Top Resources to Help You Start a Veteran-Owned Business
Long after veterans are done protecting our country, they still find a way to serve us: through entrepreneurship. Veteran-owned businesses make a significant impact on the US economy. Not only do they make up 3 million of the businesses in the US, but more than 573.2 million workers nationwide are employed at a veteran-owned business.
Leaping into business ownership can be an exciting venture. But like many veterans who have the desire to start their own business, you may be unsure where to start. Thankfully, there are many resources available to help you translate your military skills into big success with a veteran-owned business.
9 Veteran-Owned Business Statistics to Know
Before starting a new journey, you must get a lay of the land and understand the state of the industry and market you wish to enter. Arming yourself with crucial statistics that detail demographics, success rates, and trends can inform you to make the best business decisions possible, significantly improving your odds of success.
- California has the most veteran-owned businesses ($135.1 billion). The second-highest concentration is in Texas ($109.9 billion). (source)
- Nearly 30% of veteran-owned businesses fall into two industry groups: construction, or professional, scientific, and technical services (source)
- Veterans are 45% more likely to start their own businesses compared to civilians. (source)
- Veteran entrepreneurs are more likely to start their business on their own dime, with 57% being home-based businesses. (source)
- 85.3% of veterans start a self-employed business, while 74.3% of business owners start their business with employees. (source)
- 74% of veteran business owners are 55 years old and older. (source)
- 84.3% of veteran business owners identify as male, whereas 15.2% identify as female. (source)
- Veteran employers are more likely to offer benefits like health insurance, contributions to retirement plans, profit sharing, and paid leave than other businesses. (source)
- 7% of veteran-owned businesses have been in operation for more than 10 years. (source)
Mentorship and Training Resources
One of the most challenging tasks as an entrepreneur is knowing how to navigate the vast waters of business ownership. Thankfully, there are many programs and firms that provide resources to give veterans the training and mentorship necessary to carve their own paths to success.
As you explore your own dreams of veteran entrepreneurship, here are a few resources that can help kickstart your new business venture.
National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA)
NaVOBA is a non-profit advocacy group whose mission is to create corporate contracting opportunities for American veterans and service-disabled veterans’ business enterprises through certification, advocacy, outreach, education, and recognition.
Its resources, which are accessible to members, certify businesses for American corporations looking to partner with veteran-owned and operated businesses. Members can also have their companies listed in the marketplace so businesses looking to collaborate can find you.
Boots to Business
The Small Business Administration (SBA) hosts Boots to Business, which is part of the Department of Defense’s training pack for their Transition Assistance Program (TAP). It features a foundational two-step introductory training program with courses on business ownership. In addition to other resources, veterans can take an optional follow-up online course called B2B: Revenue Readiness.
Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE)
Geared toward female veterans and their families, this SBA-backed program equips women with the tools they need to be business owners. V-WISE’s training consists of a three-phase program, divided into a 15-day online course, a three-day in-person training event, and ongoing mentorship and support for those who graduate.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
Perhaps the most well-known resource in our roundup, the VA equips former service members with resources and advice to help individuals navigate post-military life. Members also gain access to the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal, an excellent platform for veterans who aspire to be entrepreneurs. Here, you’ll find step-by-step guidance on how to start a business, including where to find funding for your startup, win government contracts, and other initiatives.
Office of Veterans Business Development
This segment of the SBA is the first stop a veteran should make on the road to entrepreneurship. It features an extensive directory of free business resources for veterans, service-disabled veterans, reserve members, and their dependents or survivors.
The goal is to ensure service members maximize the use of available benefits. Here, business assistance may entail working together to develop business plans or find viable contracting opportunities.
Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE)
Although designed for entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and industries, this non-profit organization also offers unique resources for newcomer veteran entrepreneurs. SCORE boasts the nation’s largest network (10,000+) of volunteer, expert business mentors and is dedicated to giving free small business advice. Entrepreneurs can sign up for local chapters throughout the US and work with volunteer business counselors by phone, in-person appointment, video, or email.
American Corporate Partners
Sometimes the key to success rests in who you know. American Corporate Partners, also known as ACP, helps US veterans transition back into civilian life. It also pairs US veterans with business leaders for mentorship and career advice. Although these services focus more on veterans interested in pursuing a professional career, their mentorship program is also helpful for entrepreneurs.
VetBiz is an organization under the Department of Veteran Affairs that’s dedicated to all things small business. Entrepreneurs can become certified veteran-owned small businesses to take advantage of the wide range of tools, programs, and resources they offer. Doing so not only makes you eligible to win federal contracts but also earns you access to networking, training, counseling, mentoring opportunities, advocacy, and more.
Patriot Boot Camp
Offered by Techstars, this accelerated program is geared toward active-duty members, veterans, and their spouses who own a technology-based company. It kicks off with a three-day event and provides free, in-depth business education, mentorship, and other live events on entrepreneurship.
bUSA is a database to help you start a veteran-owned business. This site allows you to find up-to-date local, state, and federal tools to empower you to begin laying the groundwork and find funding for your business venture. A few other services they offer include advice on insurance, loans, grants, and counseling to military members.
