There are more than 2.5 million U.S. military veteran business owners, the Small Business Administration reports. Fortunately, there are plenty of places and people who can lead you on the way to startup success.
Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs) are one-stop-shops for veterans, service members transitioning out of the military, and military spouses who want to launch, buy, or grow their businesses. There are VBOCs across the country providing business training, counseling and mentoring services.
VBOCs also offer two programs, Boots to Business and Boots to Business Reboot, to help transitioning service members and veterans of all eras learn more about entrepreneurship, explore the feasibility of their business ideas, write a business plan, and gain a foundation in business concepts. The programs also introduce participants to a wide range of SBA resources to help them find start up capital, get technical assistance and identify contracting opportunities.
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) has a Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP) to help veterans learn more about starting a business, access federal government services to help, and learn best practices. This (VA) resource assists businesses in accessing federal services and connecting to relevant “best practices” and information.
Are you a female military veteran or a female spouse of an active service member or veteran? Then check out V-WISE, an entrepreneurship training program that helps women veterans and military spouses find their entrepreneurial passion and gain the skills to successfully start and grow their businesses. The program includes an online training course and intensive three-day training event, as well as ongoing mentorship and support.
Compete for government contracts
Government contracting is a huge area of opportunity for veteran-owned businesses. The federal government has special set-asides for veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs).
If you want to be eligible for special opportunities to do business with the federal government, start by getting your business verified through the Vets First Verification Program. Verified businesses can get priority in competing for federal government contracts. For example, the Veterans Administration gives SDVOSBs the highest priority as small business contractors for the VA. Look for VA-certified business counselors in your state who can help you with the Vets First verification process and more.
The OSDBUhas a wide range of resources and information to help veteran-owned businesses compete for government contracts. Eligible SDVOSBs can also apply for the SBA’s Mentor/Protégé program to get help finding, competing for, and fulfilling government contracts.
National Veterans Small Business Engagement (NVSBE)
Once you are ready to put your business out there in the government contracting world, attending networking events and conferences for veteran business owners can help. The VA’s National Veteran Small Business Engagement (NVSBE) is the largest procurement event for veteran business owners. Attendees have the opportunity to meet with procurement officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), other federal agencies, state governments, and private-sector firms with procurement needs.
The Disabled Veteran Business Alliance also hosts a range of events where SDVOSBs can network with government contracting officials and access business matchmaking opportunities.