More than 180,000 service members return to civilian life each year. What’s next? For many, the answer is starting a small business. In fact, 9 percent of small businesses in the U.S. are veteran-owned.

If you’re a former service member or a veteran thinking about starting a small business, take advantage of these resources.

Veterans Business Outreach Centers

The SBA offers Veterans Business Outreach Centers to provide business training and counseling services to budding entrepreneurs. This is your first place to go if you’re thinking of starting a business — 15 organizations work together to provide programming! Services include concept assessments, pre-business plan workshops, feasibility analyses, and assistance and training in international trade and franchising.

Boots to Business

Ready to get started? Enroll in Boots to Business, an SBA training program that’s part of the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Military institutions in the U.S. and around the world — 165, to be exact — offer a two-day curriculum that covers business concepts and planning. Transitioning service members and their spouses may then take the Foundations of Entrepreneurship Course, an eight-week online program for developing an actionable business plan.

Become a certified service-disabled, veteran-owned business

If you’re a service-disabled veteran, you can register for additional benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs. By submitting information about your business and being deemed a service-disabled, veteran-owned business, you may be able to get preference for some government contracts. The certification can also help attract clients.

If your business doesn’t pursue — or doesn’t plan to pursue — government contracts at the federal or state level, it may not be worth the trouble of applying for certification. Instead, you may want to participate in another business program for veterans, or note your veteran status in marketing materials.

SBA-backed funding

Need additional capital to get your business started? Check out the SBA’s Veteran Advantage loan programs for reduced fees on approved 7(a) loans, the most commonly awarded type of SBA loan. You may also find veteran-focused banks and credit unions more likely to grant loans to veterans.

Your city or state (including your SCORE chapter)

Don’t forget to check local and state offices for resources especially for veteran entrepreneurs. Your nearest Veteran Business Outreach Center will know of funding, contracting, or promotional opportunities offered in your area. Visit your local Small Business Development Office and Chamber of Commerce to learn how those organizations are supporting local small businesses — including those with veteran status.

And don’t forget your SCORE chapter. Many of our volunteer mentors are veterans themselves, or have worked with dozens of veteran-owned business owners through the years. Through one-on-one mentoring and free online and local workshops, SCORE volunteers help veterans, former service members, and their families start and grow businesses every day.

Take Laurie Sayles Artis, of Civility Management Solutions, for example. After 10 years in the United States Marines and extensive experience managing government contracts, she decided to open her own consulting business. Her mentors helped her prepare her 8(a) Business Development Program application so her firm could gain a competitive edge when applying for government contracts.

Meanwhile, 100% disabled Navy veteran Al Kroell and his wife Christy are thriving in their new careers running a laser engraving and custom plaque business. The Kroell’s mentor worked with the couple for more than two years, and ChristyAl Plaques & Engraving turned a profit in its very first month. Four years later, it’s still going strong.

Are you a transitioning service member thinking about starting or purchasing a small business? Contact a SCORE mentor today!

About the Author(s)

Bridget Weston

Bridget Weston is the Acting CEO of the SCORE Association, where she provides executive leadership and works directly and collaboratively with the Board of Directors to establish the vision and direction of SCORE.

Veteran on phone