A Veteran's Small Business Resources Guide

By Dawn Smith
Photo credit: Marek/Dollar Photo Club                  
Many military members dream of starting their own business after they transition out of the service. The good news is that statistics show veterans are really adept at running their own companies. The Department of Veterans Affairs calculates they are 45% more likely than civilian counterparts to become successful entrepreneurs.
Here is more good news: there is a plethora of information, guidance, and mentoring options designated specifically for veterans to achieve start up success online and in person across the country.
Federal Resources

The Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) reports four million small business owners are veteran owned, and they should know, because the SBA is the one of the top suppliers of veteran services and resources for starting a small business.
Their veterans’ services are wide ranging and detailed so any former service member will have access to a strong start building their post military career. National Guard and Reservist members have authority to use many of the same SBA programs.
This is a partial sample of guidance the SBA provides from their website
Small Business Assistance
  • Veterans Business Outreach Centers
  • Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD)
  • Office of Veterans Business Development Conference and Expo
  • Business Resources for People with Disabilities
Financing for Veteran Owned Businesses
  • Loans and Grant Search Tools
  • Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan
  • The Patriot Express Pilot Loan is described by the SBA on its blog:
"The program is a streamlined loan product based on the agency’s SBA Express Program, but enhanced with guaranty and interest rate characteristics. Loans are available up to $500,000 and qualify for SBA’s maximum guaranty of up to 85 percent for loans of $150,000 or less, and up to 75 percent for loans over $150,000 (up to $500,000).
The loan can be used for business purposes, including start-up, expansion, equipment purchases, working capital, inventory or business-related real estate purchases."
Although the SBA’s website is exceptionally informative, there are resources for personal meetings and face to face advice from SBA professionals and mentors. 
Small Business Development Centersofferconsulting and reduced fee training inprograms such as business plan writing, strategies for obtaining capital, marketing classes, and help for understanding international trade regulations
Veterans Business Outreach Centersare located in 13 states and provide mentoring, referrals, and counseling. Programs are coordinated with 15 outside organizations such as colleges or Women’s Development Business Centers. 
Women's Business Centersare available for female veterans. 100 sites in the U.S.serve those who are beginning or growing their small businesses. 
The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs

Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization’s (OSDBU)

VetBiz is the government’s portal to verify veteran status through the Center for Verification and Evaluation. Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) and Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs) begin here to obtain documents needed for participation in the VA’s Veterans First Contracting Program.
Verification Assistance Program

The VA has developed the Verification Assistance Program to help veterans navigate the verification policy and process. "The goal of the program is to reduce the risk of denial due to lack of understanding and misinterpretation of the regulation."
Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP), partnered with BusinessUSA, gives veterans access to federal services for pursuing a small business startup. Some of the topics included are: corporate partnerships, financing, growing your business, and tailored non-federal veteran resources.
Military Resources

The Department of Defense supports the congressionally mandated Transition Assistance Program (TAP).  TAP and the SBA promote and provide "Boots to Business from Service to Startup," an entrepreneurial education directive that prepares and guides potential small business owners. 
The two-step training program includes:
  • Introduction to Entrepreneurship Two Day Course a classroom course offered as one of the three Transition GPS elective tracks.
  • Foundations of Entrepreneurship is an eight week, instructor-guided online program that provides detailed instruction on the components of a successful business plan and tips for starting a business. 
Each branch customizes their version of TAP. For example, the Army calls its program the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program. Registration and more information is found at SBA’s Boots to Business
Non-Profit and Private Company Resources

There are many more opportunities beyond federal programs for veteran entrepreneur preparedness. Services range from non-profit organizations to veteran owned companies looking to give back to other transitioning military. 
  • SCORE is widely revered for its small business and entrepreneur mentorship programs. Their Veteran Fast Launch Initiativeuses training to prepare veterans by offering free software and mentoring services to pursue a small business startup.  
  • Veteranscorp is a completely volunteer run program which fosters relationships between nonprofit and profit small business and veteran owned small businesses. Mentoring programs, financial planning and information for procuring federal contracts are some of the topics covered.
  • VetFran covers all the information necessary for understanding or considering the possibility of becoming a franchise owner. VetFran connects veterans with financial incentives such as reduced training fees or discounted franchise fees.
  • TechStars, a highly competitive technology kick starter for small businesses has started a veteran specific program, Patriot Boot Camp. The mission of the three-day program is to educate veterans on how to create successful technology startups. The traveling event includes education, mentoring, and pitch practice sessions. 
  • The EBV National Program (Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities) is operated by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF). The free program functions to offer economic opportunities and entrepreneurship training that will enable veterans to become successful businesses owners. The program’s curriculum was created to support veterans through all parts of starting and growing small businesses. 
Again, these are just a portion of the entities available for veteran small business assistance. Research starting with the SBA or the VA will direct and refer veterans to a multitude of other resources.
Keep in mind that many if not all of the above mentioned programs include military spouses in their eligibility. 
MilitaryByOwner also offers a detailed list of military spouse education resources that easily relate to opening and operating a small business.