Veterans who are small-business owners are an important part of the U.S. economy. These entrepreneurs own 7.5% of the nation’s 5.4 million businesses with employees, according to latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Still, new businesses need assistance at some point, and that’s where small-business grants, loans and other financing resources for veterans come into play.
If you’re a veteran hoping to get your small business off the ground, start with the Veterans Business Outreach Center Program. VBOCs provide business training, counseling and mentoring at 15 locations throughout the country. You can also contact Score, a nonprofit association of volunteer business counselors who offer free business workshops and in-person appointments.
Financing advice and training are highly beneficial for vets-turned-entrepreneurs. Find a mentor who has transitioned out of the military. They can provide valuable information on the leap into entrepreneurship, says Jim Salmon, a Navy veteran and vice president of business services at Navy Federal Credit Union.
“That information can be invaluable and help steer these young men and women in the right direction,” Salmon says.
To help you start and grow your business, we rounded up the best small-business loans for veterans. And below, we compiled great small-business grants and other resources for veterans:
Boots to Business: This is a free, three-part education and training program offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration to service members who want to become entrepreneurs. The program includes a two-day course taught at more than 165 military installations worldwide. All active-duty military members transitioning out of the military and their partners or spouses are eligible.
Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF): This program at Syracuse University provides education and training for business-minded veterans. It includes the Boots to Business program, the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans With Disabilities (EBV) and the Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship program.
“We’ve put about 39,000 people through [our programs],” says James Schmeling, IVMF’s co-founder and managing director. “Part of what we do is educate them on access to capital, financing their business or bootstrapping a business.”
Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan: These SBA loans help small businesses meet “ordinary and necessary” operating expenses if an essential employee is called to active duty.
Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small-Business Program: This SBA program helps qualifying entrepreneurs obtain sole-source government contracts of up to $5 million. Participants must own at least 51% of the business and have a service-connected disability, as determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Department of Defense, among other criteria.
The StreetShares Foundation: Online lender StreetShares announced a partnership with JP Morgan Chase on Nov. 10 to provide a total of $10,000 in three monthly awards to eligible veterans, reserve or active-duty members, and military-spouse small-business owners. Winners are chosen based on several criteria, including the strength of their business idea, the potential impact and use of awarded funds, and the influence of the business on the military and veterans community, according to StreetShares.
VetBiz: Use this Department of Veterans Affairs site to apply to become a certified veteran-owned small business, which makes you eligible to win federal contracts.
Veteran Entrepreneur Portal: The VEP connects entrepreneurial vets to federal, state and local financing programs, resources and opportunities.
Women Veteran Entrepreneurship Program Grant: The SBA Office of Veterans Business Development offers this funding opportunity for female veteran-owned businesses. The SBA says it will make up to six awards with a minimum reward of $25,000 each for qualifying businesses. Applications for the grant must be submitted by Dec. 12, 2016.
Women Veterans Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-Wise): This three-part online training program provides the tools that female veterans need to become successful entrepreneurs. The program offers several courses, including business planning, accounting and finance, marketing and human resources. The program costs $75 and is open to all female veterans, active-duty female service members, and the partners or spouses of active-duty service members.
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Find and compare small-business loans
NerdWallet has come up with a list of the best small-business loans to meet your needs and goals. We gauged factors including lender trustworthiness, market scope and user experience, and arranged the best lenders by categories including your revenue and how long you’ve been in business.
Steve Nicastro is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Steven.N@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @StevenNicastro.
To get more information about funding options and compare them for your small business, visit NerdWallet’s small-business loans page. For related information, visit NerdWallet’s resources on how to start a business.
Updated Jan. 1, 2017.
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