19 Small-Business Grants for Veterans, Plus Resources

You can get veteran business grants from government agencies and private organizations that support military families.
Rosalie Murphy
Randa Kriss
By Randa Kriss and  Rosalie Murphy 
Updated
Edited by Sally Lauckner

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Veteran business grants offer free funding that can help you launch or grow your business, as opposed to small-business loans or other types of debt-based financing that you have to repay.

Applying for small-business grants can be competitive and time-consuming, but the payoff can be worth it if you secure the funds. Here are our suggestions for where veteran business owners can look for small-business grants — plus additional financing options and free resources for running your company.

>> Need more funding than a grant? Check our picks for small-business loans for veterans.

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Small-business grants for veterans

1. The Second Service Foundation

The Second Service Foundation, formerly the StreetShares Foundation, runs the Military Entrepreneur Challenge, which gives veterans and their spouses the opportunity to pitch and win grants for their businesses. To apply to compete in the pitch challenge, you must first register online and attend a speed coaching session. You'll then complete an application that includes a one-pager on your business.

If you are accepted to the competition, you will need to prepare a 2-minute pitch on your business to deliver in person at a Second Service Foundation conference. Three finalists give live pitches, and an audience vote determines the winner. The grant prizes differ based on the event and location.

2. Warrior Rising

Warrior Rising is a nonprofit that helps veterans transition to “vetrepreneurs.” The organization runs a six-step business development program that includes training, coaching, mentoring and networking. Through the process, veterans may have the opportunity to present their business idea and compete for a startup business grant.

To qualify, you must be a veteran or immediate family member of one and complete an application. Warrior Rising will consider applications from startups and established businesses.

3. Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund

This small-business grant offers financial assistance to veterans who are in the early stages of running farming or ranching businesses. In order to qualify for the program, which was established in 2011, you must be a member of the Farmer Veteran Coalition. The current application window is open from Jan. 3 - Feb. 14, 2024.

4. FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

This annual contest awards $30,000 grants to 10 business owners, plus an additional $20,000 grant to one veteran entrepreneur from among the 10 grand prize winners. To be eligible, you must have a for-profit business with fewer than 99 employees and a valid FedEx business shipping account number. Applications are accepted from March 1 - April 1, 2024.

5. Texas Woman's University Veteran Woman Entrepreneur Grant

The Center for Women Entrepreneurs at Texas Woman’s University offers this small-business grant program to female veterans who are starting or own a business. The annual grant program awards $5,000 grants to up to 25 business owners throughout Texas.

Grants can be used for a variety of purposes, including equipment, machinery or technology purchases, marketing or advertising campaigns and property improvements. To qualify, you must provide documentation that your business is 51% or more women-owned or -controlled. You also need to provide documentation showing your veteran status.

The application window for the 2024 cycle is open from Feb. 12 - March 15.

6. Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab

For veteran small-business owners in Michigan, Grand Valley State University operates the Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab. This three-month program offers startup training and networking opportunities for veteran entrepreneurs and their spouses.

During the program, participants prepare for their business launch — identifying potential customers, finding the right tools and meeting with industry experts. MVE-Lab concludes with a pitch competition in which winning entrepreneurs are awarded small-business grants. Applications for the next cohort close on Feb. 12, 2024.

7. National Association for Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants

Now in its 17th year, the NASE Growth Grants program accepts applications for the chance to win $4,000 grants on a quarterly basis. Your business must be a member of NASE to apply, but veterans receive a 15% discount on the annual fee and can apply for the grant program immediately upon joining the organization.

8. Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs

The SBIR and SBTT programs offer small-business grants to veteran-owned businesses (as well as other companies) that are looking to contribute to federal research and development. The U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA, coordinates these programs, and 11 federal agencies list grant opportunities on the SBIR website. Funding amounts vary based on the individual grant.

To qualify, you must have a for-profit business focused on technological innovation and research with the intent of commercialization. Your business must also be U.S.-based and have no more than 500 employees.

9. Southern California Job Creators Grant

Southern California-based businesses are eligible for this grant, which will award up to $100,000 in funding. Your business must be founded by someone who falls into one of the following categories: military veterans, women, Black, Asian, Latinx or LBGTQ+. Businesses must be located in one of the following regions: Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial or San Diego. Pre-registration for the 2024 cycle is expected to open soon.

