Business Grants and Assistance for Veterans
Being an entrepreneur carries inherent risks, but none greater than those faced by the men and women who serve our country. Veterans of the American military know a thing or two about risk-taking for a noble cause, and many of them are able to use this fearlessness as they transition into business ownership.
Having served in the U.S. Navy ourselves, the team at Blue Laser Digital knows first-hand what it takes to become a veteran-owned business. We understand the challenges and hurdles that get in the way throughout the entrepreneurial journey, and we have learned to adapt and grow. We have also become familiar with the various resources that are available to help burgeoning veteran entrepreneurs build successful enterprises.
Starting a business might feel like a scary proposition, especially if you’ve recently come home after being deployed. Thankfully, there are many programs and resources to make the journey more doable. You may even realize that these options might give you the push you need to launch the business of your dreams.
What to Know About Being a Veteran Business Owner
Veteran business owners are a unique community for many reasons. Although they share the common bond of having served in the U.S. military, they each have their own unique story and path towards wanting to become an entrepreneur. In honor of this, there are federal government agencies and grant programs that have set up resources to help all types of veterans who are looking to start businesses.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has worked hard to accommodate the needs of entrepreneurial veterans by designing many programs to help them get started in business. The Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) has facilitated the use of all SBA programs for veterans, active-duty service members, service-disabled veterans, and the dependents or survivors of military members. By casting such a wide net, the SBA has catered to all types of individuals and their unique situations.
Some of the opportunities provided include microloan programs, training programs, or grant programs, all aimed at helping veterans get their businesses off the ground. Veteran small business grants are a great way to get your enterprise up and running regardless of how much previous business experience you have or how long your business has been operating.
The SBA microloan program targets small businesses as well as businesses in underserved communities. Nonprofit organizations are typically the ones administering these loans, which are normally on the lower end (up to $50,000). This is a great option for veterans looking to open up businesses in rural or underserved communities.
SBA Express Loans
SBA Express loans have a faster turnaround time than most standard SBA loans, but the underwriting criteria tends to be a little stricter. If you qualify, these loans can allow veterans to borrow upwards of $500,000. Plus, upfront guarantees are waived for veterans and their spouses who qualify (these are usually 2-3% of the loan).
Bank Business Loans
A small-business loan from a bank is a much more conventional loan. While these usually come with low interest rates, it’s possible that the bank will require you to have already been in business for multiple years. To see if this is a good option you should first meet with a lender at the bank to learn specifics about their loan programs for veterans.
SBA 7(a) Loans
This loan option doesn’t explicitly call out veterans but it’s still a great choice for established businesses in need of long-term financing. These loans provide larger amounts than the SBA Express program, and they are issued by banks or credit unions primarily. Qualifying for these loans isn’t easy though. Like the SBA Express Loans option, you’ll need a very good credit score as well as excellent financial data.
504 CDC Loans
This loan program provides long-term financing of up to $5 million for major fixed assets that encourage business growth. 504 loans can be received via Certified Development Companies (known as CDCs), and these companies are regulated by the SBA.
The Benefits of Being a Veteran Entrepreneur
Having a veteran owned small business is something to be proud of. It’s a distinction that most businesses can’t proclaim, and it gives you some little known benefits.
Becoming a Government Contractor
If you have a specific skill set that’s in demand, there might be a government agency that’s looking to hire your services on a contract basis. There are opportunities for veteran status and disabled veterans, among many other options.
Acquiring an SBA Loan
Although we’ve talked about this at length, it’s worth explaining that there are all kinds of veterans business assistance options available, including for service disabled veteran owned small businesses.
Gaining a veteran owned business certification is an important distinction. These certifications give veteran business owners more credibility and leverage when it comes to things like contract bidding. There is also a service-disabled veteran-owned small business program that can be awarded to businesses that are at least 51% owned and operated by one or more service-disabled veterans. Eligible veterans must have a disability that can be directly traced to their service.
Labeling a Google Business Profile
Google recognizes veteran owned businesses by providing them a “veteran-led” distinction that’s visible on the business profile.
Local businesses can also add a “woman-led” distinction on their business profiles if applicable.
Receiving Tax Incentives
Believe it or not, there are some pretty nice tax incentives at play for businesses who hire unemployed veterans. There is a max tax credit of up to $1,500 given to companies who hire unemployed veterans, via the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program. Businesses can utilize this credit by claiming 25% of first-year wages paid up to $6,000.
It’s a perfect situation if you have some friends with whom you served who are looking for work.
Enjoying Veterans Small Business Week
Held each November (around Veterans Day), veterans small business week is a time where the U.S. Small Business Administration honors veteran business owners by holding workshops, webinars, and releasing other resources that provide helpful advice for improving their businesses. This business week also discusses the various veterans business assistance programs available to aid veteran business owners along their entrepreneurial journey.
