance of qualifying for the grant, as Idea Cafe favors businesses providing creative solutions to everyday problems.
Idea Cafe is also a great place for business ideas and marketing tips, so even if you don’t apply for the grant you should still peruse their website as a means for researching business plans, networking, eCommerce, small business taxes, merchandising, and researching other government grants.
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program for Disabled Vets: This grant is overseen by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and caters to veterans with service-related disabilities. The amount of funding you can receive will depend on the nature and severity of your disability.
This grant can be used to purchase supplies, inventory, essential equipment, and licensing fees to start your new business. You must submit a business plan to be considered for funding.
There are additional services provided by this program such as job training, career support, resume development, skills coaching, and counseling. You can make use of all these services even if you do not qualify for funding.
Women’s Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program: Funding for this grant is made possible by the SBA. It provides female veterans, military spouses, and service veterans with essential training for starting and growing their businesses.
Furthermore, the Veteran Woman Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) is part of this program and is operated by the Institue for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University.
V-WISE helps female veterans and military spouses learn important business skills to grow their venture and realize their dreams.
The program has three phases: A 15-day online course, a three-day training event, and ongoing mentorship, support, and training opportunities.
Boots to Business: This program offered by the SBA does not provide grant money, but is still an invaluable resource for veterans looking to start their own business.
Their two-step training program is free and includes an introduction to entrepreneurship and eight weeks of online courses that provide plenty of techniques and tips to getting your business started.
But undoubtedly one of the best things about Boots to Business is that they teach you how to write a business plan. As we have seen, most grant applications require a partially completed or fully completed business plan to qualify.
So before you apply for any grants, it’s definitely worth checking out Boots to Business, especially if you’re only just starting out. What’s more, all those on active duty who are transitioning out of the military are eligible to take part in this free program.
Can the VA help me start my own business?
As we have seen, there are various grants available to US ex-services personnel to help get your business up and running.
To qualify for federal or government grants or non-profit organizations you must usually be honorably discharged, a service-disabled veteran, or an active member of the military participating in the military’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP).
Alternatively, you must be a spouse of any of the above.
Self-Employment Grants for Service-Disabled Veterans: This grant is offered by the Veterans Administration (VA), and is aimed at service-disabled veterans.
You will need to submit a complete business plan to apply, and you will then be assigned into one of two categories if successful, for the VA to determine the amount of self-employment funding available.
Category I veterans are those with severe service-related disabilities while Category II is for veterans with challenges that aren’t considered too severe.
Your category will determine if you qualify for a grant to purchase inventory, equipment, marketing, licensing, training, and other materials. To find out more and to see if you qualify, contact your local VA office and speak with a counselor about the self-employment program.
How do I get a small business grant for veterans?
There is a range of small business grants available for veterans, including some listed above. But below we have listed some that cater to small businesses in particular.
Small Business Technology Transfer Program: This grant caters to those with high-tech businesses, and is specifically awarded to veteran-owned businesses that carry out research for the federal government.
The grant is managed by the SBA, but the research topics are assigned by various government agencies and departments such as Defense, Health, Energy, Human Services and the National Science Foundation, and NASA.
These departments are also in charge of accepting business proposals.
To be eligible for the STTR grant, the business must be based in the US and veteran-owned with under 500 employees. Each small business is awarded up to $850,000 to carry out the assigned project for which the grant is awarded.
Small Business Innovation Research Grant: If you’re a small business owner or thinking of starting a small business, it’s worth considering the SBIR.
It is offered through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and is part of a federal program aimed at small businesses that specialize in scientific research.
You must meet specific objectives to qualify for the grant, and you must prove that your project has the potential to be commercialized. The SBIR has given a staggering almost $90 million in allocated funds each year. $1 million is the maximum amount awarded to an individual.