Running A Business

How do I get Certified as a Veteran-Owned Small Business? 

Nov 27, 2019 • 6 min read
Veteran and civilian shaking hands
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      If you’re a veteran and a business owner, you’ve likely looked into a veteran-owned business certification in the past. You’ve also probably found the whole process confusing. There are several ways to get certified, and considering the substantial time commitment, it may not seem worth it to go through the process.

      However, becoming a certified veteran-owned company can help you win more business from both government agencies and corporations. The certification can also be used as a marketing tool to help you reach potential customers who want to support veterans.

      Read on for some tips on how to get certified, as well as a breakdown of the different types of certification available to veteran-owned businesses. 

      Why should I register?

      The primary reason to register your business as veteran-owned is to win more business. Specifically, both government agencies and many large corporations set aside a certain amount of business each year for veteran-owned businesses (as well as women and minority-owned firms). 

      The certification process is pretty time consuming but necessary to compete for contracts for government agencies. But if your small business focuses on selling to government agencies, it’s worth the time and effort.

      Corporations will also prioritize giving business to veteran-owned companies. For example,  nearly 15% of Fortune 1000 companies have set goals to give business to veteran-owned businesses. The process of registering as a veteran-owned supplier for corporations tends to be less time consuming than the process for government agencies. 

      Additionally, many businesses and consumers like to prioritize purchasing from veteran-owned businesses, so getting your business listed on more consumer-facing sites like can help you reach a larger group of potential customers. The process of getting listed is relatively simple compared to some of the other certification options.

      How do I qualify for a veteran-owned business certification?

      To be eligible for most veteran-owned business certifications, your business must meet the following requirements:

      • More than the majority (51%) must be owned by a veteran.
      • The veteran owner must have been honorably discharged from service.
      • The veteran owner must be involved in management and daily business operations.

      If you’re looking to qualify for the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), you must meet the above criteria. In addition, the veteran business owner will need to prove a service-connected disability (which should be included in your discharge paperwork). 

      What are the different ways to get certified?

      There are a few different levels of certification.

      Federal contracts

      To compete for national government agency contracts, you will need to get either veteran-owned small business (VOSB) certified, or SDVOSB certified via the Vets First Verification Program. The verification process includes submitting business ownership-related paperwork, your honorable discharge papers, and a federal review.

      Private contracts

      If you’re looking to be included on national registers of veteran-owned businesses to attract work from other private businesses, you simply need to register with the National Veteran Owned Business Association or the National Veteran Business Development Council as a Certified Veteran’s Business Enterprise (VBE).

      State contracts

      You can also apply for state-level certifications, which may be necessary if you’re looking to work with state agencies. Some states offer their own veteran-owned business certifications, while others use third-party certifiers like the National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC) or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

      As mentioned above, you should also consider listing your business on websites like

      Beyond specific veteran business owner programs, you are also eligible for broader contracting assistance programs with the federal government as a veteran business owner. The SBA website provides the full list of programs you may also qualify for.

      Are there other resources for veteran-owned businesses?

      Sometimes it can be helpful to connect with other veteran business owners, whether for advice while going through the certification process or just general mentoring and networking. The SBA runs outreach centers across the country where you can get in touch with other local business owners who served in the armed forces. 

      SCORE, a non-profit organization that provides resources to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses, has also pulled together educational articles for veterans.

      Looking for additional funding for your business? Learn more about business loans for veterans.

      About the author

      OnDeck is the largest online small business lender in the U.S. Since 2007, we’ve issued over $12 billion in loans for many business needs including inventory purchase, equipment acquisition, hiring, and general corporate purposes. Serving more than 700 industries throughout the country, OnDeck has been trusted by over 100,000 small businesses by providing them with a term loan or line of credit to help them build a growing and thriving enterprise.

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