Grants for veterans’ businesses are available from both public and non-profit organizations that work to aid military households.
In contrast to small business loans and other forms of debt-based financing, which must be repaid, veteran business grants provide free funding to help you start or expand your business.
The process of applying for and receiving small business grants is often time-consuming and fraught with competition. Here are some places we think veterans who own businesses should look for small business grants, as well as other sources of funding and free tools for managing a business.
Best business grants for disabled veterans
Hivers and Strivers
Angel investment firm Hivers and Strivers focuses on companies run by and owned by military veterans. The Venture Capital for Veterans program provides seed money for startups run by military personnel. The available funding options can be anywhere from $250,000 to $1,000,000.
Through Gust, you can submit a funding request for your business idea. The initiative prioritizes high-growth startups led by military veterans. However, companies that depend heavily on government contracts cannot receive funding.
Warrior Rising Small Business Grants
If you are a veteran interested in starting a business or expanding an existing one, you should learn more about Warrior Rising Small Business Grants. This Utah-based nonprofit was established in 2015 to aid veteran business owners by providing seed funding and professional guidance.
To participate as a “vetpreneur” in the Warrior Rising program, businesses can submit an application online. If your application is successful, the company will send you an email welcoming you to the team. There, you can arrange a phone call with a representative who will outline the four phases of the business development program, which include participation in the Warrior Community, one-on-one mentoring, access to funding, and training through the Warrior Academy.
GrantWatch is a resource that connects veterans with private and public grant opportunities (such as those for business startup or property improvement). More than 28,000 funding opportunities from thousands of organizations across the United States, Canada, and the United States’ Territories are cataloged in this comprehensive directory.
Access to GrantWatch’s membership directory is restricted to paying members only. Prices range from $18 per week to $199 per year, with the latter being the most common plan. When you find a grant that interests you, you must apply by following the guidelines set forth by the group offering the grant.
VetFran is not a grant program, but it does give veterans the chance to start their own franchise business. It facilitates communication between franchise sellers and military personnel in search of special pricing.
While veterans only account for about 7% of the general population, they own 14% of franchises.
The initial franchise fee can be reduced by 10% to 100% through VetFran’s program, and the website also includes a database of 600 franchise opportunities. Each franchise owner in its system must pass a background check and financial audit before joining.
Its website also features informational materials on franchise financing and ownership.
State and local government programs
Veterans who own businesses can get help from the government in some states. For information on available grants, contact your regional business chamber.
The Military Personnel and Veteran-Owned Small Business Loan Program (MPVOLP) of the Maryland Department of Commerce, for instance, provides veterans with zero-interest loans for terms ranging from one to eight years.
There is a $15,000 cap on the size of these interest-free loans. You must be the owner of a small business with fewer than 50 employees and be a veteran, member of the national guard, or member of the military reserves to qualify.
If you are looking for grants or other forms of funding, another option is to contact your local or state Economic Development Administration. Small business owners can also find support from academic institutions.
For instance, Texas Woman’s University offers female veterans who are interested in starting businesses a $5,000 grant through the Veteran Women Entrepreneur Grant. Ten state business owners will each receive a grant of $10,000 per year. The capital is available for the purchase of machinery, computers, and other office necessities.
In addition to having a Texas presence and being at least 51% female-owned or controlled, there are a few other requirements for participation.
MREIDL is the Military Reserve Emergency Economic Injury Loan Program.
The Small Business Administration provides funding for the Military Reservist Loan program because of its authority over disaster loans. A small business may be eligible for a MREIDL loan of up to $2 million if a key employee has been called to active duty. (The SBA will determine the size of the loan based on the extent of the economic damage.) These are long-term, low-interest loans that can span 30 years.
When an essential worker is called to active military duty, this loan program can “provide the amount of working capital needed by a small business to pay its necessary obligations as they mature until operations return to normal.” Get details and an application at SBA.gov.
If you’re a veteran who owns a business, you should look into getting an SBA loan. For those who qualify, the rates and terms of these loans are very favorable.
With the exception of SBA Disaster Loans, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) does not lend money directly to businesses; rather, it guarantees loans from other institutions like banks and non-profit Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).
You might be misled by the term “VA SBA loan” and believe that the VA is in the business of providing SBA loans. True enough, there is no SBA loan program for veterans. The Patriot Express Pilot Program used to be around to help out veteran-owned businesses. However, as of December 31st, 2013, that initiative was scrapped. Loans of up to $500,000 were made available to service members and their families.
All qualified small business owners, including veterans, have access to a variety of SBA loan programs, and veterans receive discounts on certain fees. There are primarily two types of SBA loans:
- Small Business Administration 7(a) Loans
- Small Business Administration Express Loans
- CDC 504 Loans
- Microloans from the S.B.A.
