For many people who leave military service, the next logical step is becoming an entrepreneur.
There are federal, state and private sector resources for veterans to help them learn about operating a business, and, when their companies are up and running, get financing help, mentoring and government contracting opportunities. Entrepreneurship is appealing to many veterans; more than 6% of all veterans were self-employed in 2018, and 3% of those who served during or after the first Gulf War in 1990 were self-employed, according to the Labor Department. Many veterans want to start businesses in industries related to their service work, especially those who developed or used technical skills while in the military.
The Small Business Administration’s website includes a section with information about entrepreneurship resources for veterans, current service members and spouses; it can be found at www.sba.gov/offices/headquarters/ovbd/resources.
The resources include training programs, like Boots to Business, which teaches the basics of running a company to current service members; the courses are given on military installations. A version of the course aimed at veterans, reservists and spouses, Boots to Business/Reboot, is offered for veterans at locations throughout the country. You can learn more at https://sbavets.force.com/s/.
The SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development has Veterans Business Outreach Centers that offer training, counseling and membership. There are approximately 20 centers; you can find more information about them at www.sba.gov/offices/headquarters/ovbd/resources/1548576. Small Business Development Centers, also sponsored by the SBA, may also have programs to help train and counsel veterans. You can find one at www.sba.gov/local-assistance/find.
The government has what’s called a set-aside program that aims at awarding 3% of federal contracting dollars to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. Set-aside programs are designed to give challenged or disadvantaged owners a better chance of landing a federal contract; there are also programs for women-owned businesses and socio-economically disadvantaged companies. There’s more information for veterans at www.sba.gov/federal-contracting/contracting-assistance-programs/service-disabled-veteran-owned-small-businesses-program.
SCORE, the organization that gives free counseling to small businesses, has programs and workshops designed for veterans. Visit www.score.org. Mentoring is also available from American Corporate Partners, an organization sponsored by some of the country’s largest corporations and organizations; visit www.acp-usa.org.
Some states have resources, departments or offices for veterans who own or are starting businesses. And some franchise companies give veterans discounts on franchise fees, the money paid to buy a franchise. Some franchisors will waive the fees altogether. A search of the internet for “franchise” and “veteran” will help you find them.