After serving in the military, many veterans turn to small business ownership. The appeal of creating something from scratch and doing what they love has attracted millions of vets to becoming entrepreneurs in the United States. But as you know, running a business typically has a hefty price tag attached to it. Funding can include small business loans for veterans, as well as small business grants for veterans. There are pros and cons to both types of funding, and small business owners may rely on a combination of the two. We’ll cover information to help you better understand small business grants for veterans, including:
- What small business grants for veterans are
- Where to find small business grants for veterans
- How to get a small business grant for veterans
- General eligibility requirements
- Other funding options for veteran business owners
- Additional training and resources for veterans
What Are Small Business Grants for Veterans?
When it comes to finding money to help you launch or grow a business, you have a few options. One is a business loan, which needs to be paid back over time. You can also seek investors who, in exchange for giving you capital, will typically then own a piece of equity in your business. Your third option is a small business grant. Unlike a loan, a grant doesn’t usually have to be paid back. It is essentially debt-free financing that allows you to have the capital you need to start or grow a business.
Almost any business can apply for a grant, but there are some grants specifically geared towards veteran-run businesses. Given the amount of competition the average federal grant sees, you may have more of a fighting chance of getting one if the pool is limited to only veteran business owners. Grants provide capital that can be used for many purposes in a business, from covering startup costs to allowing you to hire employees. You could use the funds to buy equipment or technology that helps you work more productively—it all depends on the grant itself.
Grants to Help Vets Start a Business or Expand One
There are many government small business grants available to veterans. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look in order to find the right one for you and your business. Whether you’re seeking small business startup grants for veterans or business grants for disabled veterans, here are some resources to get a start on your search.
Grants.gov is a large database of all the federal grants available to anyone, including vets. You can search by agency, category, or eligibility. Each grant has different eligibility requirements, and only certain types of organizations may apply. It’s important to read those requirements carefully to make sure you qualify.
Another database to spend some time on is GrantWatch. Here, you can find grants from federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as foundations and corporations in each state.
Your State’s Veteran Business Outreach Center
Most states have web portals with resources for veterans living in that state. For example, California has CalVet, which lists resources for veterans and service-disabled vets, which may include self-employment grants for service-disabled veterans. You can also find local Veteran Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs) by zipcode here.
How to Get a Small Business Grant for Veterans
There are small business grants for veterans in a variety of situations, from disabled vets to those starting a brand new business. Requirements will vary, but most require you to be a veteran, reserve or transitioning active duty member of any branch of the U.S. military. Some grants are also open to spouses or children of military members.
To apply for a grant, first review the eligibility requirements to ensure you meet them. Pay attention as well to deadlines so you don’t waste time filling out paperwork for a grant that’s already closed its window for applications.
Putting Together Your Proposal
Gather the required paperwork, which might include a business plan, financial statements, or mission statements. Next, allow plenty of time to write your grant proposal and/or fill out the application. You may be asked how your business started or what you plan to do with the funds. Answer honestly, but don’t be shy about singing your company’s praise. This is your opportunity to display what is unique about your business.
Reviewing and Polishing
Finally, carefully review your application and make sure you included everything required. Proofread your proposal, maybe asking a colleague to provide a second set of eyes. You want your application to be as flawless and engaging as possible. You may also consider hiring a grant writer. This is someone who fills out grant applications for a living. They will likely be more familiar with the process and what reviewers are looking for in an application.
Other Funding Options for Veteran Business Owners
Grants are often difficult to get, with so much competition for each of them. You may still have other financing options, many of which are also geared specifically for veterans.
Business Loans for Veterans
While you may qualify for any business loan, when applying for small business loans, look for those that offer preference to vets. StreetShares, for example, offers both small business loans and lines of credit at low rates for veterans. The SBA provides a variety of small business loans for veterans, including the Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which provides capital to eligible small businesses to cover expenses it couldn’t otherwise cover because an essential employee was “called up” to active duty in the military reserve. There is also the Veteran’s Advantage Guaranteed Loans program, which provides up to $150,000 fee-free loans to veteran-owned businesses. When evaluating loan options, it’s important to look at interest rates and terms. This includes how long you will be paying back the loan and how much you will spend over the length of that loan.
Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists
Angel investments or venture capital can provide another option for financing. Hivers and Strivers is an angel investment group that funds early-stage startup companies founded and run by graduates of the U.S. Military Academies. In addition to investing capital, the organization also provides useful contacts, industry experience, and mentorship.
Resources for Female Veteran Business Owners
If you happen to be a female vet, you may have even more resources at your disposal. There are small business loans for women, as well as small business grants for women, that can help you find the capital you need to grow your business. Some cater specifically to female vets, like StreetShares Foundation’s Female Founders Veteran Small Business Award. This award gives three women $25,000 in total and provides them with the opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors. To qualify for StreetShares Foundation’s grant, you must be a veteran, reserve, or transitioning active duty member of any of the United States Armed Forces, a spouse of a military member or the child or immediate family member of a military member who died on active duty. You must be 21 and own at least 51% of the veteran-owned business. The grant is given to qualified applicants who lack the financial means to start or grow an early-stage business or non-profit.
