For many, the choice is clear. They learned or sharpened skills during their time of service and those skills make them eminently employable. Combined with their ability to work in a team, follow direction, and lead, you see why many veterans are in high demand by employers upon discharge.
That said, many of those same traits are also the ones needed to start a business: Taking the initiative, creating a plan, following through, etc. So yes, veterans also make great entrepreneurs, and maybe that is why they are so successful at it. According to the Census Bureau, just about 10 percent of all small businesses in this country are owned by veterans (roughly 2.5 million), and those business employ some 5 million Americans.
Help for Veterans Starting a Business
If you have a veteran-owned business, or want to start one, the good news is that there is a lot of help available, much of it free.
Here are some of the best:
- Free online introduction to veteran entrepreneurship course: Bunker in a Box is a great resource. Embark on 14 “missions” that include video, expert commentary, related articles and track your progress. According to Bunker CEO Todd Conner, “The Bunker in a Box is designed to be a first-stop for exploring entrepreneurship.”
- Patriot Boot Camp (PBC): Speaking of training, the purpose of PBC is “to assemble and activate an inclusive community that advances veterans and military spouses in their mission to become creators, innovators and entrepreneurs leading the new economy.” Programs are held in various cities nationwide.
- University training: The leader for in-person, live entrepreneurship training is the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University (in conjunction with a host of other major universities.) Here you will find an online 30-day curriculum, followed by a 9-day in-person session at the university. Participants also receive follow-up support and mentoring.
- Women entrepreneurship training: IGNITE is also operated by IVMF (and the SBA.) Designed especially for female veterans, IGNITE is a one-day entrepreneurship training event offered in cities across the country.
- Even more free training: VettoCEO is a program exclusively for verified members of the military and veterans. Designed and facilitated by veteran entrepreneurs, the course is offered online “so that anyone, anywhere can participate in a well-designed, collaborative online environment.”
- Small Business Administration programs: Not surprisingly, the SBA has a lot of resources for the veteran entrepreneur. Check out its Operation Boots to Business program, whose goal is to provide business training to military service personnel who are in transition to civilian life.
- The Veterans Administration, Veteran Entrepreneur Portal: Part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, this site offers many programs to help veteran entrepreneurs - everything from starting to financing to growing a business.
- Free money: The Street Shares Foundation gives away combined $25,000 every year for veteran entrepreneurship.
- Even more money: If you need investments in the six-figures, check out the veteran-focused angel fund, Hivers & Strivers.
- Contracting opportunities: The National Veteran Owned Business Association, NaVOBA’s mission is to create corporate contracting opportunities for America’s Veteran’s and Service-Disabled Veteran’s Business Enterprises through certification, advocacy, outreach, recognition and education.
So yes, with so much help available, it is a great time to be, or to want to be, a veteran entrepreneur.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss.
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