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Veteran Entrepreneur Programs: The Best 9 Ways To Grow Your Businesses

As post-9/11 veterans re-enter civilian life and begin transitioning to new careers, many find they’re perfectly suited to becoming a veteran entrepreneur. Here’s a guide for veteran entrepreneurs, complete with some Veteran Entrepreneur Programs.
By Hazel Nguyen | 8 min read
on April 22, 2020
Image credit: Military Press

Veterans who own small businesses and vets who want to start a business or franchise can find valuable small business resources through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Fundera has a very good list of resources for veteran entrepreneurs. Here is a list of veteran entrepreneur programs and other important resources for budding veteran entrepreneurs – check it out to see if any of these organizations or programs could be helpful to your business.

#1 National Veterans Entrepreneurship Program (VEP)

The National Veterans Entrepreneurship Program (VEP) provides a rigorous entrepreneurial learning and development opportunity for veterans with service-connected disabilities and those who have uniquely distinguished themselves in the military. VEP is designed for veterans interested in starting a new venture as a means to financial independence and for veterans who have an existing business for which they would like to increase profits.

The VEP is comprised of three phases: a five-week self-study component, an intense eight-day training program at the University of Florida, and a five-month mentorship period with online peer-to-peer networking. This three-phase program offers an innovative and effective combination of focused, practical training in venture creation and growth, as well as a support structure for graduates of the program.

Phase I: Concept Development and Self Study

Over the initial five-week period, delegates will participate in a self-study curriculum developed for the VEP, facilitated by an online discussion and assessment module, which will be moderated by entrepreneurship faculty. This phase enables delegates to work on the development of business concepts and prepare for Bootcamp at the University of Florida campus in May. Those with existing businesses will work on understanding and shaping relevant business issues.

Phase II: VEP Bootcamp

Like a military boot camp, this seven-day residency in Gainesville, FL is intense, rigorous and demanding. It is an opportunity for hands-on learning and interaction with faculty, guest entrepreneurs, business experts, and peer delegates. The Bootcamp exposes VEP participants to the “nuts and bolts” of business ownership through experiential workshops and lessons from world-class faculty representing nationally ranked programs around the country.

Phase III: Mentoring and Venture Development

Delegates are provided with five months of ongoing mentorship from entrepreneurs and subject matter experts and online peer-to-peer networking. This phase of the VEP will enable delegates to get feedback specific to their ventures and offer extended hands-on learning that is critical to success.

The VEP is free to veterans who are selected for the program. Instruction, materials, travel expenses, lodging, and meals for the Phase II Bootcamp will be provided at no cost to each delegate. The costs of the VEP are underwritten by sponsors and private donors, with operations and program development provided by the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center at the University of Florida.

VEP targets veterans who meet the following three requirements:

  • Have separated from active duty service (or are in the administrative process of separating) with an honorable discharge
  • Identified as disabled by the Veteran’s Administration or Department of Defense based on a “service-connected” disability(or) “Service distinguished” based on exemplary military conduct
  • Demonstrate an intense interest in entrepreneurship and small business ownership/management

#2 Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans With Disabilities (EBV)

Veteran Entrepreneur Programs The 9 Resources To Start Business Image 1
Source: SBA

The EBV Consortium represents the first major partnership of America’s schools and colleges of business since World War II, formed with the express purpose of serving military veterans. Named by Inc. Magazine as one of the “10 Best” entrepreneurship programs in the U.S. (2011)

EBV is a novel, one-of-a-kind initiative designed to leverage the skills, resources, and infrastructure of higher education to offer cutting-edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management to post-9/11 veterans and their families. The program aims to open the door to economic opportunity for our veterans and their families by developing their competencies in creating and sustaining an entrepreneurial venture.

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) program is designed specifically to provide the tools, education, and mentorship necessary for post-9/11 veterans to start or grow their businesses. They offer the latest training in business and entrepreneurship, utilizing the breadth of experience available through the renowned Haub School of Business, industry practitioners, and our affiliation with Syracuse University and their Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF).

EBV is delivered through a three-phased approach, providing premier training and support:

PHASE 1—is a 30-day instructor-led, online course focused on basic skills of entrepreneurship and the language of business.

PHASE 2—is a nine-day residency at an EBV university where students are exposed to over 30 accomplished entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship educators from across the U.S. The residency includes more than 80 hours of instruction in the “nuts and bolts” of business ownership. The residency is intense and designed to both educate and motivate.

PHASE 3—involves 12 months of support and mentorship delivered through the EBV Post Program Support, a robust, comprehensive network of mentors, resources and national partnerships.

#3 Boots to Business

An entrepreneurial program offered on military installations around the world and a training track of the Department of Defense (DOD) Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Boots to Business Reboot extends the entrepreneurship training offered in TAP to veterans of all eras in their communities.

Boots to Business (B2B) is an entrepreneurial education and training program offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as part of the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program (TAP). The course provides an overview of entrepreneurship and applicable business ownership fundamentals. Active Duty Servicemembers (including National Guard and Reserve), Veterans of all eras, and spouses are eligible to participate.

#4 IVMF - Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE)

Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) is a premier training program in entrepreneurship and small business management operated by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. It is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the generous philanthropic support of corporate and foundation partners nationwide. V-WISE helps women veterans and female military spouses/partners find their passion and learn the business savvy skills necessary to turn an idea or start-up into a growing venture. The three-phases of the program include a 15-day online course (Phase I), 3-day entrepreneurship training event (Phase II), and ongoing mentorship, training and support opportunities for graduates launching or growing their business (Phase III)

Phase I of the V-WISE program is a 15-day online learning experience designed to teach participants the “language of business,” how to understand opportunity recognition as it relates to growing a sustainable venture, and present actionable strategies related to new venture creation

In Phase II, The conference includes more than 20 distinct modules of training (representing over 40 hours of coursework!) designed for both new business owners and to support the needs of existing ventures.  Topics addressed include business concepts, financing, guerrilla marketing, human resources, legal challenges, profit model, etc.

