As a small business owner, you need to focus on growing your business and take advantage of any opportunities that come your way. As a veteran, you actually have access to a few small business financing options that are available only to those who have served their country. You’ll find that there are certain loans and grants that are designated specifically for United States veterans.
According to the Small Business Administration, just over half of veteran entrepreneurs use their own savings or those of their family as business capital to start up their company. But if you don’t have enough savings to start your business or to fund it through the rocky first years, where should you turn? Landing a small business loan or even a veteran’s grant can help you build your business.
Small Business Financing Options for Veterans
Business financing can be confusing to anyone, especially with so many options out there. Here are some of the more common types of financing available to you.
With a traditional business loan, you submit a lengthy application which the lender reviews, along with your business plan, financial projections, and other information you submit about your business. If you have already been in operation for some time, this gives them actual numbers to work with and your projections will be easier to prove, but banks are very careful in their lending. You’ll also have a lot of competition and will need a strong personal credit score to qualify for one of these loans.
Anyone who is starting or running a small business is eligible to apply for a small business loan from a bank. While you shouldn’t discount these types of loans, you’ll find it is easier to narrow your search, especially if you don’t really need a large amount of funding in a lump sum.
Veteran Business Loans
Business funding for veterans is a little more specialized. First, you’ll only be in competition with other veterans. Second, you will have access to even more specialized business loans within the standard VA loan. For example, if you have a service-related disability, you may be eligible for further funding.
VA loans require you to go through one of the pro-veteran groups or apply through the Small Business Administration’s Veteran program. VA loans, despite the name, are not run by the Veterans Administration. You will need to provide information on your business and your service history in order to be eligible.
Grants are considered by many to be the holy grail of business financing. Unlike loans, which a borrower must pay back with interest, grants are awarded for a specific purpose, with no repayment requirements. However, VA grants tend to be more difficult to secure than loans. Each grant has its own specific requirements, so do your research before applying to get the best shot of being approved.
Here are a few of the top VA grant options available:
The Veteran Entrepreneur Training (VET) program grant gives you a chance to attend training sessions at the HCC Veteran Business Center in Dallas, Texas. It also offers the opportunity to receive grants for specific phases of your business, including building your idea and getting legal help, as well as the building phase, where you’ll receive aid for advertising. They also provide training about other forms of business financing.
Commonly known as an aid to finding work after being deployed, the VR&E program also offers grants to help veterans start their own businesses.
Title aside, this isn’t an actual grant. However, it showcases resources and grants available to veterans, including business grants. It’s worth keeping an eye on this site, because the offerings change frequently and have different deadlines.
Other Veteran Business Resources
Financing your business may be one of the most important parts of building your business, but there are other resources that may help you grow and develop your company, as well. For example, the Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) offers the following services:
Business Assessments and Analysis: They can help identify the weakest points in your business plan, as well as the strengths. The development centers can also help you determine what you need to start your business and help you assess your existing resources.
Pre-Business Plan Workshops: If you’re still in the planning stages, take advantage of these workshops to create the best possible business plan. A good plan will help you get those loans and grants you need.
Entrepreneurial Training: For service-disabled veterans, there are counseling and training services available through OVBD to help you overcome obstacles. They work with SBA partners to help veterans who may be struggling.
Mentorship Programs: It can be tough to start up a business and OVBD can help you stick to your business plan. They also review financial statements and help with any necessary revisions. Having this expert help can make all the difference in whether or not your business succeeds.
Your service to your country matters and now that you’re ready to start out on your journey as a veteran business owner, it’s a good idea to look for the specialty help you need. It’s tough to get a business off the ground, so take advantage of everything out there that can give you extra help to succeed.