10. Stephen L. Tadlock Veteran Grant

Twenty-five veterans will win $1,000 micro-grants through the Stephen L. Tadlock Veteran Grant program. The program is open to U.S. veterans who own businesses that employ between two and 100 people, have been in operation for a minimum of one year and whose annual revenue does not exceed $5 million. You can pre-register for the 2024 grant cycle now.

11. Feed the Soul Foundation's Restaurant Business Development Program

If you own a food-based business, you be may eligible for the Restaurant Business Development Program, run by Feed the Soul Foundation. If accepted, businesses will receive six months of consultation and training services, as well as a financial stipend. In addition to military veteran-owned businesses, this program prioritizes business owners who fall into one of the following categories: Black, Indigenous or Latinx; senior citizens; LGBTQ+; people with disabilities; people who were previously incarcerated. Your business must be U.S.-based and have been in operation for at least two years. The most recent application window closed in January 2024. Recipients will be notified in April.

12. Chicagoland Job Creators Quest Grant

Illinois-based businesses may be eligible for this grant opportunity which will award a total of $100,000 in funding. In order to qualify, your business must be located in a low-to-moderate income area, or have been founded by someone in one of the following categories: a military veteran, someone who identifies as LGBTQ+, or someone who is Black, Asian or Latinx.

Additional eligibility requirements include that your business must be for-profit, must employ at least two people, must be a business-to-business company and must generate between $100,000 and $5 million in annual revenue. The latest application cycle closed on Feb. 6, 2024. Finalists will be notified in March.

13. Beyond Open Small Business Grant Program

Open to Charlotte, North Carolina-based entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds including veterans, minorities, women, LGBTQ+ individuals and individuals with disabilities, the Beyond Open Grant program awards grants starting at $10,000. Round 3 is expected to open in 2024.

14. Bizee Fresh Start Business Grant

Startup grants can be harder to find than grants for established businesses. The Bizee Fresh Start Business Grant may be a good option for former military personnel looking to start a business. One winner will receive $2,500 to get their business off the ground and free formation services from Incfile. Deadlines for the 2024 cycle have not been announced yet.

15. Venmo Small Business Grant

Open to all Venmo business users, not just veterans, the Venmo Small Business Grant program awards $10,000 grants to up to 20 entrepreneurs. To be eligible, your businesses must employ no more than 10 people and have less than $50,000 in annual revenue.

16. U.S. Chamber of Commerce America's Top Small Business Awards

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce America's Top Small Business Awards honor a variety of small businesses and their contributions to the American economy. To qualify, you must have a for-profit business that has been operational for at least one year. You must also have fewer than 250 employees or gross revenues of less than $20 million for each of the past two years. The grand prize winner is awarded a $25,000 grant.

17. EBay Up & Running Grants

Each year, 50 small businesses are awarded $10,000 through the eBay Up & Running Grants program. To be eligible, you must be an eBay seller. The 2024 cycle dates have not been announced yet.

18. Grants.gov

Grants.gov is a database that features more than 1,000 federal grant programs. These small-business grants are offered by a variety of government agencies, such as the Department of Labor, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Commerce.

To apply for one of these grants, you’ll want to make sure your business meets all eligibility criteria and register for a Grants.gov account. Although these business grants are not exclusive to veteran entrepreneurs, this database is a good place to start if you’re looking for free funding.

19. GrantWatch

GrantWatch is an online grant listing platform that features hundreds of small-business grants from all over the U.S. You can browse the directory to find a grant that meets your needs and eligibility criteria, including searching specifically for grants for veterans.

Although GrantWatch offers a free membership, the premium membership gives you access to additional features, such as keyword search and the ability to view full grant information. Paid memberships start at $18 for a weekly subscription.

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Additional resources for veteran entrepreneurs

Financing advice and business training can be highly beneficial for veterans looking to start or grow their businesses. Finding organizations that focus on veterans-turned-entrepreneurs or working with business mentors who have transitioned out of the military can be particularly helpful.

Here are some resources for veteran-owned businesses, most of which are free.

Veteran Business Outreach Centers

The SBA backs 28 Veteran Business Outreach Centers across the country, which provide workshops, training, counseling and mentorship to veteran business owners. These organizations offer services such as business plan preparation, comprehensive feasibility analysis and pre-business plan workshops for entrepreneurs looking to launch a business.

These centers can also help you understand your financing options and connect you with additional SBA resources, such as community partners, lenders and programs.

Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program

This SBA program helps qualifying veteran entrepreneurs obtain government contracts. The federal government aims to award at least 3% of federal contracting funds to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses through this program every year.

Among other criteria, participants must own at least 51% of a business and have a service-connected disability, as determined by the VA.

Boots to Business

Boots to Business is a free, two-step education and training program offered by the SBA to service members who want to become entrepreneurs. The program includes a two-day introduction to entrepreneurship course, which provides tips and techniques for starting a business. All active-duty military members transitioning out of the military and their partners or spouses are eligible.

Veterans of all eras and their spouses can participate in a similar program that covers the same course material — the Boots to Business Reboot, or B2BR. After completing the B2B or B2BR program, participants can continue their business training with the B2B Revenue Readiness course, which is available online for free through Mississippi State University.

Institute for Veterans and Military Families

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University provides education and resources for business-minded veterans. The institute holds a variety of training events, including Boots to Business, IGNITE, the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans With Disabilities, or EBV, and the Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship program.

IVMF also offers a resource library and access to an alumni network to help new and existing business owners find the support they need.

Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship

Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-Wise) is a three-phase program that offers tools to help female veterans become successful entrepreneurs. Coordinated by IVMF, the program includes a 15-day online training course and a three-day, in-person event as well as ongoing mentorship, resources and support for launching or growing a business.

V-Wise costs $75 and is open to all honorably discharged female veterans, active-duty female service members and the female partners or spouses of the above (including widowed spouses or partners).

Veteran Institute for Procurement

The Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP) provides training for veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses throughout the U.S. to help them secure contracts from the federal government. VIP offers five accelerator training programs, working with startups and established businesses.

Through VIP, veteran entrepreneurs can access educational events, networking opportunities and community support. Training programs are available to eligible businesses at no cost.

Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization

Part of the VA, the Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) houses a variety of resources for veteran entrepreneurs. Through OSDBU, you can find upcoming webinars and training sessions and reach out to small-business liaisons to get more information about working with the VA.

The OSDBU website also houses the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal, which collects resources to help veteran business owners find funding and franchising opportunities, acquire government contracts and access networking connections.

State and local governments

Many state governments allot funds specifically to support veteran small-business owners. Some states offer certifications for veteran-owned or service-disabled veteran-owned businesses to help those entrepreneurs compete for government contracts.

Florida's Office of Supplier Diversity, for instance, certifies veteran-owned businesses and gives them access to a portal that lists government contracting opportunities. Certification and recertification are free

Florida Department of Management Services. Veteran-Owned Small Businesses. Accessed Nov 20, 2023.
.

Through your state, you may be able to take advantage of veteran-focused training programs, webinars and networking opportunities. The Economic Development Administration in your city or state may also be able to connect you with local funding options, including business grants.

Alternatives to small-business grants for veterans

Although a variety of resources are available for veteran-owned businesses, getting a small-business grant can be difficult — and finding and applying for this type of funding can be tedious.

If you decide to explore your other financing options, here are some possibilities to consider:

  • Hivers and Strivers. Hivers and Strivers is an angel investment group that invests exclusively in businesses owned and operated by veteran entrepreneurs. You can receive from $250,000 to $1 million in funding from this group, but you’ll have to be willing to give up some equity in your company. This type of funding is well-suited for early-stage startups that anticipate significant growth.

  • SBA loans. For established veteran-owned businesses in need of capital, SBA loans can offer large loan amounts, long repayment terms and competitive interest rates. You’ll also need good credit and strong revenue to qualify. Plus, for Express loans, the SBA waives the upfront, one-time guarantee fee for veteran businesses

    Small Business Administration. SBA Information Notice. Accessed Nov 20, 2023.
    .

  • SBA microloans. These loans of up to $50,000 are distributed by community financial institutions and may be more accessible to newer, smaller businesses than other types of SBA loans.

  • Peer-to-peer business loans. Peer-to-peer platforms can help you raise capital directly from investors, and usually, their qualification requirements are less stringent than those of banks. If your business has a compelling story or dedicated customer base, a P2P lending platform may be a particularly good fit.

  • Online business loans. Startup businesses or those with lower credit scores may find greater flexibility with online lenders. These lenders can offer a variety of products, including term loans, business lines of credit, invoice factoring and equipment financing. Online lenders tend to have more lenient qualification requirements, but their interest rates will likely be higher than that of a bank or SBA loan.

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