If you have served your country in the armed forces, you have developed unique skills and experiences that are well suited to becoming a small business owner. Veterans tend to possess many of the top characteristics of a successful entrepreneur, including discipline, leadership and risk analysis skills.
In fact, according to the most recent data from the Small Business Administration, veterans operate more than 2.45 million American businesses. However, the transition from being a soldier to being a civilian is not easy, and many veterans come back home unaware of all the resources available to them.
Here then are six of the top resources for veterans looking to launch a small business.
The Small Business Administration (SBA)
The SBA has many resources for veterans who want to start a business. These programs include Boots to Business, an entrepreneurial training program, plus financing workshops, mentorships and sessions on government contracting opportunities.
Visit https://www.sba.gov/content/veteran-service-disabled-veteran-owned and/or stop by in person to your nearest Veterans Business Outreach Center. Check https://www.sba.gov/offices/headquarters/ovbd/resources/362341 for locations.
Service Corps Of Retired Executives (SCORE)
An arm of the SBA, SCORE has special free programs for veterans, including its Veteran Fast Launch Initiative. This program puts you in touch with an experienced mentor – often a veteran– and offers you access to free or reduced cost resources, such as software, to help you start and run your business.
The Veterans Affairs Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU)
The OSDBU has a Veteran Entrepreneur Portal that is designed to make things easier for veterans looking to start a business. The portal helps veterans learn about accessing Federal services and government contracts and educates veterans on “best practices” and other aspects of launching a start-up. Visit http://www.va.gov/osdbu/entrepreneur/index.asp.
The VA also can guide you through the process of applying for a small business loan as a vet. Visit http://business.usa.gov/access-financing#.
Did you know that veterans are given priority when selling to the government? It is true, but you must be certified in order to take advantage of the opportunity. Vetbiz, a resource center for veterans, reservists and National Guardsmen, can help you become certified as a veteran-owned and veteran-operated business, which opens your business up to a variety of benefits. Visit http://www.vetbizresourcecenter.com/.
American Corporate Partners
American Corporate Partners (ACP) is a non-profit organization created to help veterans transition from military life to civilian life. ACP offers many programs for prospective business owners, including mentorships, networking, career counselling and educational workshops.
Any veteran who has served on active duty for at least 180 days since 2001 (as well as any spouse of a soldier wounded or killed in action) is eligible to apply. According to the ACP website, 1,079 ACP veterans obtained jobs in 2015. Visit http://www.acp-usa.org/.
National Veteran-Owned Businesses Association (NaVOBA)
The NaVOBA is a membership organization that works to create job opportunities and business growth for our nation’s veterans. The organization works with state governments to generate opportunities for the service men and women it calls “vetrepreneurs.” Visit http://www.navoba.com/ for more information.
Now that you know some of the many resources available to you as a veteran, it is time to come up with your small business plan. Then follow these steps:
- register as a veteran-owned business
- network with other veterans
- partner with mentors who are veterans
- apply for loans and grants designed for veterans
Depending on your type of business and your status as a veteran (such as whether or not you have a disability), you may be able to obtain a grant for the purchase of equipment and inventor,y as well as to pay for any licensing fees and marketing your business requires. Contact your local VA office for more information.
You have served your country well. Now it is time to take those hard-won skills and expertise into the business arena. Good luck!