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With the rise of crowdfunding and the popularity of the startup investment show “Shark Tank,” starting a business may be more attractive than ever. And, as a servicemember or veteran, you have access to unique programs and benefits for starting a business.
Boots to Business
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers Boots to Business, a two-step training program that is meant to prepare veterans for starting their own business. It consists of two parts, the first being a two-day introductory course on business fundamentals and feasibility evaluations (analyses of projects to determine attainability and profitability). Afterward, you can take the eight-week Foundations of Entrepreneurship course, which reviews the basics of creating a feasible business plan. If you’re unable to attend the courses in person, the Boots to Business program is also available online.
Another way for servicemembers and veterans to learn more about running a small business is through reimbursed courses offered by Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs). If you’re eligible for any of the following VA Education Programs, these courses are free of charge:
- Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD)
- Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)
- Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program
- The Post-9/11 GI Bill
The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV)
This nonprofit program, designed for post-9/11 veterans and their families, provides experiential and small business management training without using up any GI Bill benefits. Those who attend the boot camp start with a 30-day online course on the basics of business and entrepreneurship. Next is a nine-day residency at an EBV university, with courses led by accomplished entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship educators from across the nation. After graduating from residency, students receive 12 months of support through the EBV Technical Assistance Program (EBV-TAP), a network of professors, entrepreneurs and others who have offered to lend their knowledge to aspiring entrepreneurs.
The Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program (SDVOSB)
If you’re a veteran with a disability due to injury or illness incurred in or aggravated by military service and you’ve started a small business, then you may qualify for the SDVOSB. Its primary purpose is to award federal contracts for small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans. For a business to qualify, it must align with the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) definition of a small business, be at least 51 percent owned by service-disabled veterans, and be managed and operated by a service-disabled veteran (or a spouse or caregiver if they cannot due to disability). The veteran must also hold the highest officer position in the small business.
U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans
The programs above should set you up to successfully apply for funding, such as a loan guaranteed by the SBA. A variety of SBA loans are available for specific purposes and generally have low down payments and interest rates. To apply for a small business loan guaranteed by the SBA, you must go through a third party, such as Navy Federal Credit Union. Before applying for a loan, prepare the following information:
- Personal background, such as your previous addresses and educational background
- Past management or business experience, especially if the loan is for a new business
- A business plan that includes a complete set of projected financial statements
- A personal credit report from all three major credit rating agencies
- A business credit report if your business is already operational
- Income tax returns from the previous three years
- Personal financial statements
- One year of personal and business bank statements
And, depending on the loan program, you may need the following:
- Collateral if your risk factor is high
- Legal documents, such as business licenses and copies of contracts