Starting a business can be a frightening prospect, but absolutely necessary for someone who wants to offer something to the world. Fortunately for US veterans, there are some assists in place to help make their dream a reality.
In this article we will discuss where to find veteran business grants and loans, how to access them, and give you the info you need to apply for them successfully.
Qualifications for Veteran Business Loans and Grants
First, let’s clarify exactly who can seek a loan or opportunity for veterans. Qualified applicants for veteran business grants or loans include the following:
- Service disabled veteran
- Honorably discharged veteran
- Reservist or National Guard
- Active Duty Member participating in TAP (Transition Assistance Program)
- Current spouse of a veteran, active duty service member, reservist or National Guard
- Widow of a service member who died in service
Small Business Loans and Grants for Veterans
Next, let’s take a closer look at some of the business loans and grants that are available for military veterans.
An SBA, or small business administrator loan, is available to any qualifying entrepreneur, but many offer special deals on fees for veterans. There is not currently an SBA directed to veterans specifically, but you can take advantage of the CARES Act dropping all fees for SBA Express Loans.
As with any loan, you’ll have to shop around for a lender. SBAs have specific requirements, but lenders may have additional conditions they want fulfilled.
Hivers and Strivers Angel Fund & Veteran Capital for Veterans
This program offers capital investment, not a loan. They invest only in veteran owned and led businesses. Investment amounts range from 200,000 to 500,000, and are offered only to businesses that are beyond the concept stage that are positioned for strong growth. Obviously the company must also be veteran-led, and there are other qualifiers. But this is a fine choice for an entrepreneur with a strong start.
Patriot Boot Camp
This Boulder, CO-based nonprofit organization addresses gaps in entrepreneurial support for veterans by offering mentors, educational programming, and support for veterans who want to start a business.
While this is not financial support, it offers a variety of other support for a veteran just getting started in the business world, including a network of professional contacts.
Service-disabled Veteran-owned Small Business Program
This is an outreach of the DOD, who sets aside contract benefits for those businesses that are run by service disabled veterans. One of the requirements is that the company must be 51% owned by a SDV (someone who has been injured and discharged from the military under any release but dishonorable). The ceiling for this program is 5 million dollars.
Veteran Entrepreneur Portal
The VEP (Veterans Entrepreneur Portal) is designed to help veteran-run small businesses gain access to federal services, and to connect these businesses to information and best practices. Some of this information includes links to federal contracting programs, financial resources, and tools to help grow your business. It is not a loan program, but can connect you with funding and a plethora of other support.
Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-Wise)
This organization offers training and education for female veterans who are interested in starting a business. It was created to empower these women to find their passion and gain the skills needed to thrive in the business world.
Programs and events are held around the country, and boast a roster of speakers that include government officials, CEOs, and successful entrepreneurs. They also offer ongoing support focused on business growth.
Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan (MREIDL)
This loan is offered under the disaster loan branch of the SBA, and is fulfilled by them. The terms of this loan state that if an essential employee is called to active duty, a small business can qualify for a loan of up to 2 million dollars. (This is determined by the SBA and based on the level of projected economic injury to the business).
Check With Your State Government
Another good idea is to check in with your state government to see what financial and informational supports might be available locally. Each state will offer different programs, so see what’s going on in your neck of the woods. Simply Google your state and “veteran business support” and you’ll get links directly to state-run web pages that may offer veteran business grants or loans, or guide you in the right direction.
In today’s world of social media influencers and amplified storytelling, you may have a great case for crowdfunding. This involves offering a good or service to be unlocked by investments from a general population. Investors can then be rewarded by tiers of gifts (anything from a free product, to some say in the design…it’s completely up to you). It may even be as simple as investors really just wanting the concept or idea being made a reality.
This is a great way to get funding if you have a really cool idea and a great sense of showmanship. If you can get crowds excited, this avenue can work well.
Veteran Business Loans
There are a series of lenders who offer special pricing or deals to veterans. The VA does not offer business loans, but there are SBA loans, the MREIDL program, and countless other loans and grants that can be used to veteran advantage. You can begin by talking to your bank to see what they have on offer. This is especially helpful if you are a member of NFCU or USAA.
As anyone who has served knows, the military is a training ground for some of the best attributes for a business owner: discipline, attention to detail, organization, and leadership. It’s only fitting that there should be support organizations to help veterans get a leg up in the business world. Choose one or several of the organizations on this list to help you move your vision forward and support your own strengths with their financial strength.