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20+ Resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs

Resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs (and Veteran-Owned Businesses)

Did you know that FedEx, GoDaddy, Nike, and Enterprise-Rent-A-Car were all founded by veterans? According to the Small Business Administration, military veterans are 45% more likely to start and run a business.

Serving in the military can develop traits that help you run a company, like a strong work ethic, discipline, teamwork, and ambition. Becoming an entrepreneur is a natural fit for veterans.

We should know: Masterplans is a veteran-owned and operated company that celebrated our 20th anniversary in 2022.

Veterans and their spouses who are interested in starting their own businesses can take advantage of a wide variety of resources, including educational programs, professional organizations, conferences, business incubators, loans, and investor networks.

Veteran-Owned Business Certifications 

Being a veteran-owned business can provide numerous opportunities and resources, such as special funding and government contracts set aside for veterans. In fact, the Department of Veteran Affairs reserves a significant number of contracting opportunities for veterans through its Veteran First Contracting Program, and the federal government strives to award 3% of all government contracting dollars to Service Disabled-Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB) each year. To qualify for these programs, you will need to get verified as a veteran-owned business by the VA. Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSB) must be 51% owned by one or more veterans who have complete control over business management (typically proven by being the highest paid employee).

Note: Oversight of the VOSB and SDVOSB verification process will move to the SBA beginning in 2023.

Free Veteran Business Resources

Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) run by the SBA are located all over the nation and can provide assistance with starting, purchasing, or growing a business. Check to see if there is a Center close to you as they provide free workshops, assistance with business plans, training, mentorship, and more.

The International Franchise Association has a directory of 600 franchises and tools to help veterans start franchise locations at VetFran.org.

Entrepreneurship Education

There are several excellent training programs available for veterans who want to learn more about entrepreneurship. Look for entrepreneurship education and training courses through the Boots to Business (B2B) program if you are an active-duty service member. There are both in-person and online courses available. 

Every year, Warrior Rising works with thousands of veterans to provide training, mentorship, and education. Through their Vetrepreneuer program, the organization is dedicated to assisting entrepreneurs in starting and growing businesses by translating their military training into the private sector.

The National Veterans Entrepreneurship Program (VEP) is run by Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business and offers a hybrid residency and online entrepreneurial boot camp. 

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) provides entrepreneurship training through numerous universities around the country. The program begins with an online academy to learn business fundamentals and culminates with a nine-day residency.

As previously stated, veteran-owned businesses are supported by the federal government through government contracts and set-asides. The Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP) is a three-day certification course that teaches veteran business owners how to contract with the government and navigate the System for Award Management (SAM) procurement website.

The Dog Tag Fellowship Program employs a bakery as a living classroom for its veteran fellows to gain hands-on experience in entrepreneurship and business. You do not have to be a baker to apply, and much of the program can be completed online.

Women Veteran Programs

The Women Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program (WVETP) provides entrepreneur training to female veterans and service members, as well as female spouses of veterans. Its flagship program, Veteran Woman Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE), offers in-person and online training for women entrepreneurs to help them turn a business idea into a reality. 

Associations & Networking

In addition to being validated by the VA, veteran-owned businesses can seek out networking opportunities to support their fellow veteran-owned businesses. The National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA) is an organization dedicated to connecting corporations with Veteran Owned Businesses. It should be noted that NaVOBA has its own Veterans Business Enterprise (VBE) certification program for which a small fee is charged (this is different from the government certifications mentioned above, which are available for free).

The Institute for Veterans and Military Veterans (IVMF) hosts a database of veteran and military-family businesses that sell products and services to other businesses.

The National Veteran Small Business Coalition (NVSCB) is a non-profit organization that provides training and networking opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses, particularly those involved in federal procurement.

VETCON is an annual conference that provides networking and training opportunities for veterans transitioning from military to civilian life. While the conference is not specifically for entrepreneurs, it does host an annual Business Plan Competition for veteran-owned companies that have been in business for three or fewer years. Prizes include legal services and other startup business resources.

 

Incubators

A business incubator (or startup incubator) is an organization that helps startups grow and is usually tailored to those who need equity investment. While most incubators are industry or region specific, Bunker Labs focuses on assisting startups run by veterans and military spouses. It was established in 2014 and has helped veteran-owned businesses raise more than $200 million in investor funding.

The Founders Institute (FI) is a network of accelerators that has raised over $1.75 billion since 2009. Look specifically for the “Veteran and Military Family” incubator on their website.

 

Investment Funding

When it comes to equity investment, there are a number of venture capital firms and angel investors who specialize in veteran-owned businesses. Hivers and Strivers Capital exclusively invests in ventures led by veterans, with investments ranging from $100,000 to $1 million for highly scalable startups.

TFX Capital is another venture capital firm that invests in businesses led by veterans. It focuses specifically on technology startups.

The Veteran Fund, while not exclusively for veterans, is run by veterans and seeks to fund pre-seed businesses focused on national security and defense.

Loan Programs

When looking for loans to start a business, we tell startups to be careful and look for warning signs. Be wary of anything that seems too good to be true, and remember that a lender should never ask you to lie on an application. Also, you should always ask for a full payment schedule and a list of all fees and rates. 

The SBA provides special incentives to businesses with 51% or more veteran owners through its flagship 7(a) Loan Program, including reduced fees. While these loans are backed by the government, you apply for them through lenders. You can use the SBA’s Lender Match to find 7(a) lenders.

Grants

Despite what you might have heard, there aren’t that many grants for new businesses. Most grants will be given out at the local level. The best way to find grants is to go to GrantWatch.com and search for “Small Business” and “Veterans” as the grantee and category, respectively. You can get basic information about the grants that are available, but if you don’t pay for a subscription, you won’t be able to get more specific information.


What Did We Miss?

If you know of any other resources that should be added to our list, please email us at info@masterplans.com.

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