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It’s best to wait until after one’s military service is complete before starting a small business. For many veterans expecting to retire from the military, starting a business feels overwhelming. Small business loans make it easier.
The idea of opening a business helps combine the years of leadership skills veterans have developed in the military with the ability to be their own bosses.
But for many in the military community, knowing where to start can be difficult. This guide can show you some of the options that are available to you as a military veteran or spouse.
Loans for Military Veterans
We’ll break this guide into two parts — one covering loan options for military veterans and one covering options for military spouses. Some of these programs are run by the government while others are operated by nonprofit groups or private organizations.
Office of Veteran Business Development Overview
While the Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t provide loans for businesses, the Small Business Administration has a specific loan program for veterans. The program is managed by the SBA and the OVBD.
OVBD wants to ensure small business programs are available to members of our military community as well as their dependents and survivors. It aims to assist aspiring and existing veteran entrepreneurs with the resources they need, like training, counseling and mentorship.
SBA training programs are designed to help veterans succeed. These programs feature customized curricula as well as offline and online coursework.
Additional information relating to resource partners and information on small business loans for military Reserve and National Guard members with disabilities can also be found on the OVBD page.
Military veterans, service members and spouses can all take advantage of the following programs.
Veteran Institute for Procurement
The VIP is a veteran entrepreneurship program specifically targeting the procurement of federal contracts. VIP offers three accelerator-in-residence training programs for owners, principals and executives (CEOs and CFOs) of veteran-owned small businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.
Instructors of VIP courses are professional service experts, government officials and federal representatives who understand the unique challenges for VOSBs and SDVOSBs. These programs are offered at no charge for the military community. They fill up quickly, so advance registration is required.
Within the VIP program are three training tracks:
- VIP Start – Designed for veteran-owned businesses to enter or expand their businesses into the federal marketplace
- VIP Grow – Designed to help VOSBs become competitive when bidding for government contracts
- VIP International – Designed for VOSBs aiming to enter federal and commercial contracting opportunities overseas
All VIP programs use real-time, market-based instruction tailored to accelerate VOSB success.
Resources for Female Veterans
The Women Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program offers training to female military veterans, service members and military spouses as they begin to grow businesses. SBA helps fund these programs through grants from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families’s Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship and the LiftFund. Both of these organizations understand that female business owners face a specific set of challenges.
Loans for Veterans from StreetShares
StreetShares is an organization offering small business loans and lines of credit to the military community.
These loans are not designed for starting businesses. Loans through StreetShares are for companies that are already in operation. To be eligible for business loans or credit through StreetShares, your business must have been in operation for at least a year before you apply. You need a minimum of $75,000 per year in annual business revenue to qualify.
Loans for Military Spouses
As one of the most transient employment sectors in the civilian workforce, military spouses are constantly faced with reinventing their careers and repurposing their skillsets. For this reason, military spouses make excellent entrepreneurs. Small business ownership can be transportable while remaining flexible. OVBD provides the same counseling, training and capital for military spouses as it does for service members and military veterans.
Military spouses are eligible to take a set of SBA-led training programs free of charge.
To help prepare military spouses for government contract bidding, SBA and OVBD offer specific training including resources relating to women-owned small businesses, 8(a) (mentor-protege) businesses and HUBZone businesses in underserved communities.
In addition to these community-specific programs, SBA and OVBD also have curated specific training programs for groups within the broader military community.