Veteran Business Loans: Where to Find the Best

Learn everything you need to know to finance your veteran-owned small business.
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Where to Find Veteran Business Loans

Veteran business loans can be any type of debt financing geared towards helping veterans grow their businesses.

When you need to hire new employees, open up a new location, or simply could use some extra working capital, there are a few different places you can look to find what you need through veteran business loans. Veteran business owners can access funding through sources as diverse as VA business loans, alternative lenders, and even veteran business grants.

In this guide, we’ll walk through all the different places a veteran business owner can find veteran small business funding.

And we won’t just cover the veteran business loans available, we’ll also look at veteran small business grants, business initiatives, and the many business resources available to help veterans succeed in entrepreneurial endeavors.

Let’s get started.


The 7 Best Veteran Business Loans

Here are our favorite programs that offer business loans specifically for veterans. If you’re a veteran entrepreneur looking to grow your business via debt financing, then any of these loan programs are good places to start.

1. Military Economic Injury Loans

Not intended for all veterans, this SBA sponsored veteran business 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 military 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 veteran business 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.

2. Streetshares

As a veteran-owned and run business, the lender StreetShares has a passion for funding veteran business loans.

The company operates as an 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 veterans 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 veteran business loans.

3. Veterans Business Fund

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 veteran business loans at favorable terms. According to the site, this small business loan for veterans 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.

4. SBA 8(a) Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business 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 VA SBA loan 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.

This contracting program is taking important steps to help even out the playing field.

5. 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 other special options. The discount alone is like an interest-free veteran business loan.

6. Hivers and Strivers

If you graduated from a U.S. military academy and are looking for a veteran business loan, 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.

7. SBA Express Loan Program

Although the SBA’s Patriot Express Loan program has unfortunately ended, veterans can still apply to its normal Express Loan program! SBA Express loans are up to $350,000 and offer SBA credit decisions—which normally take 5 to 10 business days—of just 36 hours.

One major perk for those who’ve served? All authorized veteran business loans through this program will have their guarantee fees waived. This waived guarantee fee is part of the SBA VA Program that we’ll cover in more detail later.

 


How to Get a Veteran Business Loan in 3 Steps

You’ve read through the different veteran business loan options, and you might be wondering just how to get a veteran business loan.

If you’ve financed your business before, you know the process of applying for veteran small business funding is more than just hitting an apply button and crossing your fingers for an approval.

There are veteran business loan requirements you should know, and steps you should take while applying.

Luckily, the steps to getting veteran business loans really aren’t any different than getting business loans in general.

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Step 1: Figure Out Why You Need a Veteran Small Business Loan

It’s easy to say, “Yeah, I need $50,000,” but many business lenders—and veteran business loan lenders—will want to know why you’re applying for that specific amount of capital, and what you’re going to use it for. Because depending on how you’re intending to use the funds, you might qualify for one lender over another.

So are you consolidating past debt? Financing the expansion of two new stores? Or covering the cost of payroll for the busy season in the summer?

Specificity in why you need a veteran business loan is key here.

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Step 2: Get the Veteran Small Business Loan Requirements and Documents in Order

Getting a veteran business loan will always be easier if you’re prepared to search for the funding.

This means that, not only have you figured out why you need the funding and how much you can realistically afford, you’ve also put time into organizing the documents you might need to prepare during the search.

While the small business loan requirements will certainly vary from lender to lender, almost all business lenders will want to see the following: Your personal and business credit scores, bank statements, annual revenue, time in business, personal and business tax returns, balance sheets, profit and loss statements, and so on.

Any financial documents that you’re ready to provide a lender, the better. The lender will be able to better evaluate whether or not investing in your business is a safe bet.

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Step 3: Evaluate Your Loan Options and Apply to Veteran Business Funding

In almost every case, the best option for your business is the least expensive option. And you won’t know which type of veteran business loan is the least expensive until you’ve shopped around.

This is an especially important step to getting veteran business loans if you have struggling credit. Business owners with struggling credit tend to only qualify for steep veteran business loan rates. However, if you’re in this scenario, you don’t want to accept an offer with a higher interest rate than is necessary—it can really cost your business.

Once you’ve found the best veteran business loan for you and filled out the business loan application, make sure you fully review your business loan agreement before accepting. Scan the fine print for business loan any funding fee that might come with your loan and the loan term at which you’re agreeing to repay. You want to be fully confident before going into your loan that it’s affordable for your business (fees included) and the right repayment structure for you.


Are VA Business Loans an Option? 2 Potential Answers

Many veteran business owners will specifically seek out VA business loans during their search for funding. Is a VA loan for business even an option? Well, because “VA” can stand for a couple of things—even within the niche context of veteran business loans—there are a few answers to that question.

We break down your VA small business loan options below:

VA Business Loans: US Department of Veterans Affairs

Unfortunately for veterans searching for VA business loans, the US Department of Veterans of Affairs doesn’t offer a VA loan program for businesses. The VA does, however, offer a long list of programs for Veteran small business owners that includes lucrative opportunities like government contracting and small business set-asides.

Consult the website for the VA Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization for more information.

