5 Great Resources for Entrepreneurial Veterans

November 11th is the day when we as a country honor and celebrate the service of America’s military personnel. The US Department of Veteran Affairs recently reported that the unemployment rate for veterans dropped to 6.3 percent in October, at least for those who served pre-9/11. While that number is well below the national average, the unemployment rate for those whose service began after 9/11 remains well above the average at 10 percent.

Sometimes veterans return to find the civilian life they lived before their service doesn’t suit them anymore, including the jobs they worked; starting their own businesses is often the alternative. Luckily, there are many resources available exclusively to veterans to better facilitate starting up.

SCORE:

  • A nonprofit organization focused on helping small businesses start up, SCORE has a special program for veterans called the Veteran Fast Launch Initiative (VFLI). Among other educational services to help entrepreneurs prepare for launching their business, the VFLI program provides free software and online services to aspiring veteran entrepreneurs. SCORE also offers a mentoring program that should not be overlooked.

The SBA :

  • The Small Business Administration has several programs for veteran entrepreneurs, including the Express & Pilot Programs. These programs – available to veterans, active military personnel, or the spouses of either – increase the speed at which loan applications are processed, and often include the lowest interest rate, if the application is sent through the Express program.

The Department of Veteran Affairs:

  • Dedicated to helping veterans, VA began the Center for Veterans Enterprise. The website provides veterans with the ability to access information. Veterans First Contracting Program requires the government to do a certain amount of business with verified veteran-owned business. As they state on the Veterans First Contracting Program website, “VA is one of the largest procurement organizations in the Federal Government. Annually, this Department spends over $3 Billion with eligible Veteran-Owned Small Businesses. That’s a lot of opportunity.”
  • To become a “verified” veteran-owed business, simply follow the instructions provided at the Veteran-Owned Small Business Verification Program.

American Corporate Partners:

  • American Corporate Partners offers two types of services to veteran entrepreneurs: an online networking site, and a nationwide adviser program. The adviser program matches veteran entrepreneurs with a mentor for a year. Mentors are prescribed based on business experience and goals. Successful entrepreneurs often counsel wannabe entrepreneurs to get a mentor; therefore, this service should not be underrated.

Incline:

  • While not exactly a program dedicated to helping veterans achieve their small business goals, Incline provides tech training (i.e., they teach coding) to veterans with a technical background. Tech is still a growing industry, and skills learned at Incline could be put to use founding a business. There are also many jobs available in the tech sector, should you prefer to not start your own business, or need the cash flow while developing your business plan.

If you’re a veteran and have been thinking about launching your own business, these resources are at your disposal. Even veterans with established businesses may find some of the services provided by the above organizations helpful, from verifying a small business to helping land a government contract.

And though you may get swept away with the excitement of starting a new business, don’t forget to establish, monitor, and build your business credit, the importantance of which cannot be touted enough. The first step is to register for your DUNS number, which is required by many big box stores and the federal government. Start early, and build a robust business credit profile that you can use – in lieu of your own credit and a personal guarantee – to procure additional funding and better financing terms as you build your business. Wondering what a DUNS number can do for your business? Check out this informative DUNS infographic.

We recognize that this is not an exhaustive list of the organizations devoted to helping veterans get their entrepreneurial groove on. If we left out an organization that you feel should be included, let us know in the comments. Musings and compliments are welcome, too.

[photo courtesy of  Marco Crupi Visual Artist]

About Lennon Cole

Social Media Coordinator at Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. concentrated on helping small business owners navigate the business world. When he's not writing about business, he's hiking the wee hills of Los Angeles and writing creative nonfiction, for which he's won a Dominic J. Bazzannella Award. Connect with him via Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.

Comments

  1. Thank you for highlighting Incline in your list. We just wrapped up our fall training class in NYC and hope to serve another group of Veterans in early 2013.

  2. vr business brokers is waiving $2 million in initial franchise fees to returning veterans vrbb.com

  3. 2 of these I hadn’t heard of so, thanks for bringing them to our attention…

  4. Unfortunately the one thing that is needed to start most businesses is funding and the only way to get funding is with collateral. While all of these organizations and many local Economic Development Associations have programs geared toward Veterans, you could be sitting on the next Apple, Microsoft, Google. the wheel or fire, and if you don’t have collateral, that’s the end of the story. Oh, and by collateral, they mean Real Estate. I have over twice the total value of what I need in funding as collateral, mostly in equipment, but it’s lots and lots of under $1000 dollar items. The bottom line is that these organizations help with the paperwork, but if you don’t have the capital, all the paperwork is worthless. Oh, and if you don’t have a stellar credit rating and a few rich friends or family to invest, the American Dream is just that… a dream.

  5. Miles, have you looked at alternative sources of funding outside of the primary lending institutions (banks, etc)? How many variations of lenders have you spoken with? If in fact you have 2 times the actual amount of collateral needed (although it is in inventory)….there has to be someone willing to use that as collateral. Perhaps you just haven’t turned over enough stones yet to find a lending partner.

    I disagree with you to some degree when you stated that you have to have a stellar credit rating to get funding. You just have to start the process by creating a duns number…. Show who you are, what you sell, what experiences you have had previously, and that you are taking steps to build a positive credit report. Most lenders understand the lifecycle of “creating small business credit”. Any positive information is better than no information in terms of building a robust credit file.

    I can tell by your tone that you are discouraged, as we all would be in this situation. The reality is that many people don’t have rich relatives or friends to loan them money….but wouldn’t that certainly be wonderful if everyone did! If you are like most, scrambling to make ends meet and trying to make your small business dream a reality…. You have to keep knocking on doors! You have to have to keep asking for funding and looking for creative means to find that funding. There has to be a solid business plan and there has to be a viable product that customers are willing to buy!

    More importantly, clearly demonstrate that this company is small but moving in the right direction… through willingness to put up collateral (inventory in this case), and taking steps to create a business credit report. This is done through information being added into the report that tells the reliability of the business, shows that the business is credible… and shows that it is worth taking the risk to partner with them! This is probably the scenario where most people would give up and never push to try to create the small business dream….. or ….. you can keep pushing…and be that one company out of who knows how many that beat the odds….and becomes that next “Apple”. I wish you the very best of luck!

    • Do you have an example or two of “alternate funding sources?” I need to hold the Kickstarter/Indiegogo sources in my back pocket as they are not large enough to get things started but could be very useful once up and running to expand when I actually have something to offer. All of the other supposed alternate funding places I have tried all end up, in the long run, at a bank. I have a very detailed business plan that has gotten compliments and was written with the help of the local economic development association. I recently went through a government program for veterans. It took a week to collect the 120 pages of documentation and support documentation and get it uploaded to their site, and then meeting with two counselors, and attending a seminar, but in the end… the underwriter wanted “different” collateral or 20% cash down. Yes, very frustrated from so many aspects including having to turn away and refer potential clients elsewhere and my credit score taking a down-tick on every application.

  6. Thanks Miles for the follow up.

    We recently held an all day event where we discussed all kinds of different types of alternative funding… The day even included an hour long panel specifically on “Alternative Funding” where the panelists had many great ideas. We took highlights from the day and posted them here: http://wp.me/p1hNlG-1yT

    My recommendation is to read up on the highlights as well as potentially watch the entire hour long videos. There’s lots of great ideas in there!

  7. My brother recommended I might like this website.
    He was entirely right. This post truly made my day. You can not imagine just
    how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 304 other followers

%d bloggers like this: