Veterans own 2.52 million businesses in the United States, primarily in the finance, insurance, transportation, and warehousing industries. Women own 15.2% of those businesses, but organizations and lenders are working to increase that percentage.
Women’s Veteran’s Alliance has created an online directory of businesses owned by female veterans, the Veteran Women’s Enterprise Center offers networking and training events, and Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship has a three-step training program. If you’re a female veteran, these resources can help you chart a path to business success. But they can’t help fund it.
The reality is that all businesses need capital – whether they are a start-up or in a growth stage. Whether you have recently returned from a tour of duty or have been stateside for a while, the good news is that you can find training and capital earmarked for your business – you just have to know where to look.
Networking and Training Resources
Sometimes business is not about what you know, but about who you know. These organizations help veterans network with each other and other businesses interested in supporting veteran-owned companies.
National Veteran Owned Business Association
Whether you’re looking for a mentor, or want to make contacts with business people who might need your services, the NaVOBA is a great place to start. They connect corporations with veteran-owned businesses, sponsor networking, and training events, and have partnered with 135 of the world’s largest corporations to offer opportunities to veteran-owned businesses.
Veterans Business Network
Check out the Veterans Business Network’s website for a directory of other veteran-owned businesses. They also have a hiring network, deals available for just veteran-owned businesses, and corporate contacts that you can meet through networking events.
Center for Women’s Veterans
The Center for Women’s Veterans hosts events provides information on available benefits and helps women veterans find resources in their areas.
Hivers and Strivers
This angel investment group works with graduates of military academies. They invest in early-stage companies and start-ups. You can submit your idea and apply online.
If you are a disabled veteran, the Veterans Corp has put together a robust group of services to help you launch a small business. They will conduct feasibility studies on your business plan, as well as help with business plan development. They offer coaching services and will also put you in contact with an NGO partner to support your growth.
Women Veterans Rock
Women Veterans Rock has an annual summer leadership retreat, which includes women in business. They also hold local events.
Operation Boots to Business
This organization helps veterans make the transition from soldier to a business owner with their “Boots to Business” training program. After you’ve completed the program, they have follow-up support and additional classes you can take.
The Vets Group
The Vets Group provides business and IT training to veterans. They focus on the information technology field and have teachers, educators, and corporate partners lined up to help. Their training academy is a Qualified Information Technology Training Provider.
Veteran Women, like many on this list, offers training and networking for female small business owners who are also veterans.
Small Business Loan Resources
Now that you have some networking and training contacts let’s talk about how you can get funding as a veteran and women-owned business. Here are some of your top options.
Veteran Small Business Award
Street Shares offers a Veteran Small Business Award. To apply, you must be at least 21 years old and active, reserve, or transitioning out of active duty. The business must be 51% veteran-owned. The first-place winner receives $15,000, the second-place winner $6,000, and the third-place winner $4,000.
Navy Federal Credit Union
If you served in the navy, you can qualify for a personal loan through the navy federal credit union. The loan’s rates might be lower than a credit card or business line of credit, and you could use the funds to support your business.
NavyArmy Community Credit Union
The Navy Army Community Credit Union grants small business loans to members who live in Texas. You must visit a branch or call for details. If you are looking for something similar in your area, search online for credit unions who specifically serve the Armed Forces.
The Jonas Project
The Jonas Project offers all a variety of help for women veterans, including training, mentorship, and funding prep. While they do not lend directly, funding preparation helps you put together a loan application and successfully obtain capital. Check out The Jonas Project website for more information.
Veterans Business Fund
The Veterans Business Fund is a non-profit organization currently in the fundraising stage. While they are not currently lending or accepting applications, they plan on providing veterans with supplemental capital required to help veterans secure a small business loan. Keep an eye on their website so you can apply when they do begin lending.
Shield Funding provides business funding to veterans and women who have bad credit. The application process is quick and simple, and you’ll be well on your way to building your thriving business.
While this list is as comprehensive and up-to-date as possible, programs constantly change as funding and resources change. Many of these organizations are local in nature, so you are advised to search for a similar organization in your area. Your local Veteran’s Affairs office can likely help with your search.
Starting or growing a small business isn’t easy, but neither is serving in the armed forces. You have already proven that you have the grit and determination to serve, there is no doubt you can apply those character traits to becoming a small business owner.