VA Business Loans: SBA Veterans Advantage

On the other hand, the SBA offers a Veterans Advantage program that waives or discounts loan guarantee fees for veterans. To clarify, the Veterans Advantage program doesn’t offer a separate form of loan specifically available to businesses owned and run by veterans. Rather, the SBA VA business loans program offers veteran perks attached to more general types of SBA loans.

Through these VA business loans, veterans are able to access guarantee fee discounts for SBA Express loans and SBA 7(a) loans. As mentioned, SBA Express loans of up to the maximum program loan amount—$350,000—will have a 0% guarantee fee for veteran business owner borrowers.

As for SBA 7(a) loans, through the SBA VA program, all business loans of less than $125,000 will have a 0% guarantee fee. For SBA 7(a) loans of greater than $125,000, the guarantee fee discount for veteran business loans will depend on the loan amount and the repayment term length. VA business loans of more than $125,000 through the SBA 7(a) loan program can have a guarantee fee of anywhere from 0.125% to 3.75%.


Consider Veteran Business Grants Alongside Veteran Business Loans

Business grants are a desirable option for veteran-entrepreneurs (and any business for that matter—a grant is like free money to invest in your business!).

Whether offered privately or through the government, there are a number of grants specifically for veterans looking to grow their business.

And while these grants might be harder to qualify for than a veteran small business loan, they’re still worth pursuing if your business happens to be the right fit.

Here are the top veteran business owner grants to consider.

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1. 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, which can be a great supplement to all veteran business loans.

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2. 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.

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3. StreetShares Commanders 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. To reiterate: grants can be great supplements to a veteran business loan and give you more time to search for a loan.

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4. Little Caesars Veterans Program

The restaurant franchise 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. If you’re trying to start a franchise business, these startup costs can be a huge burden. The extra discount from the Little Caesars program really help you get started.

Service-disabled veterans qualify for even more from Little Caesars, including a full waiver of the full $20,000 franchise fee and $30,000 worth of other benefits.

That is, at minimum, like a $30,000 veteran business loan. See a long list of veteran-oriented franchise opportunities here.


Also Consider Alternative Lending Alongside Veteran Business Loans

The veteran business loans listed above are absolutely crucial lending options to help veteran businesses grow.

These are the veteran business loan programs and grants that are specifically dedicated to veteran entrepreneurs.

And while these veteran business loans and grants are fantastic opportunities for veterans, that doesn’t mean that you can’t pursue funding options with alternative, online lenders.

If you want to pursue lenders that lend to all businesses in general, here are your best options to check out.

Small Business Loans for Veterans With Challenged Credit

Not all small business owners have perfect credit.

Your credit score is a major determinate in what you qualify for. Certainly, business loan rates will be higher for you the lower your credit score is.

However, having a poor or limited credit score doesn’t mean you won’t have any options available to you.

The best types of business loans to pursue with a limited or poor credit rating (think 500 to 650) are short-term loans and business lines of credit.

Here are three lenders who offer veteran business financing to consider:

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1. OnDeck Capital

OnDeck offers both short-term loans and business lines of credit for borrowers with a minimum personal credit score of 500 and 600 respectively. Depending on what you qualify for, OnDeck’s rates start at around 8.5% for the short-term loan and 14% for their line of credit (although these veteran business loan rates can really go up). OnDeck is a great option for veterans who need capital for just about any business need.

Read more OnDeck reviews.

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2. Kabbage

Kabbage is a great lender to work with if you’re looking for a short-term business line of credit. Kabbage offers credit lines of up to $100,000 for almost all business purposes.

And the best part? Kabbage doesn’t have a minimum credit score required, making them an accessible lender for less-qualified veterans.

Read more Kabbage reviews.

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3. LoanBuilder, a PayPal Service

PayPal offers a short-term loan called the “LoanBuilder” product for borrowers who need financing between $5,000 to $75,000. The minimum credit score required for the LoanBuilder product is 600.

The best part about the LoanBuilder Product? They offer small business loans veterans can access fairly easily, and don’t charge sky-high interest rates for them. The veteran business loan rates on this product can range from 24.9% to 49.9% APR. As far as access to fast, easy-to-qualify for business loans for veterans go, Swift is a pretty affordable option.

Small Business Loans for Veterans With Good Credit

On the flip side of things, having a strong and established credit score as a veteran entrepreneur will open a lot of financing doors for you.

If you have a strong credit score (650+) first check to see if you qualify for bank loans or SBA loans—those will be your most affordable financing options in most cases.

But you might also be interested in pursuing some of the top online lenders if you have a stellar credit score. These are the lenders that offer longer-term loans and longer-term lines of credit. Here are some of the best:

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1. LendingClub

Lending Club is a lender that offers both medium-term loans and medium-term lines of credit, so you have a couple options of loan types to work with. Loans and lines of credit can go up to $300,000 at terms as long as 5 years. Lending Club, however, sets their minimum personal credit score at 620 in order for veterans to qualify.

Read more Lending Club reviews.

