Members of the military leave the Service armed with the same qualities that make a successful entrepreneur—an unbreakable work ethic, dedication to a cause and passion to help others—so it’s no surprise that one in 10 small businesses are veteran-owned, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
That number is expected to rise, says Rhett Jeppson, associate administrator, Office of Veterans Business Development for the SBA, thanks in part to President Barack Obama’s mandatory Transition Assistance Program, designed to help integrate troops back into the civilian world.
“As part of the program, the SBA offers a class on entrepreneurship and we are seeing about 15 percent of our veterans taking it,” he says. “Of the 250,000 service members that go through the program yearly, that is about 40,000 people.”
Here are a few more resources for veteran entrepreneurs.
1. Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities. The SBA, in partnership with Syracuse University, offers a one-week boot camp for post-9/11 veterans with disabilities who want to start their own businesses. The program, titled Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, is free for disabled veterans and is offered at eight locations: Cornell University, Louisiana State University, University of Connecticut, Purdue University, Texas A&M University, Florida State University, UCLA and Syracuse University.
“Students meet with faculty from the university and with local entrepreneurs,” says Jeppson. “The boot camp provides a great opportunity for veterans to learn more about how to start a business and strategies for accessing capital.”
2. Women Veterans Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship. Also in conjunction with Syracuse University, the SBA offers female veterans a three-phase small business startup program titled Women Veterans Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, or V-WISE for short. Participants begin by taking a 15-day online business course, then travel to a three-day conference where they engage in seminars on running a business.
The program ends with each veteran receiving a comprehensive list of local business resources. The cost is $75 plus travel costs to the conference.
3. SBA’s Patriot Express Loan. The Patriot Express Loan is a SBA-backed loan designed to help veterans with business startup costs, expansion costs and management expenses. Interest rates range from 2.25 percent to 4.75 percent.
“The average size of a Patriot Express loan is around $85,000,” says Jeppson. “Last year we gave out $118 million in those loans. We plan to do more in the coming years.”
Contact your neighborhood SBA office for a list of local lenders.
4. Patriot Boot Camp. This year, TechStars, a well-respected startup accelerator, launched its first Patriot Boot Camp, a three-day program designed to mentor veterans and active service members on how to launch technology businesses. According to TechStars co-founder David Cohen, another program is slated for 2013, but a date has yet to be set.
5. Veteran Fast Launch Initiative. SCORE, a volunteer-based small business mentorship program, recently launched the Veteran Fast Launch Initiative, a series of workshops for veteran entrepreneurs. The program includes free online resources and business advice from SCORE mentors.
6. VetFran. The International Franchise Association (IFA) offers VetFran, a special program for veterans interested in owning a franchise. The program includes training and mentoring opportunities as well as capital raising advice. According to IFA, a military veteran owns one out of every seven franchises.
7. Operation Endure & Grow. Syracuse University Whitman School of Management runs Operation Endure & Grow, an eight-week online training program for veterans and their family members who want to launch or grow a small business. Classes focus on topics such as marketing, sales and funding strategies.
8. Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families. Syracuse University and Florida State University offer a weeklong boot camp for family members now caring for wounded veterans, titled Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families. Applications are currently being accepted for 2013 programs.