Veteran-Owned Small Businesses: Here’s Where To Knock For Funding

21 Best Grants, Loans & Training Resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs in 2018

Dale Cudmore
Last Updated on October 22, 2020
Disclosure: Your support helps keep the site running! We earn a referral fee for some of the services we recommend on this page. Learn more

According to research by Bunker Labs, about 25% of transitioning veterans are interested in running their own business.

You might be one of them.

On top of general business training courses and funding options, there are many programs that were created specifically for veterans.

Taking advantage of these will improve your chances of succeeding.

On this page, I’ve put together a detailed list of all the top veteran business resources for funding, training and other support.

Incorporate your new business for $0

Don't delay starting your new business. Incfile will form your new LLC business for $0. They handle all the admin - you just pay the state fees. Start now using this special discount link.


Where to Find Funding for Veteran-Owned Businesses

Depending on the type of business you’re interested in creating and your personal financial situation, you may need help funding your business.

These resources will help fund your business idea into a reality.

Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans

SBA loans are available for anyone interested in running a small business in the United States. You can get anywhere from $500 to $5.5 million in funding, depending on what you qualify for. You can apply for a loan using the SBA Lender Match tool which just needs some basic information about your business.

lender match form
Screenshot from SBA.gov

SBA Veterans Advantage

Some of the loan offers that are available through the SBA are specifically for veterans. They come with reduced loan fees. You are eligible if you are a:

  • Veteran (but not dishonorably discharged)
  • Service-disabled veteran
  • Participant in the Transition Assistance Program (TAP)
  • Reservist
  • National Guard member
  • Spouse of any of the above

The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (MREIDL)

This is another type of loan provided by the SBA that can be applied for if a business loses an essential employee because they were called to active duty.

The StreetShares Foundation

Offers both grants and loans for veteran-owned businesses (or ones run by their spouses). There are monthly grants given away to businesses based on their social impact and the strength of their business idea. It also offers multiple types of short-term loans that are geared toward small businesses.

Hivers and Strivers

Hivers and Strivers is an angel investment group that looks to fund veteran-owned startups. More specifically, it funds companies created by graduates of the U.S. military academies. It invests in companies in a wide variety of industries, providing not only investments but expert business advice, too. According to their website, their typical round of investment is between $250,000 and $1,000,000.

Training for Veteran Business Owners

Jumping straight to funding only makes sense if you have a business idea and the knowledge on how to execute it.

If you don’t, there are several resources specifically designed to teach veterans how to run a successful business from the ground up. I’ve compiled them in this section:

Boots to Business (B2B): A free training program for veterans interested in becoming an entrepreneur. It’s offered by the SBA as a part of TAP. It begins with a two-day, in-person event that goes over the basics of business ownership at a military installation. After completing that, there are multiple online educational courses that you can enroll in.

If, for whatever reason, you don’t have access to a military installation, you can get access to the same educational resources through Boots to Business Reboot, which has additional locations throughout the country.

boots to business locations
Image via SBA.gov

Veteran’s Business Outreach Center (VBOC): There are many VBOCs located across the United States. The purpose of each center is to provide training, counseling, mentoring, and other resources to help veterans start and run a business. They will help you find the right training courses for your situation, whether it’s Boots to Business or another program. If there’s a VBOC close to you, it should be your first stop.

Bunker In a Box: This is a training program created by an independent company. Bunker in a Box consists of 14 missions that teach you about starting your own business. The biggest strength of the program is that its community consists of many successful entrepreneurs from around the country. It’s a great place to get advice and possibly grow your network.

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV): The EBV offers an intensive business boot camp for veterans and their families, and accommodates disabled veterans. They report that 72% of their graduates end up starting their own business, which makes the program even more valuable if you feel like you could use some accountability. The program is completely free for post-9/11 veterans.

There are 3 main phases of the program:

  • Phase I – self-study: An online introductory course that is moderated by faculty and graduate students from partner universities.
  • Phase II – 9-day residency: You’ll visit one of the 8 partner universities to go through a series of intense workshops which are led by successful entrepreneurs from across the country.
  • Phase III – on-going support: When you leave the in-person boot camp you’ll continue to receive support and advice from experts associated with EBV.

National Veterans Entrepreneurship Program (VEP): – This is a very similar program to EBV (above). It consists of the same 3 phases over the course of about 8 months, but specifically takes place in Oklahoma.

Veteran Entrepreneurship Jumpstart Program (VEG): – Once again, this is an almost identical service to EBV and VEP, with the same 3 phases, except that it takes place at St. Joseph’s University. It’s offered free to any veterans with an honorable discharge.

Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE): Much like the above programs, this is a 3-phase entrepreneurship course, but each phase is a bit different. The first phase is a 15-day online course, while the second in-person phase is only a 3-day event. The final phase is similar, with ongoing mentorship and advice for students launching their own business. As you can guess from the name of this program, V-WISE is for military veterans who are women. It operates with the support of the SBA and is run by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University.

vwise statistics
Image via vwise.vets.syr.edu

Dog Tag Inc. (DTI): DTI is a 5-month, in-person business fellowship offered by Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. Graduates will receive a Certificate in Business Administration. The program consists of gaining first-hand experience from real small businesses, as well as skills from professional workshops. It’s a great program if you’re looking to build some business fundamentals before jumping in and starting your own.

Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP): This is a veteran entrepreneurship training company that focuses on federal procurement. It’s only a good fit if you already own a business. They offer 3 main training programs in person 4 times a year. These all last 27 hours over 3 days.

  • VIP GROW – The core VIP curriculum focusing on helping companies expand to the federal level.
  • VIP START – For companies looking to become procurement-ready.
  • VIP INTERNATIONAL – For companies that want to begin pursuing international contracting opportunities.

Additional Veteran Business Resources

There were also a few useful resources that didn’t really fit into the first two sections but bear sharing.  This section includes resources and business opportunities for specific types of businesses and veterans.

International Franchise Association’s Veterans Franchise Transition Initiative (VetFran): VetFran is committed to helping veterans become a franchise owner. Their directory includes over 650 franchise businesses that offer significant discounts for military veterans and their spouses. They also have some training resources if you’re interested in franchises but would like to learn more first. Refer to the VetFran toolkit to see their best tools and materials.

SBA Government Contracting: Being a veteran may qualify you to bid for government contracts, depending on what your business is. This guide from the SBA clearly outlines what you need to register for before being eligible for contracting and how to maintain compliance.

Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses program (SDVOSB): Aside from general government contracts that veterans can bid for, there are also specific contracts that only certain veterans can be considered for. Currently, the government has a goal to give at least 3% of all contracting dollars to service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses.

The National Veteran Small Business Coalition (NVSBC): The NVSBC is an organization that consists of veterans who are involved with small businesses interested in government contracting. In fact, the Federal Government often consults with the NVSBC about program changes. There is a membership fee if you’d like to join the NVSBC, but in return you get:

  • Immediate notification of any changes to programs that affect businesses in the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses program or Veteran-Owned Small Businesses program
  • Networking events with other members in the organization
  • Events and conferences that are run with the goal of helping you learn how to run your business better
  • A variety of commercial benefits with partner companies

American Corporate Partners (ACP): A non-profit organization dedicated to connecting veterans with successful mentors who can help them navigate their career path, whether that’s a job or entrepreneurship. You get a handpicked mentor that has a background in what you’re interested in and who will give you advice on a variety of career-oriented topics.

American Corporate Partners stats
Image via acp-usa.org

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families: The IVMF is a hub of resources for veterans and their families. It has some resources for starting a business but mainly focuses on research, news, and resources for your career in general. There’s access to higher education resources, as well as programs for training for a new career. If you’re not 100% sure about starting a business, you’ll find a lot of alternatives to think about through IVMF.

The Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP): The VEP was created by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to provide easy access to resources by veterans. It mostly just links to the resources we have on this page, but it may also help you find additional local opportunities.

FAQ About Veteran Business Loans & Funding

To wrap things up, there are a few common questions that veteran business owners have. I’ll take the chance to answer them now:

Can you get a VA business loan?

When someone mentions a VA business loan, they are referring to one of the three types of SBA loans outlined in the first section of this guide that veterans may be eligible for.

So to answer the question – yes, you can get a VA business loan if you meet all the criteria. Most current and veteran military members are eligible for these, as are their spouses.

What is a Patriot Express loan?

Patriot Express is a pilot loan product that was started in 2007. It was created to ensure that veterans had access to small business loans with low rates and a simple, streamlined application process.

All Patriot Express loans are 7(a) loans through the SBA and can be found, as explained earlier, using the SBA’s Lender Matcher Tool.

What is a service-disabled,veteran-owned small business?

As mentioned under the additional resources section, a small portion of government contracts is set aside for service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses.

To be considered a service-disabled, veteran-owned business, the business must be at least 51% owned by a veteran who become disabled during their military service. At least one service-disabled veteran (who can be the owner) must handle the day-to-day operations.

How do I find local resources for my veteran-owned business?

The best place to start looking for funding resources for you veteran-owned business is with your local SBA chapter. You can find yours here. Another good place to look is the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ Veteran Entrepreneur Portal.

Ready to Start Your Veteran-Owned Business?

Understandably, it can be intimidating to grapple with all the details of starting your own veteran business. The resources above will provide you with plenty of help to find loans, funding, and training for your new business.

Shifting from a career in the military to running your own company is no easy task, but thankfully, there are so many companies and organizations dedicated to helping veterans succeed after their service.

Take your time doing your research, come up with a great business idea, and watch as you skyrocket toward success!