woman soldier in a meeting with a man
Veterans looking to transition into entrepreneurship may find that they have advantages over the average person — from their leadership skills to special training programs. — Getty Images/SDI Productions

In many ways, the approach for starting a business is the same for a veteran as for any other entrepreneur. You need to have the right idea at the right time and know the pre-launch steps to take to be set up for success.

As a veteran, however, you may discover that you have a couple of advantages non-veterans do not — namely, your military experience and programs designed to support you in your business endeavor.

There are a lot of details in starting a business. To help you organize your plans, we’ll look at these four areas where veterans may find they have some advantages: qualifications, training, funding, and verifications/certifications.

Veterans' unique qualifications

Let’s start by assessing your qualifications through the lens of your military experience, as this could be a big differentiator. The skills and leadership you developed during your time in service may have uniquely prepared you to start a business. As you consider becoming an entrepreneur, reflect on your military training:

  • What motivated you to serve your country?
  • What skills have you developed?
  • What type of leader have you become?
  • How have you learned more about human interactions?
  • What have you learned about strategy?
  • How did you build endurance and perseverance?
  • In what ways did discipline make you better at your work?

Each of these questions may help you recognize strengths that qualify you to launch a business. Being an entrepreneur requires drive and commitment, as well as an understanding of how to interact with people and how to lead employees. It also takes the right attitude to get through the tough times and believe in yourself and your team.

Once you’re confident in your ability to be a successful entrepreneur, combine it with the right business idea and you can take steps to create your business.

[Read: The Step-by-Step Startup Guide: How to Start a Business]

The skills and leadership you developed during your time in service may have uniquely prepared you to start a business.

Programs to help you succeed

In recognition of your service and the value you’ll bring to the business world, there are many government, academic and private-sector programs for veteran entrepreneurs. These resources help you learn, get funding, and access contracts and customers. Here are a few categories to get you started:

Training

Whether you’re just beginning or already running a company, you may benefit from entrepreneurial programs. Some resources include:

  • The Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) is the liaison to the Small Business Association for veteran-owned businesses. They offer trainings as well as counseling, mentorship, and oversight of veteran-related federal procurement programs. Trainings include Boots to Business held on military bases, the Boots to Business Reboot offered to veterans in their communities, and other programs designed for women veterans and service-disabled veterans. The OVBD has Veterans Business Outreach Centers around the country.
  • The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans operated by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University helps post-911 veterans and their family members develop competencies to start and sustain a business. It’s offered at no cost to approved applicants.

Funding

You may find the right loan through the SBA’s Lender Match site, but there are also funding programs available to veterans, such as:

  • The Veteran Fee Relief, established under the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2015, waives the upfront guaranty fees on SBA Express Loans for veteran-owned businesses.
  • The StreetShares Foundation offers the Veteran Small Business Award Grant Program. This contest for veteran entrepreneurs features finalists on the foundation’s website, three of whom get a chance to pitch their business idea at a live competition. Prizes range from $4,000 to $15,000.
  • The PenFed Foundation Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program provides veteran-owned startups with seed capital and mentors.

Verification and certification

You can officially establish that yours is a veteran-owned business in order to access specific contracts and customers. Two ways to do this are:

While it is great to have so many resources, it may feel a bit overwhelming. Another support for veteran entrepreneurs is the VA’s Veteran Entrepreneurial Portal. This organizes a plethora of federal resources on one page and can be a good place to start.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published October 24, 2019