A Guide to Starting a Business as a Veteran

July 10, 2023

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The path from active duty to entrepreneurship may not be a straight line, but for many veterans, owning a small business is a rewarding way to continue serving their community. This guide outlines the key steps and resources for veteran entrepreneurs, highlighting various programs designed specifically to support them in their business journey.

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Entrepreneurship: A Valued Path for Veterans

In recent years, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have recognized the potential of vets in the business world. They’ve expanded support to veteran small business owners through initiatives like the Office of Veterans Business Development. This office offers robust business resources, including training programs, business plan development assistance, and guides for successfully doing business.

Veteran entrepreneurs bring valuable skills learned in service – resilience, strategic thinking, and leadership – to their business ownership roles. Whether you’re a service member, part of the National Guard, or a military spouse, your unique experiences equip you for successful business endeavors.

Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) and the Transition Assistance Program (TAP)

The VBOC program, part of the SBA, offers comprehensive training and mentoring to veteran entrepreneurs. Through a series of in-person workshops, you can develop your business idea, refine your business plan, and prepare for the challenges of a startup.

The Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program also offers valuable support for active-duty service members transitioning to civilian life. Their entrepreneurship track, known as “Boots to Business,” provides a foundational business training program to help veterans launch successful businesses.

Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) and Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF)

The Syracuse University-run EBV is an excellent resource for post-9/11 veterans with a service-connected disability. They offer an intensive, in-person bootcamp to provide entrepreneurship and small business management training.

Similarly, the IVMF provides a variety of services to vets and their family members, including training programs, mentorship, and direct connections to federal agencies.

Mentorship and Nonprofit Support

Bunker Labs, a national nonprofit organization, offers invaluable mentorship and networking opportunities for veteran entrepreneurs. Its extensive network of mentors, investors, and fellow entrepreneurs provides the supportive community necessary for business development.

Additionally, the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP), part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, connects veteran small business owners with federal services. It’s an essential tool for finding out about federal procurement opportunities and eligibility for the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business program.

Government Contracts and Set Aside Opportunities

The federal government is a significant customer for small businesses. The government sets aside contracts specifically for businesses owned by veterans, with the Veterans Business Development officers providing assistance in accessing these contracting opportunities. This “Vets First” program is an essential aspect of federal contracting for service members transitioning into the business world.

Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE)

Veteran entrepreneurship is not just for men. V-WISE, a program launched by the IVMF at Syracuse University, provides resources, training, and mentorship for female veterans. This initiative supports veteran women through every stage of their business development, from refining their business idea to navigating the world of government contracts.

Merchant Cash Advances: An Alternative to Small Business Loans

While it is not uncommon for businesses to seek financial assistance, some loan programs can be inaccessible or unsuitable for veteran entrepreneurs. Merchant cash advances, a more flexible alternative financing option, provide an upfront sum of cash in exchange for a percentage of future sales. This can be an appealing alternative for veteran small business owners looking for ways to fund their business without the constraints of traditional finance methods.

Utilizing Social Media and Online Resources

Social media platforms are powerful tools for doing business in today’s interconnected world. They allow businesses to engage with their customers, showcase products, and network with other entrepreneurs. Online resources, including webinars, guides, and platforms like gov websites, can also offer a wealth of information.

Conclusion: Embrace Your Entrepreneurial Journey

Embarking on a business venture as a veteran entrepreneur is a commendable endeavor. With the wealth of support available through various programs and initiatives, you can transition from service member to business owner seamlessly. Stay determined, make the most of these resources, and prepare to take the business world by storm.

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