Finding a job after transitioning from the military can be extremely challenging for veterans. As such, it’s no wonder that many veer away from the traditional employment path and opt to become their own bosses. Opening a business presents its own set of challenges, ranging from understanding business basics to finding customers.
Before taking the plunge, do some research about opening a veteran-owned business, starting with the information provided below.
When you are a veteran, there are various loan options that can, directly and indirectly, help your business. For example, va home loan rates make homeownership affordable, so you can direct your finances toward making your business grow. There are also business-specific loans that can give you the capital you need to get your business off the ground.
Before considering a loan, be sure to have a business plan drafted to outline how much money you need. Take only what you need to get started with the intention of scaling your business as you grow. Responsible borrowing, whether from veteran-specific programs or not, starts with you.
As mentioned before, knowing how to run a business at a functional level is crucial before diving into entrepreneurship. Fortunately, there is a lot of information online about how to complete daily tasks and what to consider when creating a business and marketing plan. However, taking a course targeted toward entrepreneurs and small business owners is an even better way to understand business basics.
There are numerous educational resources for both veterans and their spouses to be able to start a business. For example, Boots to Business is one of many resources available through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that includes two days of in-classroom discussion followed by eight weeks of an online follow-up course. This program—and others like it—help ensure a transitioning veteran has the business savvy they need to be successful.
To Claim Vet Status, or Not to Claim?
If you wish to do so, you can become a certified veteran-owned business. As long as 51% of shares in a business are owned by a veteran, the business is eligible. This grants you access to government contracts that are dog-eared to go to veteran-owned businesses. The application process can be long and arduous, which deters many from applying, especially if they have no interest in government contracts; at the end of the day, they recognize their service with or without a label.
Other veterans forgo announcing themselves as a veteran-owned business because they want to start fresh and have the focus be on the business itself. This is ultimately a personal choice that depends on the wants and needs of the business owner. It is worth noting that a significant number of people would rather do business with a veteran-owned organization rather than a civilian-owned business to show their support and gratitude.
Working with a Mentor
Many great business owners become successful because they work with a mentor or coach. Even the best coaches have coaches. Having someone who can guide you through the nuances of business ownership, help you set goals and direct your business, and hold you accountable can be exceptionally helpful. As a veteran, you may want to consider reaching out to a fellow vet for guidance.
Rather than working one-on-one with a coach or mentor, you may decide that you’d rather use general business resources. Your local Chamber of Commerce is a great starting point. Look for other resources specific to your situation, such as Centers for Women in Business and small business development organizations.
Running a veteran-owned business is just like running a civilian-owned business. The differences are the experiences you bring to the table as an entrepreneur and the values you hold as a veteran that are integrated into your business’s products or services. Use the available resources and enjoy your success.
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