130+ Small Business & Entrepreneurship Resources and Opportunities for Military Veterans

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130+ Small Business & Entrepreneurship Resources and Opportunities for Military Veterans

Now that you’ve finished your service and you’re officially a veteran, it’s time to take your career into your own hands. What better way to do that than to start your own business?

In fact, according to Entrepreneur.com there are at least 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses in the US accounting for nine percent of US firms and employing 5.8 million people. By starting your own business, you’ll be continuing to provide a vital and necessary service to your country.

However, it can be hard to know where to start. Do you have an idea for a business you think could be profitable? Have you always wanted to be your boss? Or, do you have an existing business and want to find out more about opportunities for networking and growth?

Whatever the answer, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide you’ll get a comprehensive list of:

  • Veteran-specific and military-friendly business degree programs and tech boot camps

  • Loans and grants available to veterans

  • Government and non-government organizations supporting veteran entrepreneurs

  • Advice on how to get your veteran-owned business certified

  • Resources for women veteran entrepreneurs

  • General resources for entrepreneurs

Education & Training

Degree programs for veterans

One of the great advantages of serving in the military is gaining access to the GI Bill upon your return to civilian life which offers scholarships that cover your education or vocational training completely and provide financial assistance for housing and other education-related expenses.

These colleges and universities offer special programs specifically for veterans looking to earn a degree or certificate in business:

  • USC Marshall. Offers an MBA specifically for veterans.

  • Rutgers. Offers a mini-MBA specifically for veterans.

  • University of Maryland University College. Offers an online bachelor’s in business.

  • University of Utah. Offers an MBA specifically for veterans.

  • Fordham University. Offers a free MBA and housing stipend.

  • Syracuse University. Offers a free MBA and housing stipend as well as VetSuccess, a resource for veterans.

  • Pepperdine University. Offers a joint BSM and MBA with housing assistance through the Yellow Ribbon Program and the Ahmanson Veteran Scholarship Initiative Grant.

  • New England College of Business. Offers several business degrees with military tuition discounts and college credits available for your service.

  • Colorado Tech. Offers several business degrees with military tuition discounts and college credits available for your service.

  • Harvard Business School. Offers several degrees. Each eligible veteran can receive $18,000 from HBS matched by the Yellow Ribbon Program for a total of $36,000. Other scholarships are also available for veterans.

  • UC Berkeley. Offers a tuition-free MBA for eligible veterans, monthly housing allowance, and up to $1,000 annual stipend for books.

  • University of North Carolina. Waives the application fee for their MBA for veterans. Eligible veterans can receive tuition and housing assistance through the Yellow Ribbon Program.

  • Vanderbilt University. Waives the application fee for their MBA for veterans. Eligible veterans can receive tuition and housing assistance through the Yellow Ribbon Program.

  • UC San Diego. Waives the application fee for their MBA for veterans. Eligible veterans can receive tuition and housing assistance through the Yellow Ribbon Program.

  • Arizona State University. Offers to review a preliminary application and offer feedback for veteran MBA candidates.

  • William and Mary. Offers several options for flexible, accelerated, and online MBA courses for veterans. Waives the application fee using code: WMMBAMILFRIENDLY.

  • Emory University. Waives the application fee for their MBA program for veterans. Offers 50 Yellow Ribbon Scholarships of $19,000 matched by the VA each year.

  • Georgetown University. Offers unlimited Yellow Ribbon Scholarships of $5,000 for their undergraduate business degree and 50 Yellow Ribbon Scholarships of $10,000 for their graduate business degree matched by the VA each year.

  • Johns Hopkins. Offers 25 Yellow Ribbon Scholarships of $5,000 for MBA candidates matched by the VA each year.

  • Ohio State University. Waives the application fee for their MBA. Around 90% of military students receive full scholarship.

  • UC Irvine. Waives the application fee for their MBA. Covers up to 50% of tuition not covered by GI Bill matched by the Yellow Ribbon Program.

  • Wake Forest. Offers Yellow Ribbon Scholarships of up to $12,850 matched by the VA.

  • Washington University in St. Louis. Yellow Ribbon participant offering scholarships which may fully cover tuition. Has special programming and workshops for veterans.

  • NYU. Offers a fully subsidized graduate certificate for their 12-week Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program,

Tech training for veterans

Tech jobs have been booming since the 1990’s and according to Modis, they’re expected to see a 12 percent rise by 2024 compared with a projected growth of 6.5 percent in all other industries.

Many tech newbies enter the field by enrolling in tech bootcamps, short intensive courses that give you all the training you need to start a professional career or a business in the tech industry.

What’s even better: the GI bill now covers several of these boot camps meaning you can take these courses free of charge and get other housing and tuition assistance. Here are several boot camps covered by the GI bill:

Business training for veterans

Many veterans business associations and veteran advocacy groups offer short workshops, seminars, and boot camps to introduce you to the basic principles of entrepreneurship. Check these out:

  • Boots to Business. The Small Business Association offers this free two-day introduction to business course at military installations across the country. You can also check here to find Boots to Business Reboot locations throughout the country.

