Startup Tips for Veteran Entrepreneurs
If you’ve served in the military and you’re ready for a new professional venture, one great option is to launch your own startup. Being an entrepreneur gives you a chance to turn your dreams into a reality, and it also gives you a chance to set your own hours, run your own team, and manage your own financial goals.
If you’re a military veteran who is looking to start a business, but you’re not sure where to start. there are many resources available to you that can help you get your idea off the ground–and to ensure that it grows and thrives. Here are some of the most useful startup tips for veteran entrepreneurs.
To launch a startup, it’s important to have the money. Funding can help ensure that you can afford capital, staff salaries, production costs, and more. Veterans can rely on several funding resources to help fund their startup ideas.
Federal Government funding
There are several funding sources from the federal government. These include:
- Grants.gov: Grants.govis a database of federal grants, and you can search through them to find one that are for veterans or ones that are for startups.
- SBA Veterans Advantage 7(a) Loan: As a former military member, you will not be charged up-front fees for loans of $125,000 if you qualify. You can also qualify for up to ten-year terms on equipment and up to 25-year terms for real estate. Larger loans have reduced fees as well. You may consider an SBA Express Loan, which is expedited so you can move quickly to establish your business.
State Government Funding
In addition to relying on the federal government, veteran entrepreneurs can also get funding from state governments. Some of the sources include:
- EDA grants: Check out your localEconomic Development Administration branch. They often offer resources to help veterans start and grow their businesses.
- Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP): The VEPcan connect veterans to a wide range of loans, including those that are state-specific.
In addition to taking advantage of government funding to launch a startup, veterans can also rely on the following sources of private funding.
- Hivers and Strivers:Hivers and Strivers is a group of angel investors that invests in startups run by graduates of US Military Academies.
- StreetShares: StreetShares is a company dedicated to providing business loans to veterans, specifically.
- In many areas, there are state and local programs that aid veteran business owners.
Launching a startup can be tough, and it can be especially hard when you don’t have much in terms of financials to offer people. Keep morale high by paying team members in different ways: cater lunch weekly, send emails with daily inspirational quotes and expressions of gratitude, and focus on creating a fun work environment. By taking steps to boost people’s mood and increase motivation, you can keep morale high as the company develops.
Nurture Client Relationships
You’re not actually a company unless you have clients and customers you serve. Devote significant time and energy to your client or customer relationships. By giving unforgettable service, you encourage not only a loyal customer of your organizaiton who’ll come back, but also a natural ambassador who will market your company for you in the world (at no cost). Personalize communications, follow up after purchases to see if customers are happy, and send tailored marketing info. If customers feel valued and attended to, they’ll love working with you.
Early Warnings and Red Flags to Avoid
If you’re just getting your business off the ground, there are some warning signs and red flags that you should avoid in order to make sure your business continues to grown and thrive. Some of the most important signs to watch for (and adjust from) include:
- Lack of passion: If you’re not excited about going to work every day, and you are starting not to feel passionate about the actual work, there’s a good chance you’re not going to be able to push through the certain headaches and hiccups you’re likely to face as you get the company off the groud.
- Expenses with no ROI: Do you need to pay a lot for a lawyer or real estate for your business? You should avoid expenses in the early days that don’t pay off for your business. At the get-go, you need to be investing money only in things that are certain to bring money back to you eventually.
- Too many people at the helm: Leaders should take advice and input from a wide range of people. But only a tiny team of founders (or one founder) should be at the head. Too many people trying to steer an organization will likely lead to in-fighting, difficulties figuring out how to use cash early on, and more.
As a veteran, you have contributed greatly to your nation. While that debt cannot be repaid, the government does offer certain programs to make it easier for you to succeed personally and professionally after you are out of the military. Beyond the funding programs we have discussed, there are several training and education opportunities to enhance your skill sets.
Numerous training programs exist to help you establish your business or improve your current one. For instance, the Veterans Business Outreach Center Program has 15 locations in the U.S. that offer training and mentoring to teach you how to build a thriving business.
Boot to Business is another highly regarded program that offers free education for veteran business owners, both in person and through an online course.
You may also find the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) helpful. Held at Syracuse University, the program incorporates Boots to Business, the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, and Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship.
No matter where you live in the United States, you should be able to find free training to help you establish and run your small business. In some cases, all you need is a computer connection to receive invaluable business education.
In many areas, there are state and local programs that aid veteran business owners as well. Educational and financial help is out there for you. You simply need to explore the many options available. Your service does mean something to the nation, and the government wants you to succeed after you’ve left the military.