Great Resources to Find Small Business Loans for Veterans
Did you know nearly half of all returning World War II veterans went on to own or operate a business? Or that currently one out of every nine small businesses in the United States is veteran-owned? As of the most recent census, there were 2.45 million veteran-owned businesses in the US, contributing over $1.2 trillion in sales to the country’s economic landscape. Clearly, the small business world would be a shadow of itself without the contributions of military veterans.
Military training promotes self-confidence, determination, discipline, leadership skills, and high-risk tolerance—all essential qualities for successful small business owners. Yet in the past few years, various challenges—most often access to funding—have limited the number of post-9/11 veterans making the transition into small business ownership.
Luckily, there are several federal, corporate, and non-profit organizations dedicated to making dreams of small business ownership a reality for those who have fought to defend our nation. Here are our favorite resources offering business development assistance and access to small business loans for veterans, whether in the form of a loan, a grant, an educational program, or something else entirely.
1. Veteran Entrepreneur Portal
A product of the Department of Veterans Affairs and BusinessUSA, the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal is an excellent starting point for veterans interested in opening or expanding a small business, or purchasing a franchise. The goal of the VEP is to connect veterans with federal services for small business assistance, including business development resources, access to financing, franchise opportunities, and help connecting with various government agencies that serve small business owners. While certainly not the be-all and end-all of resources for veteran business owners, perusing the Entrepreneur Portal is a great place to start.
As a veteran-owned and run business, the folks at StreetShares have a passion for veteran entrepreneurs. The company operates as on online auction marketplace that connects entrepreneurs directly with investors with an interest in small businesses. StreetShares has a strong focus on providing veteran business loans by connecting veteran business owners seeking funding with fellow comrades in arms to walk them through the ten-minute application process. On their website, they also provide lots of useful info and resources. The company even boasts funding approvals in as little as a few hours. If you’re looking for funding and need a helping hand, StreetShares is a great non-government resource to find small business loans for veterans.
3. Veterans Business Services
This private consulting service has vast experience in the particulars of a veteran owned small business. From franchises to startups, finding investors to securing small business loans for veterans, the company has dealt with each of these challenges and can help connect you with the funding and resources you need. Of course, it is fully possible to start a small business without a coach or consultant, but if you have been struggling to get started with your veteran-owned small business, a coach from Veterans Business Services may be able to help steer you in the right direction.
4. SCORE Veterans Fast Launch Initiative
SCORE—a nonprofit dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground—partnered with several corporate sponsors to create the Veterans Fast Launch Initiative. The goal of this privately funded program is to honor the service of military veterans by helping them transition from military life into careers as business owners. Although the program does not offer direct access to small business loans for veterans, it does offer free business mentoring, free marketing and advertising products, free software, and free downloadable template documents that will help you prepare the necessary business plans and financial documentation you’ll need when applying for a business loan.
5. Veterans Business Outreach Centers
Veterans Business Outreach is an SBA-funded program that offers business development services for veterans in several centers across the United States. Benefits of the program include access to mentorship, a business development boot camp, and access to counseling. Operating sixteen local centers in ten regions across the United States, the program is great for those who prefer a face-to-face approach to small business development. If you’re interested in one-on-one business coaching to help connect you with small business funding, but can’t afford a private consultant, your local Veterans Business Outreach Center may offer a low- or no-cost solution.
6. Military Economic Injury Loans
Not intended for all veterans, this SBA sponsored loan program is geared particularly toward current and veteran military reservists whose small businesses were impacted when they were called into active duty. If you own a small business which has struggled financially as a result of your active duty service, the Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan (MREIDL) program offers low (4%) interest loans that may be able to help your business get back on its feet.
The loan is available to veterans within one year of being released from active duty and allows for terms up to 30 years. However, keep in mind that the program requires collateral for loans over $50,000.
Again, this loan is only the right fit for a select category of military personnel. In addition to the above criteria, the SBA is required by law to determine that the business would be incapable of recovery without government intervention. You’ll need to look into other sources of funding and show that alternative sources of credit either are not available or would create a financial hardship.
7. Veterans Business Fund
Although not yet accepting applications, the Veterans Business Fund is an up-and-coming resource for veterans who are seeking funding to open or expand a small business, or purchase a franchise business. This 501(c)(3) nonprofit relies on donors to provide funding for loans with favorable terms to veterans. According to the site, the loans will be non-interest bearing to the extent permitted by law. Veterans won’t be able to finance their business entirely through VBF, as the program will offer loans only in conjunction with the business owner’s personal equity and the participation of an outside financial institution. However, keep an eye on this no or low-interest loan resource specifically for veterans as a potential option for supplementing your small business funding.
