Veteran-owned businesses have access to several entrepreneurial benefits. The government and private organizations maintain various business financing options for eligible veteran small business owners. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also offers resources to assist veterans in locating small business financing opportunities.
- Hivers and Strivers
- National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Grants
- Warrior Rising Grant
- Veterans Business Fund
- StreetShares Foundation
- SBA Patriot Express Loan
- Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) Program
- SBA Veterans Advantage Guaranteed Loan
- Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
- SBA 7(a) Loans
- SBA 504 Loans
- SBA Microloans
- SBA Mentor-Protégé Program
- Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (MREIDL)
- Veteran Readiness & Employment (VR&E)
- Veteran Entrepreneur Portal
A Vetrepreneur is a military veteran who owns and operates a business. Veterans are eligible for several financing opportunities to start or grow a business.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) prioritizes veteran entrepreneurship through its multiple small business loan programs for men and women veterans. However, veterans can also benefit from several other SBA financing options made for any business owner. Veteran entrepreneurs may receive financial assistance, entrepreneurship training, and other forms of small business help through private organizations and other government programs.
Veterans own 9.1% of all United States businesses. Each veteran small business owner leaves a lasting footprint on our country’s culture. The VA, SBA, and other organizations show their gratitude to former service members who have helped sustain the economy through their businesses with each loan program targeting veteran business owners.
Explore some of the best funding options for a veteran-owned small business below.
Hivers and Strivers is an angel investment company that invests solely in businesses owned by veterans. Some of its investments have gone to companies like LeaseLock, VetAccel, and True Made Foods.
Since 2014, Hivers and Strivers has invested in several veteran-owned businesses. Investors looking to help the organization support these businesses can apply to become an investor with the company. Additionally, a veteran business owner can apply online to seek funding.
NASE gives veterans and non-veterans business grants of up to $4,000 to help them start and grow their businesses. You must be a member of NASE to apply, and only those eligible, like veteran members and annual members, may apply immediately after joining. However, monthly members must wait at least 90 days after becoming a member to apply. Additionally, business owners must prove an identifiable business need that the grant can help and have a clear business plan in place to be approved.
The Warrior Rising Grant goes to veterans who own a business. The grant may apply to startup costs to help get a business running. Loans are also available, as are business-building services. Warrior Rising can help business owners get assistance from the SBA or a private lender, for example, or mentor an entrepreneur with business matters.
Veterans must fill out an online application with details about themselves and their business for approval consideration for grants and loans.
The Veterans Business Fund provides veteran-owned small business funding in the form of loans. The loans are affordable and non-interest-bearing, as donors fund them. The fund is also available for franchise owners that need extra money to get their business moving.
When the Veterans Business Fund opens for applications after receiving the appropriate amount of funding, veterans must first apply for a loan option through a lender. Using the information from the lender, the Veteran Business Fund can then begin the process of helping the veteran business owner secure funding.
The StreetShares Foundation offers a monetary award for veteran-owned businesses. The nonprofit organization works with the military veteran entrepreneurial community to provide free resources for veterans to start and grow their businesses, including digital content and entrepreneurial mentorship.
The grant program requires veterans to submit an online application and a pitch video describing their business and how it impacts the military community.
The SBA’s primary goal is to assist owners of small businesses, and veterans may also be able to benefit from a veteran small business loan through the organization. The SBA Patriot Express Loan program began in 2007 to directly assist veteran business owners, but it ended in 2013. The program provided more than $633 million to veteran businesses through simplified loans with low interest rates in its first four years.
While this program is no longer available, veteran business owners should consider using the SBA Express Loan program, also known as SBA 7(a) loans, which we detail below.
The SDVOSB is a veteran-focused program offered by the SBA. As a member of the SDVOSB, you can compete for awards added by the federal government.
A service-disabled veteran may apply if they own a small business that’s at least 51% owned and controlled by a service-disabled veteran and has its day-to-day operations managed by a service-disabled veteran. The veteran’s disability must also have a proven service connection. However, veterans may self-certify their businesses without going through an official approval process at SAM.gov.
