Leaving the military holds a number of unknowns, especially when it comes to your career. For many veterans, entrepreneurship is the next step. According to a recent survey, there are 2.4 million veteran-owned firms in the U.S. that employ about 5.8 million individuals. Former service members are also 45% more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans.
Although veteran-owned companies are typically more successful than the average startup, they still need support, mentorship and funding to take an idea from concept to market. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge into business ownership, here are six tips to get started.
- Develop an Idea
As a former service member, you possess unique skills, exceptional strength, discipline and perseverance — advantages that can help you become a great business owner and boss.
As you think about a potential idea, consider playing to your passions and strengths. Many veterans create products based on their field of experience. Do some research to find out what your community currently needs or wants. This is a great way to uncover opportunities and find a gap that you can fill.
- Write Your Business Plan
Once you have a concept to pursue, it’s time to start drafting a roadmap to success. This is a crucial step for starting a business, since it will lay out how you’ll get from point A to B in the next few years. A clear-cut, rational plan will also help prove your case to lenders, investors and potential partners. Your strategy should include the following components:
• Executive summary
• Overview of your company’s goals
• Market analysis
• Product or service development
• Financial projections
- Seek Advice From a Mentor
A mentor who is accomplished in business or startups can assist you in getting started the right way. A smart mentor will often go the extra mile in connecting you with people and resources that can be of significant benefit.
American Corporate Partners is a non-profit organization that helps veterans find their next career through networking and online career advice. It also matches veterans with mentors from Fortune 500 companies. American Corporate Partners’ mentorship goals include:
• Resume review
• Interview preparation
• Small business development
• Leadership and professional communication
- Enroll in Boots to Business
Boots to Business is a free, two-step education and training program offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration to former service members who want to become entrepreneurs. The program includes an Introduction to Entrepreneurship course and is available to active duty military transitioning out of service, veterans and their spouses.
After completing the course, participants may further their studies through an eight-week B2B Revenue Readiness online course, delivered through a partnership with Mississippi State University.
- Seek Franchise Support From VetFran
One in seven franchise businesses in the U.S. are owned and operated by veterans. VetFran is a strategic initiative of the International Franchise Association (IFA) that includes over 600 IFA member companies. This program offers financial incentives, support and education to veterans interested in opening their own franchise.
Former service members and their families can use the Veteran Toolkit on the VetFran website to learn about discounts and find franchise opportunities.
- Get Capital to Start Your Business
Veterans have access to several funding sources to help them kickstart their business venture. Consider taking advantage of these opportunities:
• StreetShares – This veteran-run financial solutions provider caters specifically to veteran business owners. You can apply for lines of credit, loans, contract financing and other programs to fulfill your pecuniary needs.
• Hivers & Strivers – As an investment group founded and run by graduates of U.S. Military Academies, Hivers & Strivers provides financial support to startups.
• Veteran Business Outreach Centers – VBOC programs provide entrepreneurial development services, such as business training and counseling. They also offer referrals to independent grants for prospective veteran entrepreneurs.
Veteran status can open many doors to resources, grants and financing opportunities that can help you get started on your entrepreneurial journey. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of these and many more to further your goals and set yourself up for a successful future.
Veteran Car Donations is a national organization that accepts vehicle donations to better the lives of veterans. The organization partners with a number of well-known veteran charities to help provide essential medical care, mental health services and more.
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