Business Grants for Veterans: What You Need to Know

We've compiled all the information veterans need to find business grants ranging from federal government grants to state-level small business grants, as well as resources for private funding specific to current and former service members.

June 28th, 2018   |    By: The Startups Team

Looking for a business grant for veterans? Here’s the thing: Grants are usually open for a set period of time, after which that money is no longer accessible.

As a result, it wouldn’t actually be possible to list out business grants for veterans, because by the time you read this, they may or may not still be available. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great financing options out there for vets!

Business grants for veterans

First, we’re going to take a look at the federal government’s database for all small business grants. Then, we’re going to look at some government and private loans for veterans and other small business owners, as well as some veteran-specific training programs and resources.

Remember: Just because you don’t see a specific grant listed here, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Finding grants can take some time, but if it’s a good financing option for you and your startup, it’s worth searching around for.

1. Database for finding specific federal grants for small business

In addition to agency-specific government grants for small businesses, there are grants available that are much, much more specific.

Your best bet for finding a grant that matches your startup closely is to search the Grants.gov database to find out what’s currently available and what most closely matches your startup.

Grants.gov website screenshot

You should also check back periodically, as government grants for small businesses end and are added frequently.

Here’s how to apply for a federal grant for small business on Grants.gov

Grants.gov has a clear process for learning about and applying for federal grants for small businesses:

  1. Learn about grants
  2. Check eligibility
  3. Search grants
  4. Register
  5. Apply for a grant
  6. Track your application

You can click on each term to be brought to the relevant, but here’s a quick overview of each step:

Step #1: Learn about grants

The Learn page includes a video explaining how Grants.gov works, a community blog to help guide potential grantees, and a series of topics about government grants, including “Grants 101” and “Grant Policies,” among others.

Step #2: Check eligibility

The Check eligibility page is really important — don’t skip this one! This site helps you figure out whether or not your startup is even eligible to apply for a federal grant. They list some general requirements and also point you toward other resources to determine whether or not your startup is eligible.

Step #3: Search grants

Searching grants is probably pretty self-explanatory. It’s where you search for grants! You can search by keywords, opportunity number, or CFDA, as well as more specific criteria.

In the case of veterans, we’d recommend using that keyword while searching the database to find available grant options.

Grants.gov screenshot: Grants for veterans search

Step #4: Register

Once you’ve learned about the grants, checked your eligibility, and searched for the right fit, you have to register yourself and your company. The Register page includes links for registration, as well as links out for more information about the process, and an explanatory video.

Step #5: Apply for a grant

And now, finally, it’s time to apply! The Apply for a grant page includes instructions on how to use Workspace, which is the system that grants.gov uses to manage applications. It also gives various options for the type of application you’re going to fill out, depending on the level of complexity and sophistication your company is at.

Step #6: Track your application

Just like an order from Amazon, you can track the status of your grant submission. The Track your application page asks for tracking numbers to locate your submission and give you all the info you need to know about where in the process your application is.

2. Other government grants

In addition to searching the Grants.gov database, here are some other grants that are open to all applicants, including veterans, depending on the requirements of each grant.

Research and Development (R&D) federal grants

There are two umbrella programs under which R&D federal grants fall: SBIR and STTR.

Federal agencies allocate a certain percentage of their budget to these grants.

a. Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)

The SBIR is focused on technological innovation. Specifically, it’s for companies that are interested in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization. Learn more about SBIR.

b. Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR)

The STTR has the same requirements as the SBIR, with the added requirement that applicants collaborate with a research institution. Learn more about STTR.

Learn more about which federal agencies that participate in the SBIR and STTR programs.

3. State small business grants

In addition to federal small business grants, states also offer small business grants.

State grants are even more specific than federal grants, and they provide less funding. They also work in conjunction with federal and other state grants and many are matching grants, which means you’re required to meet the amount of money they give you.

But a big pro is that fewer people are applying for state grants than for federal small business grants, so if you find one that’s a good fit, it could be a good deal.

a. State-specific small business grants for veterans

You can search for state small business grants in your state on any major search engine. See this example search for “ohio small business grants for veterans.”

Example Google search for ohio small business grants for veterans

Try a similar search in your state to see what shows up: “[your state] small business grants.”

b. The Office of Economic Development (EDA)

You can also turn to the local EDA in your area. These offices are run by the Economic Development Administration and they offer small businesses help with grants, technical assistance, and other resources to help them grow.

EDA grants are changing all the time so check in here for information about what’s currently available.

Find your local EDA resources here.

c. Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)

The SBA also runs Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) across the country. They’re often hosted by top universities state economic development agencies, which share the cost with the SBA.

They offer free business consulting and low-cost training services including:

  • Business plan development
  • Manufacturing assistance
  • Financial packaging and lending assistance
  • Exporting and importing support
  • Disaster recovery assistance
  • Procurement and contracting aid
  • Market research help
  • 8(a) program support
  • Healthcare guidance

You can find the SBDC in your state here.

4. Government-funded business loans for veterans

And if the grants aren’t a great option for your startup, there are specific business loans available for veterans.

The Small Business Association (SBA) administers the most well known business loans for veterans: the Veterans Advantage program — which includes the 7(a) Loan and the Express Loan — as well as  Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster (MREIDL) loans.