Phase III, V-WISE Biz Support, provides program graduates with technical assistance to start and grow their business.  Graduates will have access to incorporation services, financing services, mentorship, and opportunities for further education and skill-building with the IVMF and its partners, often at a reduced or waived cost.  These services are available through a password-protected website.

#5 Dog Tag Inc. (DTI Fellowship Program)

Dog Tag Inc. (DTI) empowers veterans with service-connected disabilities, military spouses, and caregivers to discover personal and professional fulfillment in the civilian world through an innovative business- and entrepreneurship-focused fellowship. 

Their five-month program enables fellows to dip their toe back into education, gain first-hand experience in a real small business, explore a wide variety of civilian career paths, and acquire soft skills through professional workshops. Fellows spend the five months as a member of a team of individuals and become part of the greater Dog Tag alumni community upon graduation. Upon completion of the fellowship, DTI alumni are business-ready, competitive, and employable.

Fellows earn a Certificate in Business Administration from Georgetown University. The curriculum consists of seven courses that are tailored to the small business-focused interests of our fellows. Courses include accounting, management, communication, corporate finance, marketing, business policy, and entrepreneurship.

#6  Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC)

The Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) Program is designed to provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling, and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard & Reserve members and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business. The SBA has 22 organizations participating in this cooperative agreement and serving as Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC).

VBOCs conduct entrepreneurial development workshops dealing specifically with the major issues of self-employment. An important segment of these workshops entails the usage of the Internet as a tool for developing and expanding businesses. Each client is allowed to work directly with a business counselor.

VBOCs assist clients in developing and maintaining a five-year business plan. The business plan includes such elements as the legal form of the business, equipment requirements and cost, organizational structure, a strategic plan, market analysis, and a financial plan. Financial plans include financial projections, budget projections, and funding requirements.

VBOCs assist in identifying and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the business plan to increase the probability of success. The results of the analysis are utilized to revise the strategic planning portion of the business plan.

VBOCs, working with other SBA resource partners, target entrepreneurial training projects and counseling sessions tailored specifically to address the needs and concerns of the service-disabled veteran entrepreneur.

VBOCs conduct, as appropriate, on-site visits with clients to ensure adherence to their business plans. Additionally, VBOCs review monthly financial statements to determine whether a revision of the business plan is warranted or that desired results are being attained.

#7 SJU Veterans Entrepreneurial Jumpstart (VEJ)

Saint Joseph's University Office of Veterans Services is proud to offer distinctive Small Business & Entrepreneurship Programs for Veterans.

These programs, while part of the renowned Haub School of Business, are not intended for our student-veterans.  Rather, they have been specifically designed and developed for veterans who have the desire and passion to start their business

#8 Service-Disabled Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program (SGVEP)

This is an entrepreneurship training to veteran small business owners and entrepreneurs, with a special emphasis on entrepreneurship instruction to service-disabled veteran small business owners and entrepreneurs, outcomes that reflect in new business starts, job creation/retention, and income generation that results in the establishment of new and expansion of existing small veteran-owned firms.

Up to six awardees will use the $300,000 in total funding to participate in the Service-Disabled Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program with grants from SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development.  These funds will be used to cover the costs of educating service-disabled veterans planning to start a new business or expand and diversify existing small businesses.

#9 Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP)

Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP) is an accelerator like in-residence educational training program, funded in part by SBA for owners, principals, and C-level executives of veteran-owned businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses focusing on federal procurement.

National Center for Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP) is a veteran entrepreneurship program that specifically addresses federal procurement. VIP offers a platform with three (3) training programs to assist our veterans. VIP GROW is our core curriculum which assists companies in developing strategies to expand and operate within the federal marketplace. Our VIP START program is for companies wanting to enter the federal market and become procurement ready. Our VIP INTERNATIONAL program is for companies that want to enter or expand their federal and commercial contracting opportunities overseas.

The core curriculums of GROW, START, and INTERNATIONAL are accelerator‐like in‐residence educational training programs for owners, principals, and C‐level executives of VOSB/SDVOSBs. The programs consist of a 27‐hour, 3‐day comprehensive certification program. The program covers over 20 topics such as contracting, teaming agreements, human resources, accounting, finance, program controls, and business development

Classroom training is offered four times per year

Qualified participants from 50 SDVOSBs and VOSBs nationwide are enrolled on a first come first served basis for each class. Instructors are professional service experts, government officials, and agency representatives.
The training takes place at the Bolger Center, a 500‐hotel room conference training facility we lease from the U.S. Postal Service. The Bolger Center is located just 11 miles from the White House.

Participants only cover travel cost to and from the Washington, DC area VIP is offered at no cost to participants

The VIP Programs are fully funded by the Montgomery County Chamber Community Foundation (MCCCF). MCCCF funds this program through a public-private partnership that is funded through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), support from the State of Maryland and private sponsorships. The VIP classes are offered to one executive from each of the enrolled veteran-owned businesses. The class size is limited to 50 individuals. VIP enrollment is open to Veteran-owned businesses nationwide.

The Bottom Lines

As your entrepreneurial one-stop-shop, these veteran entrepreneur programs will empower you to start, purchase or grow your own business.

Transitioning to civilian life can be hard, especially when you add business ownership into the equation. Fortunately, with years of active-duty military service behind you, your military skills can help you grow your business and propel it to success. And with our guide to business financing for vets, you can get the guideline or other training program options you need to get started.

With so many resources out there for veterans and transitioning military members, we can hope for an even greater number of veteran entrepreneurs shortly.

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