Vets Making the Leap

Veteran entrepreneurship across the United States is growing. The U.S. Census reports that 2.4 million small businesses are owned by former service members. That’s roughly one out of every ten small business. Veteran-owned businesses employ almost six million people and create more than a trillion dollars in revenue.

Business leaders have taken notice and now there are a full host of programs that are specifically designed to help Vets get their businesses off the ground. The U.S. Small Business Administration has created 10 Veteran’s Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) around the nation to train new and potential business owners. These centers provide workshops and counseling to Veterans, reservists and active duty military members interested in starting their own business or expanding an existing one.

Since the program’s creation in 1999, officials have seen a boom in Veteran owned businesses. A 2012 report released by the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy also found that Veterans are 45% more likely to start a business when compared to those without military experience. Last year just one of the centers helped launch 51 new Veteran owned businesses.

The VBOC also helps Veterans who are already entrepreneurs. Michael Nevils, a disabled Army Veteran, sells a portable emergency water storage system that he designed. Nevlis turned to the VBOC in order to utilize their programs and expertise to help his growing business.

“The VBOC has been wonderful,” Nevils said. “We’ve had guidance that helped us win government contracts and develop a solid game plan to grow our company and be successful.”

The VBOC does not provide loans, legal advice or accounting services. However, it does assign a business consultant, usually a retired executive, to work with each client to offer advice as they write business plans, develop a marketing strategy and tackle other basics of business.

There are also many other resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs to utilize. The Small Business Association operates more than 900 Small Business Development Centers (SDBC) across the U.S. where entrepreneurs, including Veterans, are given free technical assistance and access to institutions that offer loans and support for growing their business.

At the University of Central Florida, Gordon Hogan helps unemployed Veterans decide if they’ve got what it takes to actually be an entrepreneur through the school’s Veterans Initiative Program. Hogan is the director of the UCF Business Incubation Program. Launched last year, the program is gaining a reputation in the Veteran community.

“When you’ve served your country and you come back as an unemployed Veteran, things can be tough,” Hogan said. “But our servicemen and women are resilient and most are up for the challenge of starting a business.”

The Veterans Initiative offers Veterans who wish to start their own business the opportunity to attend FastTrac® NewVenture™ for the Veteran Entrepreneur, a $700 course for just $100.The course offers technical assistance in how to develop a winning business plan, find the right markets and startup funds.

Veterans who would prefer to own a franchise rather than market new and untested ideas have access to VetFran.  The program is run by the International Franchise Association, which connects Vets with franchising opportunities around the country. The VetFran program offers training, financial and technical assistance and support from the franchising industry to match veterans with the right opportunities.