Did you know that FedEx, GoDaddy, the real estate company RE/MAX, and shoe company Sperry were all founded by veterans? And 25% of post-9/11 veterans want to start a business. Serving in the military can develop traits that help you run a company, like a strong work ethic, discipline, teamwork, and ambition. Becoming an entrepreneur is a natural fit for veterans.
But even though lots of them want to, only 4% of vets actually start a company, and many don’t have access to the resources they need to do so. Former Army Captain Ian Faison says, “Veteran founders are building startups across the United States but don’t have streamlined access to Silicon Valley resources and investors.”
The good news is that there are training programs, associations, conferences, incubators, loans, and investor networks specifically devoted to entrepreneurial veterans and their spouses. Here are 28 resources:
Certifications for Loans, Contracts, and Mentoring
Get verified with the VA as a Veteran-Owned Small Business or Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business--that way you can get government set-asides and sole source contracts.
Free Business Advice
The SBA has Veterans Business Outreach Centers across the country where you can get help starting, buying, or expanding a company. The Centers offer workshops, business plan help, training, mentorship, and more, so see if there’s one near you.
The VA’s website has an entrepreneur portal with information about starting a business, getting financing, and much more. The website VetFran.com has resources to help veterans determine if opening a franchise is right for you, as well as a directory of 600 franchises.
Free Classes & Training Programs
There are several free training programs for entrepreneurial veterans. The Veterans Entrepreneurship Program is a free bootcamp where you’ll learn how to run a successful business. (Anyone who made it through basic training will find THIS kind of bootcamp to be a breeze!) It combines online courses with an in-person residency. The Veteran Entrepreneur Training Program in Dallas, TX includes classes and assistance creating and scaling a business.
Boots to Business is a free program from the SBA and the Department of Defense that includes in-person and online courses on business ownership. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans is a free program for post-9/11 veterans and their family members with startups in early growth mode. Vet To CEO is a free online entrepreneurship program that helps you construct a viable business model and develop a funding strategy.
The Veterans Entrepreneurial Jumpstart program from Saint Joseph’s University includes self-study, a 9-day residency, and then six months of support. It’s free for those with an honorable discharge. Vets In Tech has a bootcamp and workshops for veterans who want to launch technology startups, and some of the courses are free.
More Programs, Bootcamps, and Workshops
Dog Tag, Inc. offers a five-month fellowship program for post-9/11 veterans and their spouses that incorporates a Certificate in Business Administration, workshops, and hands-on experience. Startup Veterans is a network of veteran entrepreneurs who teach a 16-week program of business courses and mentoring (cost is $1,800).
V-WISE, Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, offers a three-phase program for female veterans, military spouses, and partners who are trying to start a business (cost is $75). They also run a one-day entrepreneurial training event in various cities (cost is $25).
Small Business Loans
The SBA operates the Veterans Advantage Loan Program, which means the SBA guarantees small business loans for companies at least 51% owned by veterans or their spouses. StreetShares is a veteran-run program that loans up to $100,000 to companies at least 1 year old. Accion provides small business loans to veterans, as well as other marginalized groups.
Veterans Business Fund is currently raising capital, and after that, it will provide small business loans to veteran-run startups. If you’re a military reservist called to active duty while trying to run a business, you could be eligible for the SBA’s Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. The loans are designed to keep your company afloat until you return from duty.
Bunker Labs is a tech startup incubator for veterans that features a 10-week online program to jumpstart your company and then help it grow.
Hivers and Strivers is a group of angel investors who focus on startups run by graduates of U.S. Military Academies. They invest $250,000 to $1 million per round. Task Force X Capital is a venture capital firm that invests in seed and early-stage veteran-run companies. VeteranCrowd is a platform where veteran-led businesses can receive $2 million or more in investment funding.
Associations and Networking
The National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA) hosts networking events and trainings. NaVOBA also helps certified Veteran Business Enterprises get government contracts. The National Veteran Small Business Coalition provides networking opportunities, training, news, and exposure. Vetcon is a Silicon Valley conference that connects veteran entrepreneurs with funding, held for the first time in 2017.
Free Equipment & More
The nonprofit Work Vessels for Vets gives veteran entrepreneurs free equipment, vehicles, and tools that other companies have donated.
America needs the creativity and pioneering spirit of veterans. If you’re a vet, thank you for your service. And if there are other resources I forgot, share them and continue the conversation with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.
Brent Butler is Masterplans’ founder and CEO.