Additional Resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs
Beyond grants and loans, there are resources that can help you plan, launch, and grow your veteran-owned business.
SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development
The Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development provides resources and small business programs as well as training, counseling, and mentorship, as well as information on Federal procurement programs for veterans. Who is eligible for these services?
- Service-disabled veterans
- Reserve component members
- Their dependents or survivors
Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses Program
The federal government has the aim to award at least 3% of all federal contracting dollars to service-disabled veteran businesses each year. The Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses program assists service-disabled veterans in securing those government contracts.Who is eligible for these services?
- Small business
- At least 51% owned and controlled by one or more service-disabled veterans
- Have one or more service-disabled veterans manage day-to-day operations and make long-term decisions
- Service-connected disability
The Warrior Rising program includes the Warrior Academy, designed to help “entrepreneurs” at every stage of business growth succeed. It also provides vets with mentoring, assistance in finding funding options, and a community of veteran business owners who offer one another support. Warrior Rising’s process:
- Intake and tracking: Phone interview to understand your background and determine where you most need help.
- Instruction: Warrior Academy: Self-paced video modules with homework and feedback.
- Mentoring: One-on-one coaching in specific areas like marketing or accounting.
- Funding opportunities: Assistance helping you find the best grants or loans.
- Warrior Community: Connects you with other “vetrepreneurs” in your area.
Patriot Boot Camp
Patriot Boot Camp provides educational small business programs, mentors, and a community of experts and peers to active duty service members, veterans, and their spouses looking to start a business. Programs offered:
- 3-day bootcamps
- Lunch and Learn sessions
Veterans Business Resource Center
Veterans Business Resource Center provides counseling and mentoring services for new veteran business owners, as well as training and webinars to continue their education. Services offered:
- Marketing plan assistance
- Training and events
- Financial analysis
- Business strategy
- Government contracting assistance
Another entrepreneurship program, V-WISE IGNITE targets women veterans looking to start a business. The one-day training event provides resources and support to help them on their path. Who is eligible for these services?
- National Guard and Reserve components
- Active duty women service members of any military branch, including National Guard and Reserve components
- Women spouses/same-sex life partners of above (including widowed spouses/partners)
VR&E Self-Employment Track
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a program, Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) Self-Employment Track, that provides assistance to veterans with service-connected disabilities or employment barriers. The program assists in creating a business plan, analyzing your business concept, and providing you with the resources you need to succeed. Who is eligible for these services?
- Service member or veteran with an employment barrier or handicap
- Service-connected disability makes it hard for you to prepare for, obtain, and maintain suitable employment
Boots to Business
Boots to Business (B2B) is a program created by the SBA and Office of Veterans Business Development, and it provides courses to help vets become successful business owners.Who is eligible for these services?
- Transitioning service members (including National Guard and Reserve)
- Their spouses on military installations worldwide
The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV)
The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) program is offered free of charge to post-9/11 veterans and their families. It targets businesses in early-growth mode, providing entrepreneurship and business management training. Programs available:
- EBV Accelerate: A bootcamp-style program that provides insight and education on financial, management, marketing, and strategic planning challenges established businesses encounter.
- EBV Program: cutting edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and business management for companies in early growth mode.
- EBV-Families Program: Provides the same training to family of qualified veterans.
Vets First Verification Program
If you are interested in bidding on government contracts, explore the Vets First Verification Program. Run through the Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), this program gives vets priority when bidding on federal and state government contracts, as well as better access to capital and tax relief. Who is eligible for these services?
- Veteran owns 51% or more of the company
- Veteran has full control over the day-to-day management, decision-making, and strategic policy of the business
- Veteran has managerial experience
- Veteran is the highest-paid person in the company
- Veteran works in the business full time
- Veteran holds the highest officer position in the company
Finding the Right Grant to Skyrocket Your Business
Small business grants for veterans provide a unique opportunity: access to capital free of charge that can help you realize your entrepreneurial dreams. Realize that the grant process may be slow, so it’s important to start your homework early to find the grants that you qualify for. In general, you can apply for and accept multiple grants. You can also combine multiple financing options to launch or expand your business. This can mean a combination of grants and loans, and possibly investors as well. It’s a good idea to evaluate all funding sources to find what works best for you. Learn about the financing options from Lantern's network of lenders that are available to you.
This article was republished with the permission of Sofi (seen here). Editor’s note: At Lantern, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, we occasionally feature content that includes information about our partners and their products or services. We do not provide, endorse, or guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendations—and our opinions are our own.
Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $300,000 in student loans with his wife in less than five years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, being outside, traveling, and helping others with their finances! I got serious with money when I used Personal Capital to track my finances.