Starting and running a small business isn’t easy, and everyone (Veteran or not) can use all the extra help they can get at every step along the way.
So, if you are a Veteran looking to start a small business, or if you are a veteran Veteran small business owner (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one!), the following are organizations and programs dedicated to helping you succeed.
And if you’re looking to add to your small business team, you’ll be well served by tapping the pool of Veteran candidates. The following resources will help you connect with them.
Small Business Resources for Veterans
Whether you’re just contemplating starting your own business, looking for advice or for financing, or seeking ways to find new customers and grow your small business, these sources are focused on helping Veterans like you.
- Office of Veterans Small Business Development (VSBD)
A division of the SBA, the VSBD’s mission, “is to maximize the availability, applicability and usability of all administration small business programs for Veterans, Service-Disabled Veterans, Reserve Component Members, and their Dependents or Survivors.” A large catalog of resources and programs can be found on its website. Key programs include:
- Boots to Business
Boots to Business is a free training program for military personnel (and their spouses) transitioning out of active service into private life. A collaboration between the SBA and the military’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP), it begins with a two day intensive class on entrepreneurship which is typically offered on-base, and is followed by an 8 week online course that teaches key start-up skills such as writing business plans, evaluating business opportunities, and launching a small business. This video provides a curriculum overview and this FAQ sheet provides answers to common questions. A full list of upcoming classroom sessions can be found on the program homepage.
- Boots to Business Reboot
This program uses the same structure and curriculum as the main Boots to Business program, but it is for Veterans of all eras (Service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserves) and their spouses. Classes are available at locations around the US, and are taught by SBA staff and expert business partners. Find classes near you here; and for more information about the program, see the Fact Sheet.
- Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC)
The SBA maintains 15 regional VBOC offices across the US. Through these centers Veterans can participate in programs designed to help them with pre-business planning, concept assessments, business plan preparation, business feasibility assessment, entrepreneurial training and counseling, mentorship, and other small business related services such as internet marketing and franchising.
- Veterans Advantage Program for 7(a) SBA Loans
7(a) loans are the most common type of SBA loan assistance offered to small businesses. These low-cost loans of up to $5 million are guaranteed by the SBA and can be used to start, acquire, operate, or expand a small business. The Veterans Advantage Program, which has been extended through September, 2016 eliminates or significantly reduces 7(a) loan fees for eligible Veterans.
- Boots to Business
- Veteran Owned Small Business – Contracting Programs
The Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999 established an annual government-wide goal of not less than 3% of the total value of all prime contract and subcontract awards for participation by small business concerns owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans. In 2006, the Veterans Benefits, Health Care and Information Technology Act created the Veterans First Contracting Program which gives preferential treatment to any Veteran-owned business selling to the VA. This course is designed to help Veterans understand and benefit from these programs.
- Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE)
A cooperative venture between the SBA and Syracuse University Whitman School of Management, V-WISE was created to serve Veteran women by helping them learn the skills they need to start and run their own businesses. V-WISE is a three stage program that begins with a 15 day online course that is followed by a 3 day networking and training conference. After completing this training, participants are connected to a resource network that will help them use what they have learned to start and grow a small business. There is a $75 registration fee, but hotel and most meals during the 3-day conference are covered. Qualified Veteran women can apply here.
- Coalition for Veteran Owned Businesses (CVOB)
First Data launched this coalition of leading companies including American Express, BP, Walmart, Walt Disney, and others, with the goal of providing economic opportunity to Veterans and their families. If you’re a Veteran with a small business, you can put your company in front of these giants who are committed to purchasing from you by registering your business here.
- National Veteran Owned Business Association (NaVOBA)
Founded in 2007 by two Navy Veterans, NaVOBA ‘s mission is to help Veterans succeed as small business owners. The organizations Vetrepreneur magazine serves these entrepreneurs with advice for every stage of starting and running a small business. Other resources include webinars, a contracting checklist, an email newsletter, and a listing in the magazine’s business directory.
An initiative of the International Franchise Association (IFA), VetFran is dedicated to helping Veterans who would like to become franchise owners. While franchising is not for everyone, and it has both its upsides and downsides (see A Consumer’s Guide to Buying a Franchise from the FTC), many companies have programs in place to attract Veteran franchisees that make this type of small business venture potentially more attractive, and less risky. VetFran offers tools to help you find a franchise that fits your needs, as well as help with finding a mentor, and the VetFran Directory which lists over lists over 650 member companies and the discounts offered for veterans and military spouses, along with links to individual franchise applications.
- SCORE Veteran Fast Launch Initiative
The SCORE mission is to connect small business owners with local expert business mentors who can help them start and grow their businesses. The Veteran Fast Launch program is a package of free software and services combined with SCORE’s mentoring program designed to help accelerate the ability of veterans and their families to start and succeed as small business owners. In addition to mentoring, the package includes online workshops, business tools and templates, and a free 5-hour consultation with an AICPA CPA.
How to Hire a Veteran
These resources connect employers with Veterans. Check them out if you are looking to hire, or if you are a Veteran looking for work.
- Hire Veterans
This jobs board from Indeed.com, enables Veteran job-seekers to post their resumes, view job openings, and apply for them online. Employers can create an account to post open positions (starting at $99 per year for standard listings), and to search the resume database ($395 per year).
Another jobs board for Veterans and those seeking to hire them. The site claims to have over 190,000 active job listings. Viewing and applying for jobs, and posting resumes are free to Veteran job seekers. Employer single job posting packages start at $395 for 60 days, and resume searching packages start at $2,650. (The site notes that many Veteran participants have security clearance—so if that is something you need, this may be worth the cost.)
- Hiring Our Heroes
Founded in 2011 by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Hiring Our Heroes is a nationwide initiative designed to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities. Along with a number of programs for Veterans, the organization hosts Hiring Fairs to connect employers with job seekers. Attend one in your area.
- Veteran Jobs Mission
Founded in 2011, the Veteran Jobs Mission has grown to over 200 companies that have combined—as of October 2015—to hire 292,645 Veterans. Its new goal is to have its coalition hire 1 million Veterans. Coalition membership is free but is currently limited to large companies (over 10,000 employees), though they are encouraging small businesses to apply and have plans to expand into the SMB space. Veteran applicants can join the Veteran Talent Exchange to connect with potential coalition member employers.
- Hiring Veterans Toolkit
From the US Department of Labor, this kit is designed to help employers who want to hire Veterans navigate the many resources available to them, as well as provide tools for recruiting and retaining Veteran employees.
- US Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization’s (OSDBU) Vendor Information Pages (VIP) web site.
This site is used by the government to verify Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) and Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs). SDVOSBs and VOSBs who want to participate in the VA’s Veterans First Contracting Program. However, anyone can use the search function on the page to locate a Veteran-owned business.
- Other Directories of Veteran-owned Businesses
All of these directories provide searchable listings of Veteran-owned businesses, as well as browsable lists broken-down by category and/or State. Searching is always free, and Veteran-owned businesses can add themselves to the directory for little or no cost.
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