With Veteran’s Day just around the corning, it is an exciting time for those who served our country and are interested in becoming entrepreneurs. Many people do not realize the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day honors members of the military who have sacrificed their lives in combat. On November 11, Veterans Day celebrates members of the armed services who are still among us.
The National Veterans Entrepreneurship Program (VEP) provides a rigorous entrepreneurial learning and development opportunity for veterans with service-connected disabilities and those who have uniquely distinguished themselves in the military. VEP is designed for veterans interested in starting a new venture as a means to financial independence and for veterans who have an existing business for which they would like to increase profits.
The number of vets in the entrepreneurial world is large and growing. In fact, veteran-owned firms represent 9% of all U.S. firms, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Of the 26 million veterans in the United States, nearly 2.5 million vets own small businesses, and those companies employ nearly 6 million workers.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a broad range of support for vets opting to go into business for themselves. The SBA provides workshops that offer assistance in writing business plans and also connects veterans with mentorship and training programs. If you are a vet and new to business, or just want to upgrade your skills, there are a host of programs available to you.
- Operation Boots to Business: This program guides veterans through the process of launching and growing an enterprise. Visit the SBA site to find the nearest OVBD center.
- Center for Veterans Enterprise: This is under the umbrella of the VA and its System for Award Management that veterans can use to get government contracts. Further, the average American consumer typically prefers to purchase from a veteran-owned business, according to Buyveteran.com, which publishes an online directory that veteran-owned companies can join.
- Loan Programs: Just like most entrepreneurs, veterans are in need of capital to start and continue business growth. In order to qualify, a veteran or spouse, must own 51 percent of the business. Like all SBA loans, the money is not distributed by the SBA, but by an authorized lender. SBA is the guarantor of the loan, making it much more desirable to banks and other lending institutions.
- SBA Community Advantage Loans: These loans are again guaranteed by the SBA and offer capital to veterans who are looking to start or grow a business in an area that is under-represented.
- Military Economic Injury Loans: If your business has been disrupted by your military service needs, you may be eligible for a loan based on your service commitment. If you, for example, are a reservist and called up for duty, you may be eligible for capital damages that were caused by your absence, in the form of guaranteed loans.
The SBA, the Veterans Administration and other entities are looking to help vets pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. This is a great opportunity to put leadership and teamwork to use for vets in an entrepreneurial environment. Best of luck!