Small Business Grants for Veterans – A Guide for Former Service Members
Starting or growing a small business can be challenging for anyone – but veterans face unique hurdles when transitioning back to civilian life. At Delancey Street, we want to help veterans succeed as entrepreneurs. This guide covers the best small business grants, resources, and financing options available to veterans today.
Government Grants for Veteran-Owned Businesses
Several government agencies offer grants specifically for veterans starting or expanding a small business. These programs provide funding that doesn’t need to be repaid.
SBA Veteran Business Outreach Centers
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) funds organizations across the country that offer training, counseling, and assistance to veteran entrepreneurs through Veteran Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs). VBOCs help veterans with business planning, marketing, financing, and government contracting. They also connect vets with local funding sources like small business grants and loans.To find a VBOC near you, visit the SBA website.
SBA Boots to Business Program
Boots to Business is an entrepreneurship training program offered by the SBA in partnership with the Department of Defense. The curriculum covers business fundamentals like drafting a business plan, identifying funding sources, and practical steps for launching a company.Boots to Business is open to transitioning service members and their spouses. The training is offered on many military installations. Learn more at the Boots to Business website.
SBA Patriot Express Loan Program
The SBA Patriot Express loan program offers veteran-owned businesses access to capital through SBA-backed financing. Patriot Express loans come with low interest rates and have a faster application process compared to standard SBA loans.Loan amounts up to $500,000 are available for most business purposes, including startup costs, equipment purchases, working capital, and real estate. Visit the SBA website for more details.
USDA Farm Service Agency Loans
Veterans in rural areas can access low-interest loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency. The loans can be used to start, purchase or expand a family farm.Direct farm ownership loans up to $600,000 are available to help buy farmland. Visit the USDA website to learn more.
State and Local Programs
Many states and cities offer grants, loans and other assistance for veteran entrepreneurs. For example, Texas offers grants for women veteran business owners through the Center for Women Entrepreneurs.Search for “veteran business grants [your state]” to find programs near you. Local economic development offices are another good resource.
Grants from Private Organizations
Along with government agencies, many private non-profit groups and companies also offer small business grants for veterans.
The PenFed Foundation Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program
The PenFed Foundation provides grants up to $100,000 to veteran-owned startups that have a viable business plan but lack the capital needed to launch. Grantees also receive mentorship from business executives.Learn more at PenFedFoundation.org.
The StreetShares Foundation runs two grant contests – the Memorial Day Small Business Grant Contest and the Veteran Small Business Award. In total, they award over $100,000 to veteran entrepreneurs each year.Get details at StreetSharesFoundation.org.
Victory Spark Small Business Grant Contest
The National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA) and Victory Spark sponsor an annual small business grant contest for veteran-owned companies. Participants compete for $10,000 grants by submitting a short online application.Learn more at NaVOBA.org/Veteran-Grant-Contest.
Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families
This initiative from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) offers free entrepreneurship classes to veterans, active duty service members, and military spouses. Graduates are eligible for grants up to $2,500 to start a business.Get details at VeteransEDC.org.
Financing Options Beyond Grants
Because competition is fierce for grants, veterans should also consider alternative funding options to start or grow a business.
SBA 7(a) Loans
The SBA 7(a) loan program helps small businesses obtain financing from lenders. Loan amounts up to $5 million are available for working capital, equipment, real estate, and other needs.Because the SBA guarantees a portion of 7(a) loans, they come with lower interest rates and smaller down payments compared to conventional business loans.
The SBA Microloan program provides loans up to $50,000 from non-profit lenders. The average loan size is around $14,000. Funds can be used for equipment, inventory, supplies, furniture, fixtures, and working capital.
Rollovers for Business Startups (ROBS)
A ROBS plan lets entrepreneurs use funds from a 401(k) or other retirement account to start a business without tax penalties. It works by rolling over retirement funds into a C corporation, which then uses the money to purchase equipment, real estate or other startup assets for the business.ROBS can be complicated, so it’s smart to work with an attorney or ROBS specialist on the process.
Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow entrepreneurs to raise small investments from a large pool of backers. This can be a good source of startup capital for veteran-owned businesses with an appealing product or service.
Venture capital firms invest in startups and small businesses they believe have long-term growth potential. VC deals often come with hands-on mentorship in addition to funding.The right introductions and a solid business plan are key to getting in front of venture capitalists. Attending startup pitch events can help make connections.
Tips for Applying for Veteran Small Business Grants
- Start early – Many grant programs have short application windows. Don’t wait until the last minute.
- Follow instructions – Carefully read all requirements and submit complete applications. Missing information can disqualify you.
- Ask for help – Connect with your local VBOC or SCORE chapter for grant writing assistance.
- Highlight your skills – Emphasize how your military experience has prepared you for business ownership.
- Have a specific plan – Grantors want to see how their money will be used, so detail your goals.
- Follow up – Be persistent and gracious if you don’t get selected for a grant. Ask for feedback on your application.
Let Delancey Street Help You Succeed
At Delancey Street, we want to see veterans thrive as business owners. Our team of advisors can help you find the right funding mix to turn your business idea into reality. We also offer ongoing support with accounting, marketing, operations, and more to set you up for long-term success.Veterans have made tremendous sacrifices serving our country. We’re committed to helping former service members pursue their dreams of business ownership. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your startup succeed.