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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
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]