After their service ends, many U.S. veterans go on to become a vital part of our local and national economies. Veterans own millions of small businesses across the country, and those businesses employ millions of additional American workers.
What makes the impact of veteran-owned businesses more incredible is that although veterans often have a strong entrepreneurial mindset, they also often lack the financial resources that make starting and growing a business possible. That may be due to an interrupted credit history during their service, combined with a G.I. Bill that no longer includes low-cost business financing.
Luckily, many government agencies, NGOs, and organizations recognize the importance of supporting veteran entrepreneurs. There are a multitude of financial resources out there for veterans starting a business—the trick is knowing where to look.
With that in mind, here’s a roundup of the best financial resources that veteran entrepreneurs should look into:
The Small Business Administration
The SBA is a federal government agency that focuses on supporting America’s small businesses and business owners, particularly those that banks and other organizations overlook. The SBA focuses on helping veteran business owners get their ventures going.
There are a few different programs and initiatives overseen by the SBA that veterans should take advantage of, including:
Office of Veterans Business Development
This should be one of the first stops for any veteran business owner. The OVBD offers business plan workshops, concept assessments, mentorship, and training for eligible veterans through their nation-wide network of offices. Your local office can also provide you with information regarding loan programs and opportunities. You can find your regional and district offices, and other resources, on their website.
The SBA Loan Program
Many consider the SBA loan program one of the crown jewels of the small business financing world, thanks to low rates and long repayment terms. The SBA teams with local lenders such as banks to provide funding to qualified business owners.
Whether you have just started a new business or are a well-established business owner of many years, there may be an SBA loan for you. Plus, some veterans may be eligible for the “Veteran’s Advantage” loan, which waives or discounts the guarantee fee on an SBA 7(a) loan—potentially saving you thousands of dollars.
Use the SBA site’s Lender Match tool to find a lender that you can contact to discuss details.
Veteran entrepreneurship training programs
The SBA creates and puts out customized curricula, in-person and online classes, and other programming that teaches veterans the basics of business ownership and growth. These programs include:
- Boots to Business
- Women Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program
- Service Disabled Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program
- Veteran Federal Procurement Entrepreneurship Training Program
If you’re a veteran who became disabled in the line of service, the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concern Program (SDVOSBC) can be an excellent resource. This program sets aside certain contracts that your business can compete for in a much smaller pool of applicants.
Veteran-focused lenders and investors
If you’re seeking financing for your business and an SBA loan doesn’t work for you, there are other options, including the following lending and investing platforms:
StreetShares is an online loan marketplace owned by veterans. The platform connects veteran business owners with investors who may invest as much as $250,000 in certain ventures.
Hivers and Strivers
Grants and discounts for veteran-owned businesses
When it comes to financial assistance, nothing beats free money. The below list of corporate and nonprofit organizations offers veterans grant funding as well as discounts on certain fees:
- StreetShares’ Commander’s Call Veteran Business Award: A $5,000 grant from StreetShares for eligible veteran business owners.
- GrantWatch: Though this site has information on all kinds of business grants (not just those for veterans), this is a great repository for all new and available grants that veterans could explore.
- UPS Franchise Discount: If you’re interested in opening a UPS franchise, UPS will apply a $10,000 discount to cover the franchise fee and most of the application fee.
- Little Caesars Veterans Program: This pizza chain offers a few different discounts (on their franchise fee, on the first equipment order, and for free marketing and supply services) that can add up to a $30,000 value.
- 7-Eleven Veterans Franchising: 7-Eleven will offer 20% off the initial franchise fee and special financing offers to veterans.
This list is a good starting point for veterans who are seeking financing, opportunities, and mentorship. While there are no sure things in business, you’re much more likely to experience success if you expand your network and gain support from these institutions. From there, where your business goes, and how far, is up to you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eric Goldschein is the partnerships editor at Fundera, marketplace for small business financial solutions. Eric has nearly a decade of experience in digital media and writes extensively on finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, and small business trends.