A Resource Guide for Veteran Entrepreneurs
By Julie Hinker, VBOC of The Dakotas Director, and Ben Deetz, Outreach and Marketing Specialist for the North Dakota District Office (U.S. Small Business Administration)
About the VBOC
The Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) program is designed to provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling, and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business. U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has 22 organizations participating in this cooperative agreement and serving as VBOCs.
Stepping out of the military realm and into the world of entrepreneurship may seem like a leap into uncharted territory, but veterans, and their spouses, possess a unique skill set forged by their years of service. This includes unwavering tenacity, resilience, and unmatched fortitude—all attributes that make them well-equipped for small business ownership.
At the Veterans Business Outreach Center of the Dakotas, under the guidance and funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), we’re committed to removing any barriers that veterans, service-disabled veterans, and military spouse entrepreneurs may face when transitioning from military service to civilian life. We offer a suite of specialized programs, resources, and services, all designed to ensure veterans thrive in the business world. Here are some essential tips to help set your veteran-owned small business on the path to success.
Julie Hinker, VBOC of The Dakotas Director
Ben Deetz, Outreach and Marketing Specialist for the North Dakota District Office (SBA)
Free Training Programs
Boots to Business
The SBA proudly offers programs like Boots to Business—an entrepreneurial education and training program available for service members, veterans, and military spouses. Offered as part of the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP), Boots to Business introduces participants to the fundamentals of business ownership and helps aspiring entrepreneurs determine if business ownership is right for them. The course is offered on military installations worldwide.
Boots to Business Reboot
No longer have access to your installation? No problem! You can also access the course right in your local community through a Boots to Business Reboot session. These sessions provide the same content as a B2B but are available off-installation either in-person or virtually.
Military Spouse Pathway to Business
In this course, military spouses are introduced to a broad spectrum of entrepreneurial business topics such as market research, economics, legal considerations, and finances. They’ll also learn about additional resources available to military spouses for accessing startup capital, receiving technical assistance, earning contracting opportunities, and more.
Boots to Business Revenue Readiness Course
This course is a lean (compressed) approach to developing your business plan. Over a six-week period of interactive virtual classroom instruction, you will develop and refine your business model into a business plan. All of this will be accomplished with constant feedback from an instructor team of successful small business owners hosted by Mississippi State University. As with the Boots to Business (B2B) and Boots to Business Reboot introduction courses, there is no cost to the eligible veteran or spouse for enrolling in this course.
Free and Confidential Business Advising
Identifying Entrepreneurial Needs
VBOCs recognize that each aspiring entrepreneur comes with a unique set of goals, experiences, and aspirations. Concept assessments begin by thoroughly understanding the specific needs of the individual or team looking to embark on their entrepreneurial journey. This process involves detailed discussions and analysis to unearth the core objectives and challenges that the client faces.
Business Plan Preparation
VBOCs assist clients in developing and maintaining a five-year business plan. The business plan includes such elements as the legal form of the business, equipment requirements and cost, organizational structure, a strategic plan, market analysis, and a financial plan. Financial plans include financial projections, budget projections, and funding requirements.
VBOCs conduct comprehensive market research as part of concept assessments. This research provides valuable insights into the target market, customer demographics, and competitive landscape. Understanding the market environment is crucial for clients to make informed decisions about their business concepts and strategies.
VBOCs assist clients in evaluating the financial aspects of their business ideas, including startup costs, revenue projections, and potential profitability. This process helps clients understand the financial realities of their entrepreneurial pursuits.
Once the concept assessment is complete, VBOCs provide clients with tailored recommendations. These recommendations are based on a holistic understanding of the client’s entrepreneurial vision, market conditions, and financial considerations. They offer guidance on refining the business concept, optimizing business plans, and identifying potential opportunities for growth and success.
VBOCs also help clients identify and mitigate risks associated with their business concepts. By thoroughly assessing the potential challenges and vulnerabilities, entrepreneurs are better prepared to develop contingency plans and strategies to minimize risk.
Encouraging Informed Decision-Making
Concept assessments empower clients with the information and insights needed to make informed decisions about pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams. Armed with a comprehensive understanding of their business concepts and the business landscape, clients can confidently move forward in their entrepreneurial journey, equipped to face challenges and seize opportunities.
Other Business Developmental-Related Services
VBOCs also provide assistance and training in such areas as international trade, franchising, online marketing, accounting, and more.
U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Programs
SBA partners with lenders to help increase small businesses’ access to capital. Loans guaranteed by SBA range from small to large and can be used for most business purposes, including long-term fixed assets and operating capital.
Among other eligibility requirements for SBA loan programs, the business must be for-profit, meet SBA size standards, be located in the United States, be creditworthy, and have exhausted other financing options.
- The 7(a) loan program is SBA’s primary business loan program for providing financial assistance to small businesses.
- The 504 program provides long-term fixed-rate financing for major fixed assets.
- The SBA’s smallest loan program, the microloan program, provides loans up to $50,000 to help small businesses start up and expand. SBA recently implemented additional policies aimed at expanding small business access to capital by modernizing SBA’s signature loan programs.
Key Loan Program Improvements include:
- Eligibility Determination: SBA made it easier to understand who qualifies for an SBA loan by clarifying affiliation standards, which can determine which businesses count as “small,” and is now bringing eligibility determination in-house through technology upgrades. Together, these changes will help small businesses and lenders know who qualifies up-front.
- Underwriting Requirements: SBA is providing additional flexibility in credit criteria for loans under $500,000 to support SBA loans in reaching more small businesses. Additionally, equity injection requirements have been removed for loans $500,000 and under. Equity injection requirements are now less rigid for loans over $500,000.
- Financing Business Ownership Changes: While previously the 7(a) loan program could only be used to finance complete changes of business ownership, the 7(a) loan program can now be used to finance partial changes of ownership as well.
Federal Contracting Assistance
SBA offers support for veterans as they enter the world of business ownership. The SBA’s Veteran Small Business Certification program (VetCert) opens opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs) to compete for federal sole-source and set-aside contracts.
The responsibility of Veteran certification transferred from the Veteran Administration (VA) to the SBA in 2023 with the SBA accepting applications as of January 9th. All federal government purchases between $10,000 and $250,000 are automatically set aside for small businesses, as long as there are at least two companies that can provide the product or service at a fair and reasonable price.
Veteran-owned small businesses can also access federally-owned personal property no longer in use through the Federal Surplus Personal Property Donation Program. There is no cost to obtain the VOSB or SDVOSB certification, visit veterans.certify.sba.gov to begin an online application.
VetCert business certifications are valid for three years from the approval date before requiring recertification.
VOSBs and SDVOSBs seeking certification from SBA must meet the following requirements:
- All must be considered small businesses, per the size standard corresponding to any NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) code listed in the business’s profile in the federal System for Award Management (SAM).
- All must have no less than 51% of the business owned and controlled by one or more veterans whose military service can be confirmed by the VA.
- SDVOSBs must have no less than 51% of the business owned and controlled by one or more veterans rated as service-disabled by the VA.
*Note: Veterans who are permanently and totally disabled, and unable to manage the daily business operations of their business, their business may still qualify if their spouse or appointed, permanent caregiver is assisting in that management.
Remember, you don’t have to embark on your entrepreneurial journey alone. Schedule a free and confidential business advising session with one of our experts at VBOC of the Dakotas to find out the next best steps for you and your business!