There are many resources for veteran-owned businesses. Your first thought about such resources may be to turn to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and there are plenty of options there. But don’t forget to check your other government and non-government help options.
There are many agencies dedicated to providing advice, training, support, and even financial help for vet-owned small businesses.
VA Resources For Veteran Businesses
Veterans who need to explore their VA resource options for vet-owned business will have to sift through some options aimed specifically at veterans who want to do contracting business with the government, versus VA assistance for starting a business that has nothing to do with federal procurement, contracting, or bidding jobs for government contracts.
If you fall into the category of veterans who want to do business with the federal government, it’s best to start your journey by exploring the Department Of Veterans Affairs official site for the Vets First Verification Program, which is designed to give veterans priority when vying for contracts with the Department of Defense or other government agencies.
Through Vets First, qualifying veterans can sign up for the program if their business meets all of the following criteria:
- 51% or more of the company to be registered is owned by a vet
- Veterans have “full control” over daily operations, management, and policy of the business
- The veteran has “appropriate managerial experience” to run the business
- A veteran is the highest-paid and most highly-placed person in the company
But this is not the only criteria. Vets First require applicants to meet the following guidelines to be considered a qualifying veteran:
- The veteran must have spent time serving on active duty with the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard “for any length of time”
- No dishonorable discharge
- Guard or Reserve members called to federal active duty
- Reservists and Guard members disabled from a disease or injury that started or got worse in the line of duty or while in training status
VA resources for veterans who need help starting their small businesses as opposed to getting into the federal contracting system are encouraged to explore their resources with the VA Veteran Entrepreneur Portal which offers a wealth of help and information.
There are links to funding resources (via the Small Business Administration), and the VA Training & Employment page is also full of useful information and links. Those resources include mentoring options, networking, and training solutions.
Small Business Administration Resources for Veteran-Owned Businesses
Boots to Business and Boots to Business Reboot: These two Small Business Administration programs are designed to help vets, on and off-post, learn more about what they need to successfully plan and start a business.
Training includes steps for developing business concepts, creating and maintaining business plans, plus help with applying for the right SBA resources. Boots To Business is a program conducted at military bases, while Boots To Business Reboot is an off-post option.
Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) offers veterans “entrepreneurial development services” including training, counseling, and referrals. Transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard & Reserve members and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business should explore their options with VBOC.
This program boasts more than 20 organizations partnering with the SBA to help veterans with Veterans Business Outreach Center services. Help available through VBOC includes business plan review, concept assessment, feasibility studies, and much more.
Veteran Owned Small Business Pilot Programs: SBA pilot programs include veteran-centric offerings like the Veteran-Owned Small Business Growth Training Program. Some of these programs are location-specific and may require in-person training. Others may permit you to take classes, seminars, or workshops online.
SBA’s Government Contracting Classroom includes business planning and development including how to locate funding, create a business plan, legal requirements and even opportunities for young entrepreneurs.
The Veterans Business Development Officers roster, hosted on the Small Business Administration official site, is a list of resources broken down by state. These officers work for the SBA Office of Veterans Business Development under the mission statement that includes efforts to make small business resources more available for veterans.
Other Veteran Business Resources
There are plenty of other government and non-government programs that can help veteran-owned businesses. Some are national programs, some are very localized, and some may offer options in-between.
For example, a state-run veteran business assistance program may or may not require the veteran to be a state resident or to be a state resident for a minimum amount of time.
Other programs, such as Women Veterans Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship(WVISE), may offer assistance for those who qualify as long as they have the ability to attend workshops, classes, or other types of programs in-person.
The WVISE training program was created to help veterans and military families learn how to succeed at entrepreneurship and small business management funded with help from the SBA and various philanthropic agencies, this program is run on a local level by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University.
The program runs in three phases including a two-week online course, an in-person training event, and mentorship opportunities and operates in multiple locations.
Another good example of a program offered on the local level but one that could help a veteran willing to travel for the in-residence portion of the program is offered by the Riata Center for Entrepreneurship at the Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University (OSU).
The Veterans Entrepreneurship Program at OSU is described as being “entirely free to the veteran” and the university pledges to “cover all costs (including travel, lodging, and meals)” for those accepted into the programs. For delegates accepted to the VEP. This program is hosted locally but is open to those who can commute to the program.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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