Veteran small-business owners are an important part of the U.S. economy. Veterans own 7.2% of the nation’s 5.5 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, two-step 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 introduction to entrepreneurship course, as well as an eight-week foundations of entrepreneurship online course that provides tips and techniques for starting a business, including how to write a business plan. 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 former 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. The interest rate on these loans is 4%, with a loan amount limit of $2 million and loan term max of 30 years.
Patriot Boot Camp: This nonprofit’s three-day boot camp is offered to active duty service members, veterans and their spouses. It provides access to resources for starting a business, including mentors and educational training and programming.
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.
Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-Wise): This three-phase program offers tools to help female veterans become successful entrepreneurs. It includes a 15-day online training course, a three-day in-person training event, and ongoing mentorship, training and support for launching or growing a business. The program 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).
Steve Nicastro is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Steven.N@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @StevenNicastro.
Updated November 2, 2017.
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