Small Business Loans for Veterans: Unlocking Opportunities

woman in the office consulting a veteran about Business loan

Veteran entrepreneurs significantly contribute to the American small business landscape. Despite their immense dedication and drive, they encounter distinct challenges, particularly in securing financing to grow their ventures.

This guide elaborates on how veterans can navigate these hurdles and capitalize on various financing opportunities.

Veteran Entrepreneurs: The Backbone of American Small Business

According to SCORE’s study titled, The Megaphone on Mainstreet: Unsung Entrepreneurs:

  • Veterans helm 9.1% of American small enterprises, producing an astounding $1 trillion in annual revenue;
  • Supplementing primary income is a more common motivation for veterans, with a 35.4% likelihood of initiating a business for this reason;
  • Financial concerns are more prevalent among veterans, registering a 23.3% higher rate than their non-veteran counterparts;
  • Service-related disabilities are a reality for nearly 42% of the surveyed veteran entrepreneurs. A significant number acknowledged facing adversity stemming from disabilities or prevalent biases;
  • On a brighter note, online lenders displayed a pronounced preference for veterans, granting their funding applications at double the rate of non-veterans.

Discovering Financial Solutions for Veteran Businesses

The financial landscape is vast and varied. Hence, our principal advice to veteran business proprietors is to explore extensively. Prioritize understanding every potential avenue for financing over exclusively seeking veteran-focused solutions.

Unlocking the Potential of Small Business Loans

SBA Loans are a treasure trove for veteran businesses. Their favorable terms and rates present a lucrative opportunity for eligible businesses.

While the U.S. Small Business Administration doesn’t directly lend (except for Disaster Loans), they guarantee loans proffered by certified lenders like banks and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).

The term “VA SBA loan” can be misleading. The Veterans Affairs department isn’t involved in crafting SBA loans. Previously, the Patriot Express Pilot Program catered specifically to veteran entrepreneurs, but its curtains were drawn on December 31, 2013.

However, several SBA loan variants are open to all qualifying business owners, with certain fee relaxations for veterans:

  • SBA 7(a) loans;
  • SBA Express loans;
  • 504 CDC loans;
  • SBA Microloans.

Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (MREIDL)

Under the SBA’s disaster loan initiative, MREIDL caters to businesses affected by the active-duty conscription of essential employees. Offering loans up to $2 million, these loans have favorable rates and can span up to 30 years.

Venture Capital for the Brave

For veterans interested in garnering investment rather than a loan, consider these investment entities:

  • Hivers and Strivers Angel Fund & Veteran Capital for Veterans: Primarily invests in ventures led by veterans. Typical investment ranges from $200,000 to $500,000;
  • Veteran Ventures: Invests in veteran-driven tech businesses. Their average initial round of investment is pegged at $1 million;
  • TFX Capital: Focuses on technology businesses helmed by former military and national security leaders. Their domain is strictly B2B, sidelining B2C or CPG enterprises.

Additional Financing Avenues

  1. Business Credit Cards: These cards offer flexibility, acting as a revolving credit line;
  2. Online Lenders: Online lenders seem to favor veterans, offering them loans at a considerably higher rate;
  3. Crowdfunding: Raise funds online through platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo;
  4. Microloans: For modest funding needs, CDFIs or other non-profits can offer microloans.
woman in the office helping a veteran to choose business loan

Seizing the Opportunity: Business Grants for Veterans

Grants are the holy grail for small business owners because they don’t need repayment. While scouting for grants, broaden your horizons. Some platforms to commence your search include Grants.gov, Grantwatch.com, and OpenGrants.io.

The Helping Hand: Resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs

Organizations such as the Veteran Business Outreach Centers, Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization, Second Service Foundation, Boots to Business, V-WISE, Bunker Labs, and Warrior Rising provide immense support to veteran entrepreneurs.

Innovative Financial Platforms for Veterans

With the rise of fintech, several platforms have started to cater exclusively to veterans. Platforms like VetFunder and HeroFinances provide targeted financial products, from loans to equity investments.

They leverage AI and machine learning to assess the viability and potential of veteran-led businesses, making the approval process faster and more efficient. Another advantage is the community these platforms foster, often linking veteran entrepreneurs with mentors and advisors from their service background.

Challenges Unique to Veteran Entrepreneurs

While veterans bring a wealth of experience and discipline, they might face challenges unique to their background. Transitioning from military service to civilian life can be daunting, with the business world having its own set of rules and protocols.

There’s also the challenge of translating military skills into business contexts. Fortunately, organizations like VetToCEO offer programs to help veterans make this transition smoothly.

The Importance of Networking for Veteran Business Owners

Networking is crucial for any entrepreneur, but for veterans, it takes on a unique significance. Building a robust professional network can help bridge the gap between military service and civilian business operations.

Platforms like VetNet or events organized by the National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA) are excellent avenues for veterans to network, share experiences, and collaborate.

Comparative Table: Financing Options for Veteran Entrepreneurs

Financing OptionAverage Loan AmountInterest RateRepayment PeriodSpecial Features
SBA Loans$50,000 – $5M6% – 9%5 – 25 yearsLower fees for veterans
MREIDLUp to $2M4%Up to 30 yearsSpecific to active-duty disruptions
Business Credit CardsN/A12% – 22%N/AFlexible credit lines
Online Lenders$5,000 – $500,0009% – 35%6 months – 5 yearsFaster approval times
CrowdfundingVariableN/AN/AEquity or reward-based
MicroloansUp to $50,0008% – 13%6 months – 10 yearsIdeal for startups

Conclusion

Veterans bring a unique blend of discipline, dedication, and resilience to the entrepreneurial world. While challenges exist, a plethora of resources, loans, and grants are available to ensure their business dreams reach fruition.