Small Business Grants for VeteransUpdated: July 12, 2022
Nearly 6% of American businesses are veteran-owned, according to the 2020 Annual Business Survey, released in Oct. 2021.
Some service members leave military service knowing they want to start a business but need some kind of funding, such as business loans or Small Business Administration grants. Others may not realize they want to start a business until much later.
Either way, there are grants and programs available for those who wish to become small business owners after their military careers.
While grants are essentially “free money,” the grant programs may have strict requirements and regulations for how the funds may be used. Always read the full description of a grant, its intended awardees and other fine print before you apply.
Does the GI Bill Offer Business Funds?
Your GI Bill benefits do not include business loans or grants.
This version of the GI Bill included a provision for small business or home loans, and a 1955 revision added farm loans for veterans, according to the National Archives. But, the small business and farm loan benefits no longer exist.
If passed, the Post-9/11 Veteran Business Acceleration Act, introduced in 2019, could establish a pilot project that would provide financial assistance – rather than educational benefits – to veterans wanting to open their own businesses.
While the GI Bill does not provide business capital right now, you can use your GI Bill benefits to learn how to run a small business.
Veterans can also access several other small business grants and entrepreneurship programs.
Check With Your State Government
Your state government may offer veteran small business owner programs. Ask your state veterans affairs or secretary’s office about opportunities for grants and other funding, business development help, entrepreneurial training and more.
Small Business Administration (SBA) Grants and Programs
The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers grants for small businesses and community organizations that support entrepreneurs.
Such grants include the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program.
According to the SBA, these grants“encourage small firms to undertake scientific research that helps meet federal research and development objectives and have high potential for commercialization if successful.”
Businesses must be for-profit and U.S.-based, with fewer than 500 employees.
Boots to Business
The Small Business Administration offers a training program called Boots to Business as part of the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program. According to the SBA, the introduction to entrepreneurship program covers various topics about starting a small business, including financing, market research and how to develop a business plan. You can also continue your small business training through optional courses.
While B2B provides free training, it does not offer a grant or provide funding for small businesses.
Organizations that Offer Small Business Grants and Contests
The government is not the only source of small-business funding. Several organizations also offer grants or hold contests for small businesses. You may need to be a customer or have an account with some companies to apply.
Here are a few to get you started.
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
FedEx began awarding grants to small U.S.-based businesses in 2012. For-profit small businesses that have been operating for six continuous months and have fewer than 99 employees are eligible to enter, according to the website. FedEx updates the rules annually. However, FedEx updates its rules annually, so check back each month.
National Association for the Self-Employed Growth Grants
The National Association for the Self-Employed awards four grants of up to $4,000 each quarter. If you are a member in good standing, you may be eligible to apply. According to the NASE website, funds can be used for growth activities such as expanding your facilities, hiring new employees or promotion.
Nav Small Business Grant
Nav is a financial tech company that offers a “Legitify Your Small Business” grant each quarter. According to the Nav website, the grants – one for $10,000 and one for $5,000 – aim to help businesses “solve a business problem or take their business to the next level.”
StreetShares Foundation’s Veteran Small Business Award
StreetShares Foundation is a“nonprofit organization that exists to inspire, educate and support the military entrepreneurial community,” according to its website. The organization offers a variety of programs to help veteran small business owners, including networking and coaching events, an eBook guide for entrepreneurs and the Veteran Small Business Award. Applicants must submit an application and video pitch to compete for three prizes, ranging from $4,000-$15,000.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce awards a $25,000 prize to the Small Business of the Year each year. It also offers awards in eight categories, including veteran-owned businesses. Businesses must be for-profit, be operating for at least one year and have fewer than 250 employees. The application is available on the website.