Owning a small business is the dream of many veterans. The good news is many vets are fully equipped to be business owners because of their military experience. They’ve already been in positions that required them to be leaders and take the initiative, and even if they have specific things they need to learn regarding their business,their confidence and approach to life makes them ideal potential business owners
If you’re a veteran who is considering building a small business, what do you need to know?
SBA Offers Support to Veterans
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a division of the federal government that’s in place to support small business owners and help small businesses flourish.
The administration places a special focus on veterans and helping military members get started on the path to business ownership. Part of the SBA’s mission is to assist veterans with business growth by providing resources, tools, and support.
In addition to the support offered by the SBA, there are many other things potential small business owners should know if they are embarking on the launch of a business.
Once you’ve decided what type of small business you’d like to own, it’s important to take a look at your financing options. The SBA offers a specific loan for small business owners – the Patriot Express Program – which offers up to $500,000 for businesses that are more than half-owned by veterans. This is just one of the financial support programs offered to veterans by the SBA.
In addition to financial support for starting a small business, it’s also a good idea to think about the emotional support and guidance you’ll need. Small business ownership is challenging, especially during the early stages, and having the resources needed can make a big difference when it comes to failing versus succeeding in small business ownership.
The SBA’s Boots to Business Program provides veterans with support and assistance starting their small business. There is also help for established businesses that want to expand.
Most areas have a Veterans Business Outreach Center,and you should locate yours and take advantage of the services offered. The SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development has several outreach centers set up around the country, all of which provide help creating a business plan, landing government contracts, getting training, and gaining access to mentoring services.
Government contracts can be extremely lucrative for small business owners,and currently, 23 percent of contracts must be awarded to small businesses and three percent to service-disabled veterans businesses. The outreach center puts small business owners into contact with people that can help them establish government contracts. There are also programs in place to connect veteran-owned small businesses with divisions of the government for Government Buys.
As a small business owner, certain programs might be available for you that wouldn’t be an option for a larger business. It’s important to understand how small business is defined in your industry and then realize that certain government programs could apply to your business. The SBA has developed a Size Standard Tool that can help you determine if your business is truly to defined as small or to determine how you should set up your business to ensure you are eligible for certain programs.
Veteran-owned small businesses should also look into subcontracting opportunities. In addition to the prime contracts that are available with the government, there are also plenty of subcontracting options available to help you build a strong foundation for your business.
Subcontracting means you’ll work with a prime government contractor and enjoy access to many of the business opportunities they’ve already established.
The SBA offers plenty of in-person training and assistance for veteran business owners. It’s a great place to start if you’re thinking of launching a small business or you’re interested in growing your already established small business.
Getting Certified as a Veteran Owned Small Business
Being officially certified as a veteran-owned business can help attract new clients to your business. Anyone who has served in the military, and especially those who were injured and are disabled during their service, are eligible to be certified. This makes it possible to market your business as veteran owned and to receive up to three percent of the prime government contracts available from the federal government – a benefit that can mean the difference between your small business failing or succeeding beyond your wildest dreams.
Unfortunately, like many processes related to the government, registering as a veteran-owned business isn’t as simple as filling out a single form. It’s actually considered far more difficult by many than registeringa business as minority or female-owned.
In part, this is because there is no single official certifying body for veteran-owned businesses. It is this confusion and the legwork required on the part of the business owner that prompts many people not to bother with certification unless they intend to pursue government contracts exclusively.
Considering the benefits, though, of being certified as a veteran-owned business, it’s advisable to put in the effort to be certified, as frustrating as the process might be. Data shows that 70 percent of people report preferring to do business with businesses that are veteran-owned. It’s easy to see why this would have a significant impact on your small business.
Becoming certified as a veteran-owned small business means you can market and advertise your business as veteran-owned. You can include the claim on signage, on your website, on marketing materials, and on your storefront. As a certified government-owned business, it’s within your purview to alert every potential customer to the fact that your business is owned by a vet.
As a veteran, there are many opportunities available to you, but you need to act to take advantage of them. This is especially true if you are a small business owner. Business ownership is a great way to build a strong foundation for you and your family, and there are plenty of programs out there that can help you build a veteran-owned small business.