Being More Battled Tested Than Your Competition
Veterans have a distinct advantage in the department of mental toughness and resilience, which are two powerful traits necessary to becoming a successful entrepreneur. It’s hard for most civilians to comprehend this, let alone equal the mental fortitude of a veteran, especially those that have experienced firsthand combat.
Those who have returned from war and are looking to assimilate back to normal life have an uphill struggle. However, one important characteristic among them is the ability to persevere and overcome.
Taking Advantage of the Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act
Another federal government policy that aims to give veteran business owners a better opportunity to succeed is the Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act. This act allows veteran business owners the ability to get surplus equipment directly from the federal government.
The catch? There’s no catch, it’s 100% FREE. These are items that would otherwise go unused, so it makes sense that we’re putting them to use by handing them over to deserving veterans.
Mentoring Fellow Veteran Entrepreneurs
Give veteran business entrepreneurs the confidence to succeed. As someone who has been in their shoes, it’s a gratifying and humbling experience to bestow your knowledge to up and coming veteran business owners.
You can sign up for various veteran business mentorship programs to get connected with fellow veteran entrepreneurs, like GallantFew, or simply get your business listed on veteran business directories like VeteranOwnedBusiness.com so others can reach out to you.
Differences Between Small Business Loans & Grants for Veterans?
First, let’s establish a loan versus a grant. A business grant is an infusion of cash that doesn’t have to be repaid. These grants are utilized at all levels of government, including federal and state. Loans have a definite repayment schedule attached to them along with specific terms that must be met.
Small business grants for veterans are a great mechanism to begin funding your business since they don’t require repayment, but it’s a good idea to pursue both loans and grants when securing funding.
Some small business grant websites and opportunities for veterans include grantwatch.com, the StreetShares Foundation, and Veteran Business Outreach Centers.
How much money can you receive with a VA business loan vs a grant?
Although the VA can’t guarantee each veteran will get a small business loan for their enterprise, there are several options on the table.
Even if a veteran has bad credit, they can still secure financing despite needing to pay higher interest rates with shorter terms. Online lenders normally require a personal credit score of 600 or greater, while most non-traditional lenders will want you to have at least one year in business.
How to Find Out If You Qualify for a Grant or Assistance
Are you a veteran who is wondering whether they would even qualify for business assistance? Luckily, there are several programs that you can look into. The first step should be to contact the local Office of Veterans Business Development to learn more about the most accessible resources available for your entrepreneurship journey.
You can explore grant eligibility at Grants.gov or check out USA.gov for specific government benefits info and to determine whether you qualify. Most assistance programs will consider certain qualifying factors like creditworthiness, and some may provide preferential treatment to more established businesses, but you can usually find a veteran business assistance program that fits your needs.
Here are a few places to track down small business grants for veterans.
If you want a conglomeration of grant info, including federal, state, and local grants for your business, GrantWatch.com is a good place to start.
They have a powerful search bar that lets you find grants whether you are a disabled veteran or you simply are trying to get your veteran-owned business off the ground.
Warrior Rising works with U.S. military veterans and their families to cultivate successful businesses, and they also help American disabled veterans land employment opportunities.
Through informational workshops, mentorships, and grants, Warrior Rising helps veterans transfer the skills they learned from their time in service to a successful career in the private sector.
StreetShares Foundation and Loans
The StreetShares Foundation grant program provides up to $15,000 to veteran entrepreneurs based on factors like social impact in their military community as well as the person’s stated usage of the grant funds.
Veterans may also apply for a loan directly through StreetShares, a veteran-specific online lending portal. They are known for offering veteran business bonds at fixed annual interest rates.
How to Find Support
Veterans all over the nation struggle to assimilate back to civilian life, let alone those who are on the arduous journey towards entrepreneurship.
Thankfully, the internet makes it easy to access a number of support options to suit your needs as well as the stage you’re at in your business journey.
SBA.gov is a great place to start. It allows you to connect with experienced business mentors and resources to jumpstart your career. Here you can talk with DoD-certified career counselors as well as other military spouse business owners to learn about their experiences. VA.gov offers similar resources to get your started.
Launching a Veteran-Owned Business has Never Been Easier
Embarking on a veteran-owned business journey isn’t a cake walk, but it’s easier today than it’s ever been.
With ample grants available for disabled and non-disabled veterans to start a business, plus a plethora of support groups at their disposal, today’s veterans don’t have to feel alone as they navigate uncharted waters of business ownership.
At Blue Laser Digital, we know what it’s like first-hand. Our President, Brad Ness, served in the United States Navy and achieved the rank of Lieutenant. During his time, he sailed all over the world and was even involved in a volcanic eruption that dumped 550 tons of ash onto the weather decks of the ship while at port in Subic Bay in the Philippines. Brad was part of this cleanup and rescue effort as he helped transfer refugees away from the area to safety in Hawaii, and it taught him just how valuable teamwork can be to complete a mission and make a difference in peoples’ lives.
Our company utilizes this same mindset in the work we do today. All veteran business owners know the value of teamwork and having a ‘get it done’ attitude better than most.