  • Institute for Veterans and Military Family. A project at Syracuse University that offers resources and free business training programs to veterans including:

    • Boots to Business. An arm of the SBA program, this two-day intro course and an eight week online course will help you understand the basics of entrepreneurship.

    • Entrepreneur Camp for Veterans with Disabilities. A free program that offers a 30-day online course, 9-day in person intensive, and 12-month mentorship program to post-9/11 veterans with disabilities.

    • Entrepreneur Camp for Veterans Families. A free program that offers a 30-day online course, 9-day in person intensive, and a mentorship program to first-degree family members of post-9/11 veterans with service-related disabilities, people currently serving in the military, and surviving family members of those who lost their lives in service post-9/11.

  • Patriot Boot Camp. A three-day boot camp offering access to resources and mentors to help you start your business.

  • Bunker in a Box. A free online mini-course with videos and interactive tests for veterans interested in pursuing entrepreneurship provided by Bunker Labs.

  • Vet to CEO. This non-profit offers a free online “mini-MBA” for verified veterans that runs for seven weeks. Students can also participate in a business-related competition to win real cash.

  • Honor Courage Commitment. Offers Veteran Entrepreneur Training, Advanced Career Training, and Non-Profit Startup training to veterans.

  • Startup Veterans. Offers a 16-week online course to help you get your business started led by successful veteran entrepreneurs. Veterans apply to get into the selective program which costs $1,800. You’ll also gain access to their Veteran Entrepreneur Network and other useful resources.

  • Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Symposium (VETS). VETS is an annual four-day event presenting seminars, breakout sessions, and networking events for Federal agencies, prime contractors, and veteran business owners.

  • National Veterans Entrepreneurship Training Program. A program that includes a month-long online course, a week-long residency, and a five-month mentorship program completely free of charge (travel and housing expenses included) for veterans. They now have locations at Oklahoma State University, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, University of Florida, and University of North Dakota.

Loans and Grants

Many banks and other institutions offer special business loans and grants to veterans to get your business off the ground. Here are some places ready to get you the cash you need to start your business:

  • The StreetShares Foundation. Offers contests regularly to veterans and servicemembers with promising business ideas where you can earn up to $5,000. They also have several competitive business loan packages available for veterans.

  • VetLoan Advantage. Offers fixed, low-rate, long-term financing to aspiring business owners with plans to increase loans to veterans by five percent each year for the next five years.

  • Small Business Association (SBA) Veterans Advantage. Guarantees loans of up to $150,000 to eligible veteran owned businesses.

    • The Veterans Entrepreneur Act of 2015 waives the guaranty fee on SBA loans for veteran owned businesses.

    • Military Reservist Economic Injury Loans. SBA also offers disaster loans for businesses struggling to make ends meet because an essential business associate was called to active duty.

  • VetFran Business Grant Fund. If you open a participating VetFran franchise you can apply for a $10,000 business grant.

  • USDA Farm Loans. The USDA sets aside a certain number of loans for minorities including military veterans to help start agriculture businesses.

  • Kabbage. A small business loan service offering special loans to veterans.

Venture Capital and Crowdfunding

Several venture capital (VC) firms and crowdfunding groups exist that have specific programs for funding promising veteran-owned businesses. Check out these VC and crowdfunding firms if you’re looking for an investor:

Franchises with veteran discounts

There are tons of franchising opportunities available from large corporate businesses that offer discounts for veterans. You can learn more about owning a franchise, find franchises to do business with, and connect with other veteran franchise owners on VetFran. You can also check out these known and loved businesses that offer specials and discounts for veterans interested in opening a new branch of a franchise:

  • 7-Eleven: Receive up to 20% of the initial franchising fee and 65% financing through 7-Eleven.

  • Dunkin Donuts. Offers 20% off the initial franchise fee on five or fewer stores.

  • UPS Stores. Offers $10,000 off the franchise fee and 50 percent off the initial application.

  • Vanguard Cleaning Solutions. Offers 10% off the initial franchise fee, training, and support.

  • Anytime Fitness. Waives the initial franchise fee and royalty payments and offers financial backing through the HeartFirst Charitable Foundation.

  • Matco Tools. Offers a $10,000 military allowance.

  • Sports Clips. Offers a 20% discount on initial franchise fees through VetFran.

  • Snap Fitness. Offers a $5,000 discount off the initial franchise fee through VetFran.

  • Merry Maids.Offers a 20% discount on initial franchise fees.

  • Budget Blinds. Offers a $15,000 discount off the purchase of a franchise system.

  • Fantastic Sam’s. Offers 25% off initial fees on three or more locations.

  • Comfort Keepers. Offers 10% off franchise fees.

  • Cinnabon. Offers $10,000 off initial franchise fees through VetFran.

  • Choice Hotels. Receive up to $1,500 per room up to $125,000 for new or converted midscale and economy hotels.

  • Mathnasium. Offers 25% off franchise fees.

  • Weed Man. Offers 25% off franchise fees.

  • CertaPro. Offers 10% off franchise fees and financing on 50% of the initial franchise fee through VetFran.

  • Home Helpers. Offers $5,000 initial franchise fees.

  • Pita Pit. Offers $5,000 initial franchise fees.

