Resources for veterans looking to become entrepreneurs

In 2012, The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) released a report entitled Veteran-owned Businesses and Their Owners. The report used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners (SBO), which is conducted once every five years. The report found that there were 2.45 million businesses in the U.S. with majority ownership by veterans and that 12.2 percent of all owners of SBO-respondent firms were veterans. The report also stated that these veteran-owned businesses had sales/receipts of $1.220 trillion, 5.793 million employees, and an annual payroll of $210 billion.

Such statistics tend to amaze many civilians, but to us veterans, they come as no surprise. To our community, the transition from military officer to business owner is not only completely logical but also ideal. We know that the Army trained us to work beyond our limits, to be leaders, to analyze and react to situations with intelligence and determination, all necessary skills to starting a small business or becoming an entrepreneur; however, popular perception of veterans, lack of financial support, and unfamiliarity to the resources available to veterans are just some of the many factors that keep veterans from reaching their entrepreneurial goals.

In 2007, I made the transition from working as an Army Finance Officer to founding and running my own business. My transition into the private sector had its own set of challenges and trials, but was ultimately highly successful. Integrated Finance and Account Solutions (IFAS) is a government contracting consulting firm that services more military and government institutions and assists them in properly managing and applying their finances. In the past seven years, IFAS has grown from a one-woman consulting firm to a highly regarded, employee oriented, multi-million dollar firm.

Looking back though, I know that I would not have been able to succeed without help: Creating a successful and lasting business requires an immense amount of knowledge, sponsorship, and funding. And although the Veteran Job Corps Act was not passed by the Senate two years ago, there are a plethora of resources available to veterans as they transition into the private sector – you just have to know where to find them.

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs offers a complete online Veteran Entrepreneur Portal that provides information on the different grant, funding, and loan opportunities available to veterans, different training and employment programs (such as Microsoft’s Elevate America Veterans, Operation Boots to Business, and Veterans Employment and Training Service, among others), a complete guide to starting a business, and more.

Additionally there are multiple programs, bootcamps, and conferences offered across the country that teaches veterans the many skills and technologies need to start and run a business. For example, Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families offers programs for veterans with disabilities (EBV), veteran women, active duty and female family members (V-WISE), post 9/11 veterans and military spouses (VCTP), and more. In fact, many universities provide intensive courses and programs for veteran entrepreneurs, such as George Washington University’s The Veteran Entrepreneur Program, The University of Tennessee Chattanooga Veteran Entrepreneur Program, Rider University Veteran Entrepreneurial Program, and more.

Also many private organizations hold conferences specifically aimed for vets to attend seminars and tutorials on the important skills and steps to starting a business. Conferences are also a great place to expand your business network! Examples of veteran entrepreneur conferences include the Veteran Entrepreneur Training Symposium, Women Veteran Entrepreneur Corps Conference, and The 11th Annual National Convention of Service Disabled Veteran and Small Businesses. To find upcoming conferences and events, visit the VA’s Conferences and Events page.

The government and universities are not the only organizations that care about the prosperity and success of our nation’s vets. There are a multitude of private and non-profit organizations that invest in veteran entrepreneurs. Techstars is a selective technology incubator program that offers a Risingstars initiative, which “extends technology company startup opportunities to demographic groups that are currently underrepresented in the technology startup community.” American Corporate Partners offers veterans tools for long-term career development, career counseling, and networking opportunities. TCP’s Veteran’s Opportunity Fund is a venture capital fund that specifically invests in veteran-owned businesses that need capital for further economical growth. For more private and non-profit resources, see MilitaryOnlineColleges.org’s article on 100 Great Sites for Military Veteran Businesspeople.

Lastly, there are significant opportunities and benefits for veterans looking to start a franchise. In 2012, the International Franchise Association (IFA) launched Operation Enduring Opportunity campaign that aims to hire, recruit, and train 80,000 veterans as franchise owners throughout 2014. To learn more about the many economic incentives for veterans to start a new franchise, visit the VA’s Veteran Franchising Opportunities page. 

As we mourn the two-year anniversary of the Veteran Job Corps’ road block in Senate, it’s important to support and promote the longevity of these programs. Building the American dream to develop one’s own business is a valuable method for thanking military service members and their families for their commitment to protecting our right to pursue happiness personally and professionally.

Turman is founder, president and CEO of Integrated Finance and Account Solutions LLC and a U.S. Army veteran.