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Starting A Veteran-Owned Business

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Call it evolution, transition, or “rethinking”: the past year has brought enormous change to the way we live and work.

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It’s been a year of challenge, but also of opportunity. It’s prompted people from all walks of life to reassess and recalibrate – and for many, that recalibration involves making a professional transition.

Veterans are no exception. Millions of them are making the move from military service to private enterprise.

Both are demanding fields, where the stakes can be high. But with careful planning, veterans can successfully transition from boots on the ground to business startup.

Joining The Ranks

Veterans thinking of starting their own businesses will find themselves in good company.

According to a report by the U.S. Small Business Administration, veterans are 45% more likely to be self-employed than individuals with no military experience.  In fact, military service was found to be more closely linked to entrepreneurial ambition than graduate-level education.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Military life hones the values and skills that are key to successful entrepreneurship: leadership and teamwork, being mission-minded and “battle-ready”.

So – clearly, veterans are equipped with the skills, drive, and aptitude for entrepreneurship. But, like any aspiring business owner, they’ll benefit from following some best practices in the startup phase.

What’s The Big Idea?

Before jumping in with both feet, would-be entrepreneurs should have a clear idea of exactly what they want to do. They should ask themselves:

  • What needs can my business meet?
  • What are the skills I can offer?
  • Do my personal interests align with my business idea?
  • What resources can I access?
  • What are my long-term goals?

The answers to those questions will help determine what form the business will take, and who it will serve.

For example, you may decide to:

  • Run training and leadership programs which will allow you to put your experience and expertise to good use
  • Target fellow veterans exclusively
  • Start a local business that meets specific community needs
  • Establish yourself online by using online resources to build an ecommerce store

Get It In Writing

Put your ideas on paper to determine whether they’re feasible, and whether your product is marketable.

This should begin with market research to get a clear sense of your potential consumer base – as well as the risks and opportunities in developing your idea. This will include gathering as much information as possible about your target audience – particularly demographics like interests, age, income, etc.

In addition, evaluate the competition and determine how you can fill current gaps in the marketplace.

Chart Your Course

Once you’ve defined your market’s needs, your own goals, and what you have to offer, it’s time to develop and document a business plan. This will lay out the path you’ll take to get to your business destination.

This could include:

  • Executive summary of mission, products, and goals
  • Company description
  • Market analysis
  • Organization and management details
  • Service or product description and benefits
  • Marketing and sales strategy
  • Funding requirements and allocation

In addition, you’ll need to obtain all the registrations, permits, licenses, and other legal documentation necessary to ensure your business will be set to open its doors.

Your business plan is more than a roadmap for personal use: it will also demonstrate to investors and creditors that you’ve put serious time and thought into making your idea a success – and it will make the case for providing support.

Calculate Costs

If you don’t accurately forecast the cost of launching your business, you could face unanticipated debt down the road. A detailed cost breakdown will also help potential investors in deciding whether or not to back your efforts.

Find Funding

Once you’ve put a price on your business startup, look at your funding options.

Fortunately, veterans have a wealth of grant and loan programs to choose from.

Grants can provide a much-needed financial boost to get a business off the ground. Grant Watch is a comprehensive online listing of over 14,000 grants which aspiring entrepreneurs can review to find those applying specifically to veterans.

Loans are also readily available to veterans. VA loans, for example, are mortgages issued by private lenders and backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

These enable U.S. veterans, active duty members, and widowed military spouses to buy homes or refinance existing mortgages. There is no down payment required, and no limit to the amount that can be borrowed.

Resources such as these are invaluable because they give aspiring entrepreneurs the breathing room they need to focus on building their business.

Reach Out

Seek advice from experienced entrepreneurs. There are many resources and programs offered by non-profit and government organizations that provide business development mentorship to veterans.

Once you’ve found your footing, don’t stand still. The business world is in a state of constant flux, so it’s important to stay nimble. Do that by accessing online programs to keep your skillset at a peak performance level.

Stand Out

In the course of your military service, you likely developed a healthy respect for the importance of teamwork. But the key to success as an entrepreneur is marketing – and that means taking center stage.

You are the face of your business – and as an aspiring entrepreneur, your status is unique. Make that a selling point.

Veterans over the years have earned an enormous amount of public respect and goodwill. Tap into it.

Use promotional videos to personalize your approach. Engage with your audience by talking about the unique training and expertise which you bring to your business – and to your customers.

Stay Mission-Minded

In the end, it’s the quality and experience of what you offer that counts.

Entrepreneurship is undoubtedly challenging. But with the intensive training that veterans undergo, business development and administration can make an excellent fit. It’s all about leadership, problem-solving, vision, and commitment.

By following best practices, tapping into veteran-specific training and funding resources, and applying their time and tenacity, veterans can successfully make the transition from fatigues to financial profits.

And, in the process, they’ll continue to contribute to the wellbeing of the countries they’ve been proud to serve.

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At ValueWalk, we’re committed to providing accurate, research-backed information. Our editors go above and beyond to ensure our content is trustworthy and transparent.

Aman Jain
Personal Finance Writer

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