The brave men and women in our country's military learn valuable skills from their service, from self-motivation and logistics to discipline, leadership, and the importance of hard work.

And you're probably not surprised to hear that many of our veterans become entrepreneurs when they come back home. Being a successful small business owner requires the same sort of confidence, thoughtfulness, drive, and cool-headed thinking. That's why over a trillion dollars in sales each year are made by our more than 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses, almost 40% of which bring in at least $500,000 annually.

To keep these businesses growing, veteran entrepreneurs have access to many opportunities to get the funding they need, from VA small business loans to veteran grants.

Let's take a look at some of the best places where veterans can find what they need to start or grow their own businesses.

Small Business Loans for Veterans

For veterans looking for small business loans, Streetshares is an excellent resource. For veterans, by veterans, this alternative online lender makes applying for and securing a loan quick, easy, and friendly. With its special focus on veteran-owned businesses, Streetshares makes sure that veteran entrepreneurs are comfortable with their business funding.

If you're more interested in traditional financing channels, the Small Business Administration has a few different options for veteran-owned businesses. For example, their Express Loan program offers absolutely zero upfront fees for veterans borrowing $350,000 or more--with an application turnaround time of 36 hours.

Plus, the SBA's 8(a) service-disabled, veteran-owned business contracting program isn't exactly a loan, but it is a unique opportunity for veterans to get paid for work they don't have to compete as much for.

Finally, the SBA also offers loans for current reservists and veterans whose businesses have been negatively affected by their service. If you believe you fit that specific description, check out the Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan program for large loans with terms of up to 30 years and rates as low as 4%.

Financing for Veteran-Owned Franchises

Plenty of big companies have recognized the value that military service can bring to entrepreneurship--which is why there's a whole separate category for franchise funding for veterans. Here are just a few opportunities that veterans can use to get started.

If you're looking to start a branch of the UPS, veterans are in luck: UPS offers $10,000 franchise fee discounts and up to 75% off application fees for service members.

Or if restaurants are more interesting to you, then consider a program like Little Caesar's, which includes:

  • $5,000 off the franchise fee
  • $5,000 off your first equipment order
  • Marketing and supplies equaling up to $30,000

And finally, 7-11 offers financing for up to 65% of the franchise costs, among other benefits and discounts, to veterans.

If none of those franchises appeal to you, there's always the Veteran Franchising Portal, a tool of the Veteran Administration that helps entrepreneurs find franchising opportunities.

Grants for Veteran Entrepreneurs

Business grants are a different sort of financing altogether. Though they're typically hard to find and even tougher to qualify for, there are certain grants that specifically help out veteran business owners.

For example, veterans who franchised through the International Franchise Association's VetFran program are eligible for the $10,000 VetFran Business Grant. This is a particularly great way to combine financing opportunities.

What's more, the veteran-oriented lender Streetshares also offers the Commander's Call Veteran Business Award, a $5,000 grant to veterans or spouses of veterans. Again, smaller grants like these are ideal supplements to loans or franchise financing--every bit helps.

The federal government also gives out its own share of grants, like the USDA Veteran and Minority Farmer grant for veterans interested in agricultural businesses. While many businesses aren't eligible for grants, it's always worth checking your options.

Beyond Business Financing for Veterans

Though veteran entrepreneurs should investigate all these paths, they should also look beyond loans and grants.

Maybe you're searching for an investor--in which case, the veteran-owned angel investment group Hivers and Strivers might be worth taking a look at. Or maybe you want to learn the fundamentals of owning and operating a business, partner up with business mentors who can coach you, or enroll in a government-run entrepreneurship bootcamp.

No matter what you're looking for, there's an opportunity out there. Private companies and the government alike are eager to lend a hand to the men and women who served our country--and to encourage them to continue putting their skills, training, and experience to good use.

Published on: Sep 27, 2016