Another offering from the SBA designed specifically for a veteran entrepreneur, the SBA Veterans Advantage Guaranteed Loan program grants a VA small business loan up to $5,000,000. These guaranteed loans reduce underwriting costs and help loans go through the underwriting and closing process quicker to get veterans the financing they need.
To qualify for a business loan, the veteran-owned small business must be at least 51% owned by a veteran, like the SDVOSB program, or someone from a military group. Honorably discharged vets, active duty service members, active reservists, National Guard members, and the spouse of a veteran or another eligible military person may qualify.
SBIR is a program that recognizes businesses involved in research and creating innovative ways to operate or help society. The SBIR funding program isn’t specifically for veterans, but veteran business owners are welcome to apply. The program pays grants rather than loans to assist their business endeavors.
Qualifying companies must have less than 500 employees and be mostly owned by United States citizens. Applicants must send in a proposal after registering for SBIR as part of their applications. SBIR first grants Phase I grants. Some businesses may also qualify for Phase II grants to receive more funding.
A 7(a) loan from the SBA is also known as an Express Loan. These are among the most common loans for small businesses to apply for, including those owned by veterans. Veteran business owners may receive this SBA loan if they meet the SBA’s criteria for being a small business, working for profit, and conducting business within the United States. They should also demonstrate a need for the loan and have a clear purpose for funding.
The maximum loan amount is $5 million. Business owners can use funding as working capital, purchase supplies necessary for conducting or growing a business, or refinancing their debts.
A veteran business owner may opt for SBA 504 loans if they need long-term financing with a fixed interest rate. These loans offer up to $5 million for businesses requiring major fixed assets to expand job opportunities and scale their businesses. Companies might use the funds to purchase industrial equipment or more land to build another facility.
Eligible businesses include those that operate for profit, exist in the United States, have an average net income of less than $5 million for the two years before applying, and have a net worth valued less than $15 million.
SBA microloans are for small business owners, including veterans who own a business. A microloan is a small loan of up to $50,000 that works best to get small businesses up and running to secure a sound future. Typical interest rates fall between 8% and 13%. Business owners can buy equipment, supplies, and inventory for the loan, but they may not use it to purchase real estate or pay off debts.
Veterans should apply through a private lender that works with the SBA microloan program to receive an SBA microloan. The interest rate, the amount borrowed, and the repayment terms may vary depending on the lender you choose.
While it doesn’t technically provide funding in the form of a veteran business loan or grant, the SBA Mentor-Protégé Program can still save veteran business owners money. This program mentors business owners on several facets of business, including accounting, marketing, business strategy, and administrative duties. It also guides business owners in securing the funding they need to start or grow their businesses.
Small business owners can apply if they meet size standards, have a for-profit business, and have a mentor in mind to use with the program.
The MREIDL program, also known as a military reservist loan, pays a maximum amount of $2 million to businesses with military reservist essential employees. If a military reservist at your company is also an essential employee who gets called to active duty, you may be eligible for help through this program to assist with operating costs. The funds are not available to pay or refinance debt, or to cover income or lost profits.
The VA’s VR&E program helps veterans with service-connected disabilities find help getting back into the workforce or starting a business. The program can also fund VA small business loans for veteran entrepreneurs.
Veterans will need to have a disability rating with the VA or are going through the process to get approved. They can also have a VA memorandum rating of 20% or more or be entered into the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES). The veteran’s business will also need to meet qualifications for funding.
As a veteran business owner, you can access the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal offered by the VA. This portal can help you access funding, like VA small business loans, working capital, or microloans that your business may qualify for. The free service also provides several resources for a veteran-owned business to learn more about starting and growing a successful company.
Help exists for military veterans who wish to start a business after serving their country. Both the VA and SBA provide several financing options, including loans and grants, that veterans can benefit from. Organizations designed specifically for assisting veterans can also be good sources of funding opportunities.
Use the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal for supportive resources, training programs, and funding options. You can also visit your local Veterans Service Organization to connect with more opportunities.