What Veterans Should Know About Starting a Business
A 2011 study by the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy reported that veterans are 45 percent more likely to become entrepreneurs than those with no military experience. They are also more likely to out-earn nonveterans.
In addition, veteran-owned businesses have a considerable impact on the U.S. economy. Veterans own 2.4 million companies, employ 5.8 million people, and generate 1.2 trillion in income.
Although veteran-owned businesses are often more successful than the average startup, they still need mentorship, funding, and support to take their idea from concept to market.
If you’re a veteran hoping to start a business, here are five tips to get you started.
How to Start a Small Business as a Veteran:
1. Find a Need and Fill It
Developing a business idea is essential, but how do you recognize one? As you look around your local community, take the time to talk to people to discover un-met needs. What is missing that your community currently wants? What problem can you solve? Once you figure this out, you can determine how to make your idea a reality.
2. Develop Your Passion
As a veteran, you possess a unique set of skills that could be translated into a viable business. Many veterans have created product ideas based on their field experience, from energy drinks to performance gear.
3. Create a Business Plan
Before you can pitch your idea to investors or apply for a loan from a financial institution, you should draft a business plan. While there’s no specific formula, your plan should include the following components:
- An executive summary
- Overview of your company’s goals
- Market analysis
- Product or Service Development
- Financial projections
4. Seek Advice from Experts
There’s numerous counseling, mentoring, and training programs available for veterans trying to become entrepreneurs. Contact the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at your local community college to locate programs near you. Some great resources include:
U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
The Department of Veteran Affairs offers numerous resources for post-military life. If you’re an aspiring veteran business owner, check out the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal for step-by-step guidance on financing, training, government contracts, and more.
Bunker Labs is a non-profit organization with chapters across the United States. It enables military veterans and their spouses to take online and in-person educational courses, which can teach them how to run a successful business. It’s also an excellent networking resource, as it connects veterans with fellow entrepreneurs and mentors.
SBA’s Office of Veteran Business Development
The Small Business Administration’s Office of Veteran Business Development is an excellent resource that offers programs specifically to help veterans succeed in business. It’s one of the first stops you should make on your road to entrepreneurship.
Opening a franchise is a popular way for military veterans to become entrepreneurs. Veterans make up only 7 percent of the population, but 14 percent of all-American franchises. VetFran is a network of 650 suppliers and International Franchise Association members who provide discounts to veterans on their initial franchise fees and supplies. The organization also offers a Veteran Toolkit to help vets determine what franchise might be right for them.
VetToCEO offers a free online course to help veterans prepare for the challenges of owning and operating a business. The 7-week program helps veterans create a business model and develop a funding strategy, and it enables them to collaborate with other veterans.
This is not only a great way to get your feet wet as an entrepreneur, but also a perfect opportunity to network with fellow veterans.
Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) is an entrepreneurship training program for female service members. Operated by Syracuse University, the SBA partially funds it.
The V-WISE program includes a 15-day online course, a 3-day training event the vet attends in-person, and continued mentoring.
5. Apply for Veteran Business Financing
Military veterans have access to various financing options to help kickstart a business. Your veteran status can open many doors for finding loans with specialty lenders, credit unions, and banks. Your status also enables you to take advantage of investment programs run and operated by former military members.
Government-backed loans provide additional security to lenders, so your loan application is more likely to be approved.
SBA’s Microloan Program
The SBA’s Microloan Program provides startups with loans up to $35,000. In addition, the SBA 7(a) Express Loan Program grants loans up to $350,000 within 36 hours.
Veteran-run financial solutions provider, StreetShares in partnership with JP Morgan Chase, caters specifically to veteran business owners. As a military entrepreneur, you can apply for loans, lines of credit, contract financing, and other programs to fund your venture’s financial needs.
Hivers & Strivers
Hivers & Strivers investment group is founded and run by graduates of U.S. Military Academies and provides financial support to start-ups. A typical Hiver and Strivers investment is $250,000 to $1,000,000.
Military veterans bring a wealth of life experience to entrepreneurship. Their dedication to their profession, community, and country make
That doesn’t mean they don’t require some help along the way from mentors, exclusive loan access, marketing strategies and network development opportunities.
If you are a veteran seeking a new career as an entrepreneur, take advantage of the organizations that make entry into the world of entrepreneurship a reality for those who have served our country.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.