If you’re a member of the U.S. military, you’ve been trained for battle and you know how to think on your feet. So when your time in active duty is through, why not use the discipline you’ve learned to tackle another front: Starting your own business?
Veterans own nearly 15 percent of all American small businesses, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). It’s no surprise that vets have made great inroads into entrepreneurship — after all, if you can help fight off a group of insurgents, dealing with a dissatisfied customer should be a piece of cake.
Many resources are available to help military veterans interested in starting their own businesses. Here’s a shortlist.
1) The Office of Veterans Business Development, run by the SBA, provides veterans with free access to entrepreneurship training, including assistance with developing and analyzing business plans. There are 16 veterans business outreach centers across the country — visit the site to find the closest one to you.
2) Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans With Disabilities, hosted annually at six universities across the country, is a free conference for disabled veterans who are interested in becoming business owners. Participants first participate in a remote, self-guided educational program guided by entrepreneurship experts, then take part in a nine-day residency to gain hands-on experience through workshops and seminars. The program launched in 2007, and some of its graduates have already reached great success: One of the program graduates, John Raftery, has since launched a building and architectural supplies company called Patriot Contractors, which earned approximately $2.25 million in 2010. The program “gave me not only the confidence to lead, but also the willingness to go after new things,” Raftery told Entrepreneur. “It eliminated that fear of going into uncertain situations.”
3) VetFran, a franchise opportunities portal, offers discounted franchise sales to veterans who want to start a business, but don’t want to assume the risk of starting something from scratch. Veterans are eligible for a 10 to 20 percent discount on franchise startup fees, and eligible franchises include established brand names like Dunkin’ Donuts, Rita’s Italian Ice, and 7-Eleven.
4) Patriot Express Pilot Loan, administered through the SBA, offers veterans expedited loans for business start-up costs and expenses. Veterans are eligible for up to $500,000 in loans with the SBA’s lowest interest rate, and will be notified if they are approved within just one day.
5) The Veterans Corporation, a non-profit group focused on helping veterans become entrepreneurs, offers free seminars on raising capital, creating a business plan, and learning to execute on your idea. The site provides links to potential funding sources and to service providers of all varieties who’ve volunteered their services for free to veterans.