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Small Business Grants for Veterans

Table of Contents

  • Best Grants for Veterans Looking to Start a Business
  • Investment Resources
  • Additional Resources for Veteran-owned Businesses
  • Growing Your Veteran-owned Business

Multiple organizations, including the U.S. government, award small business grants for veteran entrepreneurs looking to finance their business as they transition back to civilian life.

Unlike business loans offered for veterans, entrepreneurs don’t have to pay grants back. This makes them an attractive option to finance your business — if you qualify. Many grant programs have strict guidelines for who is eligible and what you can use the funding for. But if you’re lucky enough to obtain one, it can change the future of your small business.

Best Grants for Veterans Looking to Start a Business

If you’re a veteran transitioning back into civilian life and want to start a business, you know how much it takes to cover the startup costs. Many turn to loans, but there are a few grants for veteran-owned startups that can get you the funding you need without taking on debt. 

Warrior Rising

The vision of the nonprofit group Warrior Rising is to give veterans small business help through education, mentorship and financing. Their focus is on fledgling startups, providing grants for veterans who want to start a business.

Warrior Rising’s business creation process has six phases, taking you from an entrepreneur with a great idea to an educated small business owner with a fully-funded startup.

What to Expect

1. Submit: Fill out an application and validate your info through a meeting over the phone.
2. Selection: Take part in a more in-depth interview to assess your candidacy for the program.
3. Qualification course: Refine your business plan to create a solid, executable plan with a mentor.
4. Group designation: Final review of the application. If accepted, you’ll be placed into one of two groups:

  • Tier 1: Featured on the Warrior Rising website
  • Tier 2: Introduction to program investors

5. Operational fund: Mentor helps you through the process of receiving and creating a plan to use the funding.
6. Mission execution: Continued mentorship as part of Warrior Rising family. You’ll be expected to help future participants after you grow your business.

The initial grant the program provides gives you what you need to establish your business. Funds can be used to cover the initial costs of equipment, licensing, marketing and other common startup expenses. 

Apart from the initial grant to start your business, Warrior Rising offers continued help in accessing the funding you need. Through crowdfunding, they use their exposure and network of veteran-focused philanthropists to raise money. Donations can also be made as loans or investments, giving you opportunities to receive funding in exchange for either monthly repayments or stock in your company.

StreetShares Foundation

Founded by two veterans, small business lender StreetShares provides startup grants to  veteran entrepreneurs.

The program is set up like a contest. You’ll first apply to participate, proving your eligibility status and giving StreetShares a view of your potential business. If accepted, you’ll need to receive enough public votes to be in the group of 32 finalists.

Your publicly-viewed profile must include a video submission. The video you produce must include the following:

  • Your business’s impact on the military community
  • Personal story
  • Business idea and potential for success
  • What customer need/ market you’re looking to fill
  • Team and business history (if applicable)
  • How you’ll use the funding and how it can impact the community

If you’re selected as a finalist, you’ll compete at their Military Influencers Conference to win one of four veteran-owned small business grants awarded by StreetShares.

The grant prizes are as follows:

 

First place: $15,000

Second place: $5,000

Third place: $2,500

Fourth place: $2,500

General Business Grants for Veterans

If you’re already an established business, there are some other options. While these small business grants aren’t specifically for veterans, they are great programs and, sometimes, can favor veteran-owned businesses. 

FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

If you’ve been in business for at least six months, you can enter the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest.

The program is set up as a contest in which eligible for-profit businesses are voted on by the public. In all, 10 winners are awarded up to $25,000 each.

What makes it such a great financing option for veterans is the attention voters pay towards veteran-owned businesses. Although the contest is open to anyone, voters may gravitate towards veterans as a way to thank them for their service.

USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grants (RBEG)

If you operate your business in a rural area with less than 50,000 inhabitants, you could be eligible for funding through the USDA RBEG program. The purpose of these grants is to promote the growth of small businesses in rural parts of the country. 

Awards range between $10,000-500,000, but applications are given priority if they ask for between $10-50,000. You can utilize these funds for multiple projects, including purchasing commercial real estate, equipment or just raising working capital.

Government awarding money for small business grant for veterans.

Government Grants

Through the grant database you can find a complete list of all government awards. This includes small business grants for disabled veterans and other specific types of financing for veterans that can increase your odds of obtaining the funding you need.

Each grant will have its own set of guidelines and restrictions, so you’ll have to do your research to find the perfect match. Generally, government grants require a clear and well-written proposal. You’ll want to make sure you have the time and resources to put forth your best application when seeking federal funding.

Small business tip: Before you can apply for grants through the federal government, you must register with the System for Award Management (SAM) website and apply for a DUNS number. After that, you can create your account on the grants.gov site and begin your search.

Investment Resources

Investor funding requires you to give up equity in your company. If you’re in a position to sacrifice a small part of your business, it can be a great option for financing startups or business expansion.

If you have had trouble finding investors that can get you the amount of capital you need, some options favor veteran-owned businesses.