Veterans’ Small Business Week
Veteran’s Small Business Week is a nationwide celebration that takes place in November and honors the accomplishments of veteran entrepreneurs while offering tips and tricks, webinars, and other resources.
Funding for Veteran-Owned Businesses
The first phase of funding for many businesses is self-funding — in other words, investing your own dollars into the vision you are striving to bring to life.
Before starting the next stage and seeking external funding, you must first evaluate how much financing your business requires. Every company has different needs, and financing solutions are never one-size-fits-all.
Approximately 70% of startup businesses require external funding. Luckily, as a veteran-owned business, you have access to both the usual funding methods and unique resources to help you transition from an active service member to a thriving business owner. You simply need to know where to look.
Also known as VCs, these individuals look for promising, high-growth companies to invest in. A significant benefit to working with them is the lack of debt that accompanies the partnership. Instead of investing in your business and requiring you to pay the loan back like a bank, VCs invest in exchange for equity — i.e., part control or ownership of your business.
SBA Investment Programs
Although the SBA doesn’t invest directly in small businesses, it does provide the funding necessary for other companies and programs to issue funding for active duty, veteran, and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. The top SBA investment programs available include:
Small Business Investment Company (SBIC): Privately owned and managed investment funds. They use their capital, plus funds borrowed from the SBA, to make equity and debt investments to small business owners.
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program: Empowers small businesses to engage in federal research and development potential for commercialization.
Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program: Offers funding opportunities for qualifying small businesses in the federal innovation research and development arena.
However, if you want to retain complete control of your business but don’t have the capital to launch your idea, a small business loan might be more in line with your preferences.
You may not be aware, but there are tax credits that veterans can receive for a wide variety of reasons. For example, there is an income tax credit of up to $1,500 for business owners that hire unemployed veterans to join their staff. With the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program, employers can gain access by claiming 25% of the first-year wages, paid up to $6,000.
Unlike loans, grants are funding that you don’t have to pay back. A few excellent examples of government grants you can apply to include the Warrior Rising Veteran grant and Idea Café grant. These resources offer tips on scoring these grants and other financing opportunities, business support, and mentorship.
Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business program
The federal government strives to award at least 3% of all federal contracting dollars to disabled veteran-owned small businesses every year. It keeps this promise through the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business program, which helps entrepreneurs land sole-source government contracts.
Joining this program makes businesses eligible to compete for contracts amounting to up to $5 million. To qualify, applicants must meet requirements, including being a small business and having at least 51% of the company owned or controlled by a service-disabled veteran.
Throughout the past few years, crowdfunding has quickly grown into an ideal option for veteran-owned businesses to earn the funding they need to get their businesses off the ground. This funding method is suitable because your community can donate as little as $10 to help, and you don’t have to trade them any equity.
Some businesses also offer incentives for investment, such as first access to new products, discounts, exclusive perks, etc. The only caveat to a community-based effort is that some crowdfunding websites will return all your hard-earned capital to investors if you do not meet your pre-established funding goal.
This veteran-run financial solutions provider caters specifically to veteran-owned businesses and their communities. Entrepreneurs who join the organization find the empowerment they need to apply for term loans, lines of credit, contract financing, and access to other programs that will help them meet their financial needs.
Hivers & Strivers
Sometimes the most challenging part of gaining funding for your veteran-owned business is finding someone who believes in your model enough to invest in it. Hivers & Strivers is an excellent resource to use because they connect ready and promising veteran-owned businesses with investors. This angel investment group, run by graduates of US military academies, works with companies offering the early stages of support. Investment rounds range between $250,000 to $1 million.
Because of the skills and extensive training acquired in the line of duty, 99% of franchisors believe veterans are the perfect candidates for franchising. When you buy into a franchise, you benefit from investing in a proven business model and a well-established brand. You also get upfront and ongoing guidance from your franchisor, plus access to fellow franchisees who can offer valuable insight.
BoeFly Fundability App
If you are curious about how fundable your business is, you can discover that information with the help of this user-friendly app. Built by BoeFly, this web wizard determines your fundability based on the credit preferences of more than 3,600 lenders. It also features resources and tips to help you learn how you can become more attractive to lenders.
Service-Disabled Veterans Grants
These grants are explicitly reserved for service-disabled veterans. To qualify, you must submit a business plan. From there, the grant committee will divide applicants into two categories — those who have the most severe level of service-related disability (Category I) and those who face challenges but have a lesser disability (Category II). Applicants receive funds related to their category of designation. These funds aren’t required to be paid back and can be used for business-related expenses.
Building Your Brand with Digital Marketing
After dedicating your life to protecting and serving your country, the decision to transition into business ownership can be a rewarding and exciting venture. However, finding the right resources to bring your idea to life can be as challenging as transitioning into civilian life. We hope these mentorship, training, and funding resources will assist you throughout your journey to success.
But once you open your doors, what’s next? To grow your business and help it thrive, you need to reach your target audience.
Joseph Studios can help. We are a veteran-owned digital marketing agency that understands the challenges you’ve faced, your goals for the future, and how to increase your brand’s visibility. Using customized digital marketing strategies for each channel in your subscription, our team of experts can help you build your business’ online presence and take your marketing to new heights. Just contact our team today to learn more about our services and get a quote for your business!