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2. Fundation

Like Lending Club, Fundation offers both medium-term loans and business lines of credit. If you’re looking for up to $500,000 in capital at a maximum of 4 years, Fundation is a smart bet. Fundation also offers affordable financing, with interest rates starting at 7.9%. You can use the financing for almost any business need. Qualified borrowers will need to have at least a 620 credit score.

Read more Fundation reviews.

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3. Funding Circle

While Funding Circle doesn’t offer a veteran small business loan specifically, they’re a great lender to pursue if you run an established veteran-owned business and have a strong credit score. Funding Circle offers medium-term loans ranging from $25,000 to $500,000 at term lengths of 1 to 5 years. Although their loans can go towards almost all business purposes, they are a particularly great company to consider if you are interested in consolidating any of your currently outstanding business debt. Funding Circle offers some of the most affordable veteran business loans that can be found online: APRs range from 5.49% to 27.79%, with a Funding Circle median of 15%.

Read more Funding Circle reviews.


Additional Resources for Veteran Small Business Owners

All entrepreneurs need a support system around them when operating and growing their businesses.

Luckily, there are many business resources specifically available to veterans.

Here are the top veteran business resources available in 2019.

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1. 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 for both your business and a veteran business loan.

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2. VetBiz

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.

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3. 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.

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4. NAVOBA

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.

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5. 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.

That means it is a great place to find out where to start a veteran business loan search.

Over 97% of participants say they would recommend the ACP program to a fellow veteran—so what are you waiting for?

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6. 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.

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7. National Veterans Business Development Council

Veterans feel strongly about supporting other veterans.

That’s the basic premise of the National Veterans Business Development Council, the only third-party non-profit agency that offers certificates of eligibility for businesses owned by U.S. military veterans.

By getting your business certified through the NVBDC, you’ll gain access to sponsorships, marketing opportunities, entrepreneurship training, and more.

The agency can even help you connect to lucrative business opportunities through corporate and federal supplier diversity programs, which account for up to $80 billion in small business revenue dollars annually.

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8. Office of Veterans Business Development

Within the umbrella of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Office of Veterans Business Development is charged with maximizing the availability of veteran business loans and business development resources for veterans, National Guard Members, Service-Disabled Veterans, Reserve Component Members, and their dependents or surviving spouses.

Along with connecting veterans with SBA-sponsored veteran business loan opportunities, the OVBD serves as an advocate for all veteran entrepreneurs, working to create more opportunities and resources to help veterans transition to small business ownership.

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9. Operation Boots to Business

Offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as a training track within the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP), Operation Boots to Business is a two-step entrepreneurial training program designed to help recent veterans begin their careers as small business owners.

Combining a two-day classroom workshop with an eight-week online course, this program equips veterans across the country with much-needed education, mentorship, and other resources for the transition from service to entrepreneurship, as well as information about SBA-backed veteran small business loans.

Since its 2013 launch, the program has had over 20,000 military service members and their spouses participate. And because the courses are offered at various military bases across the country, this workshop is an especially useful resource for current active-duty military planning for their next career after retirement or discharge.

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10. SCORE Veterans Fast Launch Initiative

The SCORE foundation—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 doesn’t offer direct access to veteran business loans, 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 veteran small business loans.

It will also direct you towards veteran-friendly lenders for your veteran business loans search.

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11. Veteran Franchising Portal

For military veterans specifically interested in owning a franchise business, the Veteran’s Administration’s Veteran Franchising Portal offers a wealth of franchise-specific resources.

Through the portal, you can connect to franchise financing opportunities specifically for veterans, use the International Franchise Administration’s VetFran Directory to identify franchises with special veteran ownership opportunities, and gain access to educational tools and even scholarships for aspiring veteran franchise owners.

While this resource won’t cover all the questions you may have about business ownership or veteran small business loans, it’s a great starting point for your questions specific to franchising opportunities.

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12. Veterans Business Outreach Centers

Operating 16 local centers in ten regions across the United States, Veterans Business Outreach is an SBA-funded program that offers business development services.

Through its local centers, the program offers access to mentorship, a business development boot camp, and veteran and career counseling.

It is a great place to start before you start your veteran business loan search.

If you prefer a face-to-face approach to small business development as opposed to online research and connections, your local veteran business outreach center is a great resource.

And the center’s one-on-one business coaches are a great low or no-cost alternative to expensive private consultants.


Thank You to Our Veterans

Determination. Discipline. Self-confidence. Leadership.

These qualities are a part of every veteran’s military training experience. And as it turns out, they’re also characteristics that make for strong, successful entrepreneurs.

It’s no wonder, then, that nearly half of all returning World War II veterans went on to own or operate a business—a proud tradition that’s continued in generations since.

In fact, as of the most recent census, there were 2.45 million veteran-owned businesses in the U.S., contributing over $1 trillion in sales to the country’s economic landscape.

We know that as a veteran, your determination to defend our freedom as a nation will translate to success as a small business owner.

We thank you for your service, and we hope that these resources on veteran small business loans will help you along your way.

Editor's Note: Fundera exists to help you make better business decisions. That’s why we make sure our editorial integrity isn’t influenced by our own business. The opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations in this article are those of our editorial team alone. They haven’t been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the companies mentioned above. Learn more about our editorial process and how we make money here.