Small Business Investment Companies (SBICs)

SBICs are a great opportunity for any small business owner, including veterans. SBICs are privately owned and licensed by the SBA. They fund veteran-owned businesses through a combination of investor dollars and government loans. 

Funding from SBICs vary, but they generally issue investments in the $100,000-250,000 range. Unlike some venture capitalist firms, SBICs are more open to investing in different types of companies in any stage of growth. This makes them a great alternative to grants for veteran-owned startups.

Hivers and Strivers

The Hivers and Strivers angel investment group offers funding for veteran-owned startups in the early phases of establishing a business. Graduates of military academies are eligible.

The program is largely funded by investors who have served in the military. The goal is to use their success to help others who are struggling with the same issues they faced when they were starting up themselves. They believe investing in high-character, ambitious military academy graduates will benefit both sides. Applicants access funding while investors gain equity that can grow into a lucrative asset, targeting a 10x return.

Additional Resources for Veteran-owned Businesses

Outside of awarding funding, other programs can get your veteran small business help. Through training and access to contracting opportunities, these resources assist your small business both educationally and financially.

Vets First Verification

Certifies veteran-owned businesses, allowing them to receive government benefits

Vets First Contracting

Provides limited competition to veteran-owned businesses seeking government contracts

Boots to Business

Provides mentorship and training to active-duty military service members returning home and looking to start a business

WVETP

Management training for female veteran entrepreneurs

SDVETP

Assistance in starting a business and obtaining disabled veteran business grants

SDVOSBC

Set-aside and sole-source contracts for service-disabled veterans

Vets First Verification Program

The first step to being eligible for government resources is becoming a certified veteran-owned business. 

Certification is provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the SBA. You’ll need to be at least 51-percent owned by one or more active-duty military members, veterans or service-disabled veterans to qualify.

Once your application is processed and approved, you’ll be designated a Veteran-owned Small Business (VOSB) or Service-disabled Veteran-owned Small Business (SDVOSB). This designation gives you access to other VA and SBA programs aimed at assisting military veterans.

Vets First Contracting Program

Similar to programs for certified minority and women-owned businesses, government agencies mandate that a certain amount of their contracting dollars go to veteran-owned businesses.

In the program, government entities will offer “set-aside” contracts to businesses like yours. Set-aside contracts are held out of public bidding, only being opened to veteran-owned businesses. If your company is capable of fulfilling the project, you could face limited competition for these contracts.

If your business is the only one able to fulfill the contract, you could even receive what’s called a “sole-source” contract. These eliminate all competition, meaning you may have no competitors to bid against at all.

Both types of contracts could change your business forever. Learning how to navigate the government contracting space can lead to continued sales that can add millions of dollars in revenue.

Boots to Business

The SBA offers the Boots to Business program in conjunction with the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which helps veterans assimilate back into civilian life. 

Boots to Business offers training for those returning from active duty military service who are looking to start a business, much like the Warrior Rising program. Unlike Warrior Rising, however, the SBA doesn’t provide small business grants for veterans. 

You can take advantage of management, marketing and technical training through the process of starting and growing your business. 

Women Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program (WVETP)

The Women Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program is similar to Boots to Business. Instead of focusing on those returning home, WVETP aims to offer assistance to female veterans of all eras. 

If you’re a woman veteran or the spouse of one, and you want to start a small business, this program can guide you through the process.

Service-disabled Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program (SDVETP)

If you’re a service-disabled veteran seeking help starting a small business, the SDVETP offers mentorship and management training.

The program offers those with service-related disabilities access to one-on-one assistance from business experts that can teach you everything you need to know to be successful.

If you need funding, the program also helps get disabled veterans grants for starting small businesses, if available.

Finding out how to obtain disabled veteran business grants.

Service-disabled Veteran-owned Small Business Concern (SDVOSBC) Program

If you’ve been unable to obtain disabled veteran business grants and need to raise capital, government agencies can help you through this contracting program.

The SDVOSBC program works similarly to the Vets First Contracting Program, but is specifically designed for service-disabled veterans. Business owners in this demographic have exclusive access to set-aside contracts, as well as the possibility of obtaining sole-source contracts worth millions of dollars.

Growing Your Veteran-owned Business

Regardless of which small business grant for veterans or program you choose, you’ll be taking a huge step towards starting up or growing your company. Unlike small business loans, grants keep your future revenues in your pocket. Because of this, they are restrictive and very competitive.

Investors generally don’t have to be paid back right away, but they come with their own price — equity. If you’re comfortable giving up a stake in your small business, investors are a popular option for startups and growing companies alike.

If none of those options currently sound right for your situation, take advantage of the multiple government resources available to veteran-owned businesses. The education and training can be invaluable, and the government contracts you can compete for could be life-changing.

If you’re unsure of what is right for you, reach out to your local VA office to learn more. 

If you have trouble obtaining grants, you can still find affordable funding for your business. Fast Capital 360 offers multiple funding programs that are geared toward veteran small business owners. 

At Fast Capital 360, we thank you for your service. 

 

Need fast, affordable funding?

 

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