Self-Employed

In-depth articles about marketing, finance, management, customer service and more!



Working In The Trenches

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Military Veterans Get Entrepreneurial Help
By Mark Landsbaum

What’s it take to start a business? Courage, for one thing. Discipline. Perseverance. The ability and willingness to learn new skills quickly.

If that’s not the perfect description of a military veteran, it’s pretty close.

About 22 percent of all military veterans start or buy new businesses, or consider ventures of their own, according to a 2004 U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) survey “Entrepreneurship and Business Ownership in the Veteran Population.” The study found: 

  • More veterans started or planned new businesses than bought or planned to buy existing ones 
  • More than a third found active-duty skills directly relevant to their businesses 
  • About 52 percent of service-disabled veterans run home businesses, compared to 38 percent of veteran businesses at large

Moreover, of the nation’s 24 million veterans, 4 million are small-business owners according to the SBA.

While the military hones traits for success, many veterans need assistance to launch viable micro-businesses. Free and low-cost options exist. Here’s a roundup of services available for vets.

SBA

The SBA helps start or expand veterans’ businesses with loan guarantees, venture capital assistance, entrepreneurial development, government contracting assistance and Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Vets can learn more at www.sba.gov/vets or by calling 202-205-6773.

A new SBA loan program, the Patriot Express Pilot Loan Initiative, was instituted in 2007. It provides veterans’ assistance modeled after the agency’s popular Express Program that provides financial, procurement and technical assistance to small businesses. Information regarding eligibility is available at www.sba.gov/patriotexpress.

The program accounts for much of the $250 million in business loan guarantees for 2,800 veterans and their spouses over the past two years. It features SBA’s fastest turn-around time for loan approvals of up to $500,000, with the SBA guaranteeing as much as 85 percent of the loan and rates generally from 2.25 percent to 4.75 percent above prime. Loans are not restricted to startups. They can also be used for expanding existing businesses.

The SBA also coordinates other services for veterans, including:

Veterans Business Development Officers

These advisors in SBA district offices help prepare and plan new businesses. Use this Web site to locate a district office near you: www.sba.gov/VETS/reps.html.

The Veterans Business Outreach Program (VBOP)

VBOP provides entrepreneurial development services including business training, counseling, mentoring and referrals through participating SBA partners in Veterans Business
Outreach Centers (VBOCs), www.sba.gov/VETS/vbop.html.

Program partners for the outreach centers include SBA district offices, SCORE chapters and Small Business Development Centers. These partners coordinate through VBOCs to provide counseling for business plans and entrepreneurial workshops.

All veterans may work directly with a business counselor, who can refer them to partner programs and inform them of other services in their area. Veterans with a service connected disability qualify for free or reduced fees at VBOC workshops.

VBOCs don’t lend money or provide grants, but assist in assessing business needs and requirements, such as developing a five-year business plan and analyzing a plan’s strengths and weaknesses to determine the probability of success. VBOC review of monthly financial statements helps determine whether a business plan needs revision. VBOCs also assist with international trade, franchising, Internet marketing and accounting issues.

VetGazette

Veterans can plug in to a network of organizations by subscribing to the SBA VetGazette. The quarterly e-mail newsletter provides information about all SBA programs and services, resources and
small-business issues. To subscribe, go to http://web.sba.gov/list/. Scroll down the page and check the box for VetGazette.

SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business

As an affiliate of the SBA, SCORE launched a new Web site in 2008 that offers mentoring and resources to veterans and military community entrepreneurs. The site, www.score.org/veteran.html, is designed for veterans who are seeking to start or build a small business. SCORE lists more than 30 organizations and groups providing training and assistance. Other information includes a directory of programs for returning veterans in each of the 50 states.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization

This office helps entrepreneurs do business with the VA, which must place a portion of its contracts and purchases with small and disadvantaged businesses. Learn more at www.va.gov/osdbu or call 800-949-8387.

The Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE)

The CVE assists VA contracting offices to identify veteran-owned businesses and instruct them about selling goods and services to government agencies. The CVE works with the SBA Veterans Business Development Officers and Small Business Development Centers nationwide regarding veterans’ business financing, management and technical assistance needs.

CVE provides veterans with information, such as where to get a business license and how to sell goods and services to the government. The CVE Web portal, www.vetbiz.gov, is packed with information to help vets connect with other agencies, find financing and learn about operating a business.

Cooperative Efforts

In some states, federal veterans’ assistance is supplemented by nonprofit programs. For example, the California Disabled Veteran Business Alliance, www.cadvbe.org, was formed after the state legislature’s establishment of the Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise.

Likewise, SCORE has teamed up with the California National Guard to provide business counseling to small-business owners called to active military duty. A central directory of state National Guards can be found at the National Guard Association of the United States Web site, www.ngaus.org.

Another source for National Guard and reserve members is the SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development Web site for small-business owners called to active duty. It’s located at www.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbaprograms/reservists/index.html.

Other Organizations

Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV)

This 14-month program offers courses in financing, legal issues, marketing, business plan development and more. It’s free to veterans who have served on active duty after September 2001 and who have a “service-connected disability” as designated by the Veterans Administration. The program is available at Florida State University, Syracuse University, Texas A&M University and UCLA. Specific dates for the EBV vary by university. For more information, go to http://whitman.syr.edu/ebv.

The National Veterans Business Development Corporation

Commonly known as The Veterans Corporation (www.veteranscorp.org), this federally chartered nonprofit
provides veterans access to capital and markets, as well as networking opportunities. The Veterans Corporation, through its partners, offers financing of up to $2 million. For veteran-owned businesses contracting with the government, short-term financing also is available to pay expenses.

The Veterans eCommerce Center, an online community of buyers and sellers, provides Web-based selling of products and services, including purchasing from other veterans.

Two e-commerce options serve veterans: The Veterans Purchase Net system describes products and services and allows sellers to submit bids and proposals. The Veterans Pipeline provides federal contracting research with daily e-mails regarding bids, proposals and requests for information from agencies and companies.

The Veterans Corporation also provides merchant credit card services for veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. It offers discounted tax preparation and bookkeeping services as well as online and traditional classroom education for business skills. One-on-one counseling is available in eight regional hubs (Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Denver, Flint, Philadelphia, San Diego and St. Louis).

International Franchise Association (IFA)

The IFA’s VetFran Program helps veterans become franchise owners. More than 100 franchise companies provide financial incentives for veterans to acquire a franchise with a more affordable down payment.
The VetFran Program cooperates with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans Corporation, the SBA and military and veteran organizations. More than 160 participating companies have agreed to help qualified veterans acquire franchises by offering incentives unavailable to other investors, including up to 25-percent franchise fee discounts, up to $5,000 in cash discounts and assistance with financing.

For information, go to www.franchise.org. Click the link “Franchises for Veterans.”

Association for Service Disabled Veterans (ASDV)

This nonprofit organization promotes entrepreneurship for service-disabled and prisoner-of-war veterans.
Its programs and services include legislative and legal advocacy, nformation access and business development. ASDV helps members find contracting and procurement opportunities in the government and private sector. Find out more at www.asdv.org.

The Veterans Business Network

This national membership association of veteran business owners, executives and entrepreneurs seeks to grow members’ businesses through member-to-member sales and preferential treatment from business partners. Annual membership is $150 and open to veterans of all branches of the military, retired or active reserve and National Guard members. The Web site is www.veteransbusinessnetwork.com.

The Veterans Business Directory

This is an extensive, privately compiled directory “exclusively for businesses and organizations that support U.S. military veterans.” The Web site at www.theveteransbusinessdirectory.comfeatures dozens of categories. It includes a Veterans Business Guide that links to sites offering loans for veterans and organizations that provide advice on how to do business with the U.S. government. The free listing directory also links to existing veteran-operated businesses and business-to-business opportunities that serve veterans.

Business.gov

This general business Web portal provides a list of resources designed for entrepreneurial veterans. Go to the Web site www.business.gov/start/veteran-owned for information about small-business assistance, financing and government contracting—all for vets.

Military.com

This all-inclusive military Web site located at http://business.military.com/veteran also offers a Veteran Business Center that seeks to “leverage the power of 3.6 million vet-owned businesses” with advice on starting, expanding and connecting with other veteran business owners. Topics range from franchising to taxes, legal concerns to marketing.

The Veteran Owned Business Directory

A directory-oriented online resource, The Veteran Owned Business Directory at www.veteranownedbusiness.com was launched on Veterans Day 2008. The site is billed as “a comprehensive, user friendly directory of small, medium and large businesses owned by veterans and service-disabled veterans.” The goal is to provide products and services “made by, sold by or serviced by United States military veterans.”

Lawyers for Warriors

Legal services often are an overlooked expense when starting a business, but can be essential in avoiding costly mistakes. Some state bar associations offer veterans pro bono advice or connect them with lawyers who specialize in veteran-related matters.
The Web site Lawyers for Warriors at http://lawyersforwarriors.blogspot.com provides links to legal assistance providers for military personnel in 21 states and the District of Columbia.


 

Mark Landsbaum is a freelance writer and the author of “Streetwise Low-Cost Marketing: Savvy Strategies for Maximizing Your Marketing Dollars” (Adams Media, 2004).


Navigate Your Business Taxes

Learn tax filing tips to save money!
Get Tax Help

Get Publicity for Your Business


Your business could be featured in NASE's member magazine, SelfInformed. Fill out the form and let us know if you are interested. Don't miss this unique opportunity!
Get Publicity