8. Boots to Business
Offering both two-day and eight-week entrepreneurship courses, Boots to Business is a free partnership program for veterans (and their dependents) looking to make the move into small business. Over 20,000 service members and spouses have participated in this initiative, co-led by the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP), and more have been helped by the Small Business Administration’s other initiatives in addition. As a veteran small business owner, you can take advantage of all of these programs, not just one or two!
9. Veteran Entrepreneur Portal
A part of the Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization, itself a branch of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP) connects to BusinessUSA and offers various listings of small business loans for veterans, business growth lessons and resources, grant opportunities, and more. It’s a search and education hub for veteran small business owners should take advantage of.
10. SBA 8(a) Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses Contracting Program
The Small Business Administration helps veteran small business owners, harmed in the line of duty, secure a certain amount of government contracts with the SDVOSBC program. While neither a small business loan for veterans, nor a veteran-specific grant, the SDVOSBC initiative puts jobs on the market for veterans only, giving special attention to those who served when they would otherwise be competing with everyone else in their industry.
11. VETFRAN BUSINESS GRANT FUND
If you’re a veteran who’s been awarded a franchise through the IFA VetFran program, then you’ll also qualify for this $10,000 grant.
12. STREETSHARES COMMANDER’S CALL VETERAN BUSINESS AWARD
We know we mentioned Streetshares earlier in this list, but we couldn’t help giving a second spot to their Commander’s Call Veteran Business Award. This program rewards veterans or military spouses who run businesses with up to $5,000 in grant money. It also offers the same service as the SDVOSBC!
13. USDA VETERAN AND MINORITY FARMER GRANT
The 2501 Program, run by the Department of Agriculture, gives small business grants—as well as education, training, outreach, and other forms of support—to veterans and minorities looking to begin or expand their agricultural operations.
14. UPS FRANCHISE DISCOUNT
While not quite a grant, this initiative gives veterans looking to join the UPS franchise a $10,000 discount off the franchise fee, and 50-75%% off the initial application fee. The UPS Store ranked as the top participant of the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative program in 2008, and has a large number of its locations run by veteran entrepreneurs.
15. 7-ELEVEN VETERANS FRANCHISING
Similar to UPS and a number of other companies, 7-Eleven offers special benefits to veteran franchisees. If you’re eligible, you can receive up to 20% off the initial franchise fee, up to 65% financing through 7-Eleven, and special financing options.
16. LITTLE CAESARS VETERANS PROGRAM
Not to belabor the point, but if you’re a veteran looking to start your own business, franchising could be a worthwhile path to pursue. Little Caesars offers a set of discounts to honorably discharged veterans, including a $5,000 franchise fee discount, the same amount off the first equipment order, and other marketing and supply services that total up to $30,000. Service-disabled veterans qualify for even more, including a full waiver of the full $20,000 franchise fee and $30,000 worth of other benefits. See a long list of veteran-oriented franchise opportunities here.
17. Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families
The IVMF hosts conferences, offers training, and runs a number of educational bootcamps for veterans transitioning to civilian life—some of which cover entrepreneurship, like the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families.
VetBiz, or the Veterans Business Resource Center, offers resources like mentoring, skills development, and business consulting. Check out their site to see if you’re near a local branch, and make the most out of these networking opportunities available exclusively to veterans.
19. Hivers and Strivers
If you graduated from a U.S. military academy and are looking for funding, don’t miss Hivers and Strivers. This angel investment group specializes in startups run and managed by academy graduates, especially from West Point, Annapolis, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard. They’re even mentioned in Forbes!
The National Veteran-Owned Business Association runs the Vetrepreneur Magazine, encourages governments and citizens to shop at veteran-owned businesses, offers marketing initiatives, and more. It’s another networking opportunity for veteran small business owners, and though it might not provide small business loans for veterans, it does help with running a business in other ways.
21. SBA Express Loan Program
Although the SBA’s Patriot Express program has unfortunately ended, veterans can still apply to its normal Express Loan program! In fact, all authorized veteran loans of up to $350,000 through the Express initiative have zero upfront fees. You’ll receive a response to your application within 36 hours as well.
22. American Corporate Partners
ACP connects military veterans to entrepreneur mentors and leaders in business in order to build business acumen, familiarize veterans with the skills and knowledge necessary for entrepreneurship, networking, and so on. Over 97% of participants say they would recommend the program to a fellow veteran—so what are you waiting for?
23. EBV National Program
The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) Program is related to Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and offers many of the same resources. It was named one of the top 10 entrepreneurship programs in the U.S. by Inc. Magazine in 2011, it consists of an online learning program, a week-long on-campus residency, and a year-long post-program support phase. And most importantly? It’s free.
We know that as a veteran, your determination to defend our freedom as a nation will translate to a will to succeed as a small business owner. We thank you for your service, and we hope that these resources will help you along your way.
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