Many small business owners are veterans–some leave military service knowing they need funding such as business loans or SBA grants that can help launch or further a business.
Others may not realize they want to start a veteran-owned 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.
Remember, grants are essentially “free money” but the grant program itself may have strict requirements and regulations for how such funds may be used. Always read the full description of the grant, its intended awardees, and other fine print-type information before you apply.
Not knowing the specific rules for how to apply, when, and how funds may be used can be a serious problem where grant approval is concerned.
Does The GI Bill Offer Business Funds?
A myth about GI Bill options that persists to this day includes mention of a supposed business loan or grant offered to veterans. This has some basis in fact (ancient GI Bill history) but is not true at the time of this writing.
That feature has long since passed into history, but today there are more small business grants for veterans than ever. Some assistance is provided on a situational basis (such as the CARES Act described below) but others are long-term programs that have traditionally supported veteran and non-veteran entrepreneurs alike.
Today’s GI Bill can be used to help you learn how to run a small business, but there are no funds directly available from that program to use as business capital.
Check With Your State Government
A significant number of state governments offer state-level veteran small business owner programs you can explore. There may be opportunities for grants and other funding, business development, entrepreneurial training, and much more. It’s best to search your state-level Department or Division of Veterans Affairs, or Office of Veterans Affairs to learn what is currently offered at the state level.
State resources are a very important part of small business funding and not just for veterans or dependents of veterans. Don’t miss out on additional funding or grant programs just because they are offered at a different level than federal or private versions.
Small Business Funds For Veterans: The CARES Act
The CARES Act is one of the most discussed economic relief measures in the year 2020. Aimed at military and civilian applicants alike, CARES was drafted to help in a variety of ways but the Paycheck Protection Program was one of the most significant.
This program, referred to by CNN, Fox News, ABC, and NPR as PPP, offers up to eight weeks of payroll expenses with a forgivable portion (essentially a grant) for those who meet program criteria.
Small businesses are eligible alongside qualifying nonprofit organizations, Veterans organizations, and Tribal businesses described in the Small Business Act. Self-employed business owners and independent contractors may also qualify.
This relief is administered via the Small Business Administration–you can apply there or via any participating lender.
Boots to Business
The Small Business Administration also offers a training program called Boots To Business (BTB). No, BTB does not offer a grant, nor does the program provide funding for small businesses or veteran-owned businesses. So why is this program key for certain veteran entrepreneurs?
Because many state-level veteran business programs offer grants and/or other assistance to those who have completed Boots To Business. These agencies may require it as a condition of grant approval.
Boots To Business is described as a free, “two-step education and training program offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration to service members who want to become entrepreneurs.”
Other SBA Programs
There are a variety of other grants offered by the Small Business Administration. They include the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program.
These have specific requirements. They are for U.S.-based businesses only and there is an employee cap (500 employees in 2020) along with a requirement that the business be “organized for profit” and be headquartered in the USA. They are intended to “encourage domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development” through a competitive program.
The Nav Small Business Grant
In 2020, Nav ran a contest called “Legitify Your Small Business,” which encouraged small business owners who are or will soon be Nav customers to participate in an online contest with two business grant awards listed as prizes–one for $10,000 and one for $5,000.
While not a traditional grant, participating required tagging Nav on social media and describing the nature of the business. Veterans are not the only ones who are welcome to compete.
This is an example of a type of grant funding offered competitively–you may find many such programs at the state and local level and local lenders and Chambers of Commerce may also have their own versions of such promotions. It does not hurt to look for these avenues while considering more traditional grant opportunities.
Small Business Grants: National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grant
Some types of small business grants that can help out a small veteran-owned business require membership in a professional association to qualify for consideration.
A good example of this is the National Association for the Self-Employed, which features a grant for up to $4,000 that can be used for financing “a particular small business need” including equipment, labor, and marketing.
In this particular case, a three-month membership to NASE is required before you may apply.
Small Business Technology Transfer Program
Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Grant. The government awards the STTR Grant to qualifying veteran-owned businesses that carry out research for the federal government.
While the grant is managed by the SBA, various government agencies and departments designate research topics and accept business proposals. These agencies include Defense, Health, Energy, NASA, Human Services and the National Science Foundation.
To be eligible for the STTR Grant, a business must be American – and veteran-owned with fewer than 500 employees. Each small business is awarded up to $850,000 to carry out the assigned project for which the grant is awarded.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
|SBA Loans For Veterans||Small Business Interruption Loans Under the CARES Act|
|Resources for Veteran-Owned Businesses||SBA Disaster Loan Assistance|
|National Veterans Small Business Week||SBA Small Business Military Loans|