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According to the most recent census data, there are 2.45 million veteran-owned businesses in the U.S. Veteran entrepreneurs contribute to the economy through their businesses and their willingness to hire veterans.
There are a number of funding resources available to veterans in order to get their business off the ground, or expand an existing business.
• The Office of Veterans Business Development, through the Small Business Administration (SBA) supports new and existing veteran entrepreneurs and military spouses. The program offers a variety of training and financial services. The SBA Veterans Advantage Guaranteed Loans program offers loans of $150,000 or less with no guaranty fee. Larger loans carry a low guarantee fee. SBA Express Loans have no upfront borrower fee for eligible veterans and military spouses on loans up to $35,000. Leveraging Information and Networks to Access Capital matches businesses with SBA-approved non-profit lenders. The 7(a) Loan Program is the SBA’s most common loan program, and includes financial help for businesses with special requirements.
• The Department of Veteran Affairs is a great starting point when looking for financing, and has created the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP), which can help you quickly identify financing resources for your business.
• The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan provide funds to eligible small businesses to meet necessary operating expenses that it could have met, but is unable to meet, because an owner/essential employee was “called-up” to active duty.
• The USDA Veteran and Minority Farmer Grant, run by the Department of Agriculture, aims to bring traditionally underserved people into farming through training and technical and financial assistance.
• The VetFran(R) program is designed to help veterans start their own business. While these aren’t traditional business loans for veterans, the program offers financial incentive for veterans to launch a franchise.
In addition to lending resources, don’t discount the value of networking resources. Who better to share advice than those who have walked the path before you?
• American Corporate Partners links veteran entrepreneurs with successful businesspeople for training and mentorship.
• National Veteran-Owned Business Association presents you with a great networking opportunity and the chance to learn much more about running a business.
• SCORE Foundation Veteran Fast Launch Initiative offers advertising, marketing and business mentoring, all at no cost.

• Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families provides entrepreneurial training. Their Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans program is free for post-9/11 veterans.
• Veterans Business Resource Center provides business consulting and mentoring.
• Veterans Business Services can assist in obtaining capital for your business.

vetcon

By Debbie Gregory.

Northern California played host to the VETCON conference that was held in March for veteran entrepreneurs.

The percentage of Veterans who are starting their own businesses is steadily declining. Today’s veterans are not launching companies at the same high rate as past generations. More than 40 percent of veterans returning from World War II and Korea began their own businesses, more about as compared today, illness where that number is less than five percent.

Important takeaways regarding veteran business owners/entrepreneurs from the conference include the following:

  1. Veterans build different kinds of companies than  civilian entrepreneurs
  2. Veterans have a desire to create social impact in their communities, rather than just making money
  3. Veterans often stumble into great entrepreneurial opportunities and leverage their military experience
  4. Veteran overcome challenges and execute at a world-class level.
  5. Veterans will work together to help fellow veterans, and those who are successful want to see other veterans succeed with their own companies.
  6. Veterans tend to build revenues, and are not big fans of venture capital.
  7. There is diversity among veteran owned  businesses, and more women are becoming veteran entrepreneurs

Veterans have the discipline, work ethic, leadership skills and other dynamic traits to succeed. I believe the best is yet to come, and veteran entrepreneurship will be growing and at a rapid rate.  In the future, we should be seeing more and more veteran business owners in all types of businesses.   And it is a fact that Americans trust veterans, and truly want to do business with them.

vamboa article

By Debbie Gregory.

We still have hope that the Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition Act, originally proposed in 2015, will be passed. The legislation would allow the SBA to conduct a 3-year pilot program for up to 250 budding veteran entrepreneurs to use their GI Bill benefits to start a business. While it had widespread support from veterans’ groups, it didn’t receive a full Congressional vote before the end of the year. Perhaps the new Congress will see the merits of this legislation, and get it passed. Until then, here are some resources that veteran business owners should be taking advantage of:

Entrepreneurship for Transitioning Warriors is a program offered by non-profit VetToCEO. The free 7-week online program is comprised of  seven two-hour modules that give you  the basics of starting your own business. With rolling enrollment, veterans can join the program at any time.

Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) is a free training program for post-9/11 veterans with a service-connected disability. This program is offered through a consortium of universities including Cornell, Syracuse, Florida State, UCLA, Texas A&M, Purdue, UConn, LSU, Saint Joseph’s, and the University of Missouri. EBV consists of an online, instructor-led 30-day curriculum, followed by a 9-day in-residence session at the university. EBV programs run from March through November each year on a first-come, first-served basis.

Patriot Boot Camp is geared towards technology entrepreneurs.  Attendance at PBC is encouraged if you’re considering a tech startup. PBC is free to veterans, active-duty members, and spouses.

Bunker Labs offers the Bunker in a Box program,  an online mini-course in veterans entrepreneurship. Lessons feature a short video from the Bunker team, as well as articles, interviews, podcasts and presentations from prominent entrepreneurs and experts.

StreetShares Foundation is the non-profit arm of the military social lending platform, StreetShares. The foundation staff selects 5-10 finalists each month, based on: business idea, product-market fit, team and company history, use of award funds and potential impact, and influence of the business on the military and veterans community. First, second, and third-place awards of $5,000, $3,000, and $2,000 are awarded.

The Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) is a good resource for training, counseling and mentoring, and resource referrals. VBOCs also provide transition assistance programs via Boots to Business part of the military’s formal Transition Assistance Program, offered on military installations around the world. Boots to Business assists service members, military spouses and veterans identify business opportunities, draft their business plans, and launch their enterprises. Other programs supported by OVBD are geared specifically for women veterans, service-disabled veterans, and veterans interested in federal procurement.

ivmf

By Debbie Gregory.

A new study is poised to gain insight into the newest generation of veteran entrepreneurs, with the collected data being utilized to develop policies and programs to support their successes.

The study is collaboration between the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) and Bunker Labs, the leading incubator for veteran-owned businesses in America.

This joint research effort will provide insights that will hopefully increase the current rate of veteran entrepreneurship, and increase the success of existing veteran entrepreneurs.

IVMF offers  a number of programs, including the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans Families,  Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, Operation Boots to Business, Boots to Business Reboot, Center of Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship, Coalition for Veteran Owned Business, VETNET, and the VetSmallBiz Challenge.

More than 32,000 veterans, service members and military spouses participated in IVMF programs in 2015.

The IVMF research team will conduct qualitative and quantitative research at Bunker Labs locations across the country. The use of focus groups and surveys will also allow the participation of female veteran entrepreneurs, which is seeing a dramatic increase in numbers.

The research outcome is designed to understand all aspects of veteran entrepreneurship, especially the obstacles and challenges that are involved in the process. The findings will no doubt reveal insights that can be scaled into larger solutions to support the next generation of veteran entrepreneurs.

Funded by the IVMF’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship, the research will create benchmarks that will lay the groundwork to inform the design of future national studies on veteran entrepreneurs. The research this spring will culminate in findings being reported out nationally in summer 2017.

Veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs wanting to participate in the research can learn more here.

veteranlaunch

By Debbie Gregory.

I recently was able to talk with a new non-profit in California called Veteran Launch.  They are offering what I like to call “Smart Money” to veteran entrepreneurs.  I call it “Smart” because of the attractive interest rates and the network and services they offer to Veterans for free as a part of their support.

First – “smart” interest rates. It always surprises me that about two-thirds of veterans do not shop around to get the best interest rates on their business financing. Veteran Launch is very attractive offering prime plus 4% which is about 7.5% right now. On loans up to $250,000 this is not only close to what banks offer but also much better then most of the online and peer lending options for Veterans.

The next “smart “thing that impressed me about Veteran Launch was how they work with the veteran business owner going into the transaction and help them refine their financials and business plan using some very sophisticated tools. What’s even better is on the back end of the transaction Veteran Launch is there to support the veteran business with free financial software and one-to-one business consulting to help reduce costs, increase revenue, and make sure they stay on top of their finances as they grow their business – I don’t see many lenders doing this for veterans.

They also bring a growing network of organizations that want to work with veteran owned businesses. This network is another “smart” reason to consider Veteran Launch because they can help you find new clients and business partners.

Perhaps the “smartest” thing I saw in Veteran Launch was that they are lead and staffed by military veterans. Their managing director and Army veteran, Noah Harris, brings a no nonsense approach to their support a veteran business owners and it seems to really work. Today they have worked with over 25 veteran business owners and loaned them almost $2.5 million dollars. If you’re a California-based business I suggest you check them out at www.veteranlaunch.org.

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