  • AAMCO. Provides an $8,000 credit for new franchisees.

  • Right At Home. Offers a 10% discount on initial franchise fees through VetFran.

  • Lawn Doctor. Offers a $10,000 discount.

  • Dream Vacations. Offers a 20% discount on initial fees, waives the training fee, and waives the veteran’s spouse’s first associate fee.

  • Big O Tires. Waives franchise fee for owners.

  • Honeybaked Ham. Offers a 33% discount on initial franchise fees.

Government resources

The government has dedicated a tremendous amount of resources to prioritizing veteran business owners. Check these out:

  • Veterans First Contracting Program. Veteran-owned businesses and Service-Disabled Veterans Small Businesses can compete for special contracts set aside by the federal government in order to assist and prioritize veteran-owned businesses.

  • Service-Disabled Veteran Small Business Program. The government sets aside a certain percentage of its federal contracts each year for businesses that are at least 51 percent owned by a service-disabled veteran.

  • US Small Business Association. Veteran Owned Business portal connects you with resources and information to help get your business off the ground.

  • Veteran Entrepreneur Portal. The VA’s portal that has information on funding, finding contracts, and getting started as a business owner.

  • Veterans Rehabilitation and Employment Self-Employment Track. If you’re a veteran with a service-related disability or barrier to employment, you can get free training, resources, and, in some cases, funding towards starting your own business.

Helpful resources and networking opportunities

These non-government programs can help connect you with fellow veteran entrepreneurs and assist you in finding the resources you need to build a successful business:

  • Center of Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship. A program from the IVMF that connects veteran entrepreneurs and engages in research and policy, training and education, and collaboration and partnership in support of veteran business owners.

  • Veteran Business Outreach Center. These are regional offices run by the SBA that offer tons of services to veteran business owners (and prospective entrepreneurs) including workshops and training, mentorship programs, business plan development assistance, and much more.

  • National Veteran Owned Business Association (NVOBA). A business association dedicated to connecting corporate partners with veteran-owned businesses, NVOBA offers veteran-owned business verification and networking and development opportunities.

  • MBA Vets. An organization that advocates for and creates networking opportunities for veterans with MBA degrees.

  • Bunker Labs. A national non-profit that offers working space, education, online and in-person networking opportunities, and resources for military veterans working to start their own businesses.

  • SCORE. A national business mentorship program with a specific portal for veterans.

  • Veterans Business Resources. A help-desk service connecting veterans with franchise opportunities, offering advertising and marketing services, and provides education and business consulting.

  • Veterans Business Resource Center. Provides webinars, counseling, and a list of resources for veteran entrepreneurs.

  • Veteran Owned Business. Has a directory of over 30,000 veteran-owned businesses as  well as links to resources.

  • American Corporate Partnerships. Connects veterans with mentors from top Fortune 500 companies.

  • Veterans Business Network. Offers a free membership to veterans, hosts a database of veteran-owned businesses, and works to assist veterans with transitioning to civilian life.

  • The Elite SVDOB Network. A national network connecting service-disabled business owners with one another and offering information and resources for filing paperwork and attracting contracts as a SVDOB.

Business Certification

Getting certified as a veteran-owned business not only lets consumers know that you’re a business that can be trusted, it also can help you connect with special government contracts and with companies and corporations that are committed to working with veteran-owned businesses. Many states offer their own certifications, and you can check out these resources to get recognized federally and by third-party organizations:

Contracting opportunities

Once you’ve certified yourself as a veteran-owned business, these sites can help connect you with federal contract opportunities and information about them:

Women Veterans

Women veterans are one of the fastest growing sectors in the field of entrepreneurship and small business. In fact, according to a report by the National Women’s Business Council, the number of women veteran business owners nearly quadrupled between 2007 and 2012, with minority women leading the charge. These resources and events are geared specifically towards women veteran entrepreneurs:

  • Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-Wise). A program for women veterans which includes a 15-day online course, a three-day training event, and ongoing mentorship for new business owners.

  • Focus Forward Fellowship. A four-day intensive and one-year online program at Purdue designed to help women veterans build career and leadership skills.

  • After Her Service. A weekend skill-building retreat and a six-month mentorship program to help you achieve your professional goals.

  • Women Veterans ROCK! Offers a civic leadership institute, retreats throughout the year, and fellowship opportunities for women in many fields including business.

  • Lean In Women Vets and Minority Women Vets. Online forums that allow women veterans to connect and network with one another.

  • Minority Women Veterans. Hosts a four-week startup lab for minority women, collaborates on a free online entrepreneurship course with MOGUL, recruits and raises funds for minority women to participate in Startup Veterans online course, and much more.

Useful general resources for small-business owners

These are a handful of resources that aren’t veteran-specific, but might be useful to you as you work towards building and maintaining your own business:

Loans

Training

Mentorship

America’s 22 million veterans have and continue to make important contributions to the US economy. As a veteran, there are so many opportunities for you to build your own business and live the civilian life you want.

In addition to this resource, there's also tons of other information in these guides to discounts for veterans and resources for women veterans.

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This guide was published on March 19, 2018, and last modified on March 19, 2018.

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