SBA’s Veterans Advantage loans

The SBA’s Veteran’s Advantage Loan program applies to loans for up to $350,000. The program applies to two SBA loans: SBA Express and SBA 7(a) loans. You can find out more here. LINK TO LOAN PAGE

a. SBA 7(a) Loan

While the SBA 7(a) Loan Program is for both veterans and non-veterans, there are some special perks for vets under the Veterans Advantage program. For loans up to $125,000, vets can get upfront guaranty fees of zero. For loans greater than $125,000, vets are promised a 50 percent reduction of guaranty fees. Loans can be for up to $350,000.

b SBA Express

The SBA Express loan is basically a 7(a) loan, but with faster turnaround time. Applicants can expect to hear back from the SBA within 72 hours of applying. Under the Veteran’s Advantage program, all upfront loan guaranty fee are waived on loans between $150,001 and $350,000.

c. Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster (MREIDL) loans

Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster (MREIDL) loans are for small businesses and startups whose owner — or an “essential employee” — is called up for military service. The goal of these loans is provide working capital to those businesses in order to help them stay alive while the servicemember is gone. This loan is not to replace lost profits but to pay obligations and replace working capital.

These loans have an interest rate of 4 percent, loan terms with a maximum of 30 years, and a loan amount limit of $2 million.

Learn more about these 3 federal loans in our business loans for veterans guide.

5. Private business loans for veterans

a. StreetShares

StreetShares is an online, peer-to-peer lender that was started by veterans, for veterans. They offer both business loans between $2,000 and $100,000 and lines of credit between $5,000 and $100,000.

One you apply, funders will compete to fund your business. Take some time crafting your personal story in order to have an advantage at that stage.

The APR range is 8.00 percent to 39.99 percent and if you have excellent credit, you may qualify for a a single digit APR.

Loan terms are three to 36 months and payments are weekly.

b. Hivers and Strivers

Hivers and Strivers is an angel investment group that invests in early stage startups founded and run by graduates of the U.S. Military Academies.

Their investors are military service people who are generally senior executives in a range of industries. They believe that young military graduates are an excellent investment and that they will “provide superior returns.”

Their typical investment is $250,000 to $1 million and they are willing to partner with other investors if startups are seeking more funds than that.

They also commit to active involvement, advisory and board roles, and mentorship in order to ensure the success of their investment companies.

Learn more about these 2 private loans in our business loans for veterans guide.

6. Veteran entrepreneurship training programs (and other resources)

There are also several veteran entrepreneurship training programs, many — but not all — of which are run by the SBA.

a. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) is a free program for post-9/11 vets and their spouses.

It offers experiential and small business management. It was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the “10 Best” entrepreneurship programs in the U.S.

b. Service-Disabled Entrepreneurship Development Training Program

The Service-Disabled Entrepreneurship Development Training Program is a training grant available for up to six grant awardees with a minimum award of $50,000 and a maximum award of $150,00.

Its purpose is supporting organizations that currently deliver entrepreneurship training program(s) to service-disabled veteran entrepreneurs who want to become small business owners or who currently own a small business.

c. Patriot Boot Camp

Patriot Boot Camp is a branch of the startup incubator TechStars. It’s specifically for active duty military members and their spouses who want to gain entrepreneurial skills.

Each year, Patriot Boot Camp throws a three day startup intensive.

d. Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP)

Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP) is an accelerator program with three training programs: VIP GROW, VIP START, and VIP INTERNATIONAL.

  • VIP GROW assists companies in developing strategies to expand and operate within the federal marketplace.
  • VIP START is for companies wanting to enter the federal market and become procurement-ready.
  • VIP INTERNATIONAL is for companies that want to enter or expand their federal and commercial contracting opportunities overseas.

All three programs are in-residence training programs for owners, principals, and C‐level executives of veteran-owned small businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

e. Boots to Business

Boots to Business is the two-step program offered by the SBA on military installations around the world as a training track of the Department of Defense’s (DODs) Transition Assistance Program (TAP).

The Introduction to Entrepreneurship course is also available 24/7 through DOD’s Joint Knowledge Online. Upon completion, service members can continue training via an eight-week online Foundations of Entrepreneurship course.

Boots to Business Reboot extends the entrepreneurship training offered in TAP on military installations to veterans of all eras.

f. Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE)

Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) is an SBA-funded program provided by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. V-WISE includes online training, a conference, and mentorship to female veterans.

g. VetsInTech

VetsInTech is a private sector training program that connects current and returning veterans with reintegration services and also with the tech ecosystem. They offer tech-related education opportunities, connections with tech jobs, and workshops and bootcamps to help veteran startup founders boost their businesses.

h. Veterans Business Services

Veterans Business Services is all about helping veterans acquire or start small businesses. They offer help with franchising, marketing, and with connecting to financial services.

i. Veterans Business Resource Center

Veterans Business Resource Center is here to help vets translate the skills they learned during service into small business ownership. The cornerstone of their program is training for vets and they help with understanding business plans, financials, marketing, sales, human resource management, and more. They also offer webinar and professional counseling.

Other financing options

If you’re looking for other ways to raise money for your startup, don’t miss our other guides:

About the Author

The Startups Team

Startups is the world's largest startup platform, helping over 1 million startup companies find customers, funding, mentors, and world-class education.

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