These loans can be used for anything from general business purposes to the purchase of land or buildings. Here is a comprehensive explanation of Small Business Administration (SBA) loans.
Perhaps you’re familiar with the Small Business Administration’s Veterans Advantage program. From January 1, 2014, through the end of fiscal year 2015, the Obama administration exempted veteran loans under the SBA Express program (loans up to $350,000) from the upfront, one-time loan guaranty fee. Veteran’s Advantage was the name of the program. Despite the fact that the program has ended, veterans who own businesses are exempt from certain fees thanks to new legislation. The fee for SBA Express loans has recently been permanently reduced to zero thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). For eligible borrowers, this feature increases the loan’s appeal.
To obtain an SBA loan, you must do business with a lender that is authorized to do so by the Small Business Administration. Keep in mind that while lenders are obligated to make sure these loans meet the SBA’s minimum requirements, they are also free to set their own standards so long as they don’t discriminate against borrowers in any way that isn’t allowed by law. That could require some time spent searching for the ideal SBA lender.
Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab
The Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab is offered by Grand Valley State University to local business owners. Veterans and their spouses can participate in a three-month program that provides them with business training and networking opportunities.
Participants in the program conduct pre-launch activities such as researching their target market, gathering necessary resources, and networking with leaders in their chosen field. At the end of MVE-Lab, participants compete in a pitch competition for small business grants.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Dream Big Awards
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce presents the annual Dream Big Awards to recognize the achievements of small businesses across the country. A for-profit company in operation for at least a year is required for consideration. There must not be more than 250 people working for you, and your annual gross sales must be under $20 million.
The winner of Dream Big receives a prize of $25,000. The Veteran-Owned Business Achievement Award and the Woman-Owned Business Achievement Award are two other examples of category-specific awards that are presented. While the application period for 2022 has closed, those interested in learning more about the next round of awards can still do so.
More than a thousand different federal grant opportunities are listed in Grants.gov. Several federal departments, including Commerce, Veterans Affairs, and Labor, provide these grants to help small businesses get started.
Check the eligibility requirements and create a Grants.gov account before submitting an application for one of these funds. This database is a good place to begin your search for free funding, even though it does not contain grants that are available only to veterans.
Boots to Business
The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides a free, two-part program called Boots to Business (B2B) to service members who are interested in starting their own businesses. There’s a two-day crash course on the fundamentals of starting a business and how to write a business plan as part of the program. Both partners and spouses of active-duty service members who are leaving the military are welcome to apply.
The Boots to Business Reboot, or B2BR, is a similar program open to veterans and their spouses from all eras. B2B Revenue Readiness is a free online course offered by Mississippi State University that graduates of the B2B or B2BR program can take to continue their business education.
What is a small business grant?
Various organizations, including the government, private businesses, and philanthropic foundations, offer small businesses the chance to apply for and receive predetermined grants of money. These aren’t loans for small businesses or forgiven debt, so there’s no obligation to repay them.
Qualified applicants can receive grants to help them start a business or expand an existing one. However, there may be restrictions on how the grant money can be used. Sometimes grants are given out for very specific reasons, like funding educational or training programs for entrepreneurs or investing in cutting-edge technology. Black-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, and businesses hit by a natural disaster or a pandemic are just a few examples of the types of organizations that may qualify for a grant because of the difficulty they have getting access to capital.
How much money can you get with a VA business loan?
The Veterans Administration (VA) guarantees a certain percentage of all loans made to veterans. The Veterans Affairs (VA) home loan program is well-known among veterans who may be interested in obtaining a mortgage. However, the Veterans Administration does not offer loans to small businesses. Unfortunately, the VA does not lend money to or guarantee loans for small businesses.
Are there grants for veterans to start a business?
Most small business grants go to already established companies rather than new ones. In most cases, you’ll need an established company that’s already making money before you can apply for a grant. Both the federal government and the VA remind you that they do not provide funding for new business ventures.
Can I apply for more than one small business grant?
Yes. In addition to grants for veterans, there are many other types of small business grants, such as those for women- or minority-owned enterprises. Applying for multiple grants at once can be simplified by using a previously submitted application as a starting point for subsequent applications.
Veterans who are interested in starting or growing a business have access to more than just the traditional funding avenues such as grants and small business loans. The local Office of Veterans Business Development can provide veteran-owned businesses with a variety of resources, some of which may be unavailable at more conventional small business development centers, such as programs to help veterans adjust to civilian life, technical assistance, business training, and so on.
They may also know about grant opportunities and other resources that can help you get your business off the ground, as well as provide you with more details on VA loans, such as VA business loans and eligibility.
Discover which veteran financial and small business resources can assist with start-up costs and planning if running your own business is a lifelong goal of yours.