November is the newly anointed National Veterans and Military Families Month. It’s an opportunity to celebrate and commemorate the people who have sacrificed so much to protect our freedoms.
But what often goes unacknowledged is how veterans continue to serve our society once they return home from their military service—including contributing to our growing economy by starting businesses and employing other veterans.
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy recently released an encouraging report on veteran-owned businesses. The report, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 survey of small business owners, shows that about 2.52 million businesses in the U.S. are majority-owned by veterans. And it’s notable that almost all of these veteran-owned businesses are small businesses.
Now is as good a time as any to do what you can to support these businesses—either as a consumer, business owner, or a veteran business loans lender—not just for the month of November, but year-round. If you’re unsure how you can help out, we’ve created a list of resources get you started.
1. Discover veteran-owned businesses.
There are many databases that can help you find veteran-owned businesses online, nationally, internationally, and near you. A good resource is the BuyVeteran website, which bills itself as “your one-stop shop to find veteran-owned businesses in your area.”
Search their directory of members to find and support veteran-owned businesses across the country.
2. Buy veteran.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. What better way to genuinely support a veteran-owned business than patronizing it? There’s power in your wallet as your voice of support. Use the BuyVeteran database to find qualifying businesses.
3. Hire veterans.
There were just under half a million unemployed veterans in the U.S. in 2016. If you own a business, make it known that veterans are more than welcome to apply for jobs at your company. There are many reasons it’s a great idea to hire vets: they’ve been expertly trained in leadership, work ethic, and team building. Not to mention the tax credits that are available to employers who hire military veterans. You can also benefit from government paid relocation assistance if the veteran is just coming off of active duty.
4. Mentor a veteran.
Sometimes a veteran small business owner just needs someone they can trust to give them some advice. Make your expertise available to veterans on your own or through specific programs such as the following:
- SCORE Veteran Fast Launch: This program is a combined package of free software and services linked with SCORE’s mentoring program. The idea is to help accelerate the ability of veterans and their families to start and succeed as small business owners.
- AICPA: If you’re a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the organization can connect you with veterans across the country so that you can provide up to five hours of free financial advice to veterans on starting or growing their business.
- eMentor: Whether or not you have military experience, you can volunteer in the MilitarySpouse and Veteran eMentor communities to assist veterans with their career and employment-related goals.
- Ventrepreneur Mentoring: This is where veteran entrepreneurs can find mentoring services on everything from contractor registration to website creation.
5. Host a workshop for aspiring veteran entrepreneurs.
If one-one-one mentoring isn’t your thing, you can also host a workshop on your area of expertise and advertise specifically to veteran business owners and entrepreneurs. This can be done in a classroom or through a webinar. Spread the word through veteran social networks in your industry and at large.
6. Share on social media.
Post about your favorite veteran-owned businesses and veteran-created products on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or wherever you socially connect online. Talk about how awesome the product or service was, and be sure to use the popular hashtags #buyveteran or #vetrepreneurs.
7. Spread the word about business resources for veterans.
Similarly, let people know that there are resources for veterans who want to start businesses. Share this on social media or through flyers in your storefront. Pathfinder.vet, a vet-owned biz itself, is a great place to discover resources for veterans—including veteran-owned businesses and business services—that are pre-vetted by the veterans who use them. Some of these financing programs include VA SBA loans, as well. A few other resources include:
- Veteran Business Outreach Centers: This is where the SBA provides assistance to veterans in their local communities by helping veterans access resources such as business training, counseling, and mentoring—right in their local communities.
- Veteran Entrepreneur Portal: A part of the Veteran’s Affairs’ Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, this resource provides access to a number of business tools and services, including business education, financing opportunities, and information related to government programs and services created specifically for veterans.
- Boots to Business: Another SBA program, this two-step entrepreneurial training program includes a two-day classroom course and an eight-week online course that offers instruction on forming a business plan and other essential elements of early business ownership.
- Victory Spark: An accelerator program focused on startups led by U.S. military veterans, it includes a 12-week mentor-driven Lean LaunchPad Program, along with grant funding for entrepreneurs who complete the program.
- V-Wise: This organization provides resources, courses, and mentorship to female veterans who have started businesses or are looking to do so.
- Patriot Boot Camp: This accelerator program focuses on helping military veterans and their spouses build technology companies.
- VetBizCentral: A veteran run site that assists veteran and active duty military entrepreneurs through training and counseling, networking opportunities, mentoring, and advocacy.
You might also have the opportunity to donate to some of these resources listed.
8. Create a guide of local veteran businesses in your area.
This can be published online and shared on social media as well as published in a pamphlet that’s distributed at your local chamber of commerce or Small Business Administration office. This information might already be online, but you can do extra sleuthing in your community to make sure all veteran-owned businesses are included.
9. Partner with a veteran-owned business.
There is a particular impetus in the month of November to partner with veteran-owned businesses, but you can also do this year-round.
What could a potential partnership look like? Say you own a window-replacement company and you know of veteran-owned house painting business. Offer your customers a discount if they can show a receipt for having worked with the veteran-owned business recently.
Or say you have an event coming up and you know a veteran-owned graphic design company. Allow them to promote their business on your event flyer to help them attract more potential customers.
10. Certify your veteran-owned business.
Are you a military veteran? Do you own a business? Make sure your business is officially certified through the U.S. Business Registration as a Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB). This lets you:
- Bid on contract solicitations that are set aside for veteran-owned small businesses.
- Potentially take advantage of the 5% of all federal funding that’s federally mandated to be awarded to VOSB-certified contractors.
- Officially advertise as a VOSB. Boast on your storefront, signage, business card, website letterhead, and email signature to attract business. According to the USBR, research shows 70% of Americans would prefer to do business with a veteran-owned business.
- Be proactively contacted to fulfill “no-bid” federal contracts valued under $25,000.
In short, there are plenty of advantages to being officially registered as a Veteran-Owned Small Business. You might also want to join the National Veteran Small Business Coalition while you’re at it.
11. Host a gathering of veteran-owned small businesses.
Nothing gets gears turning quite like a communal gathering. Get a group of veteran small business owners and entrepreneurs together to foster a sense of local community. Encouraging veterans to support each other or work together is a great way to support the health of your local veteran business community.
These are just some ways you can support veterans, starting right now. If all else fails, don’t forget to thank any veteran you know or meet for their continued service to our country. Happy Veterans Day!