Let's talk transitions. Especially, that from military life to the civilian hustle bustle. It feels alien, doesn't it? Yet, the excitement lingers. You, my friend, are about to embark on a journey of entrepreneurship, armed with a unique arsenal of skills and experiences. Sounds daunting, right? Here's a surprising fact: out of the 27.9 million businesses in America, 2.52 million are veteran-owned. Quite impressive, isn't it? Yes, your comrades are making a significant economic impact, employing over 5.793 million employees and amassing over $1.220 trillion in sales. Yet, starting a veteran-owned business is not a cakewalk. No worries though, as we have assembled a handy guide with steps and resources you can use. So, let's dive in, soldiers!
👊Identifying Your Unique Skills and Experiences
The military life is a rigorous training ground, honing skills and drilling experiences that are uniquely suited to entrepreneurship. As a veteran, you are groomed to be a problem solver, a leader, and a team player. These abilities, when applied to a business setting, can make for a formidable entrepreneur. The trick lies in recognizing these skills within yourself and translating them into business aptitudes.
Your days in service have also provided you with a robust risk management skillset. In the business world, you will find this trait particularly handy when navigating the uncertain terrains of the market. So, take a moment to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. The lessons you learned on the battlefield are more valuable than you realize.
As a veteran, the world is your oyster when it comes to business ideas. With your unique perspective and experiences, your business can fill a gap in the market or offer a solution to a problem that others have overlooked. Remember, your experience is your greatest asset.
Finally, let's talk about passion. Passion is the fuel that can drive your veteran-owned business to new heights. Find a venture that ignites your drive and stirs your creative juices. A business born out of passion is sure to resonate with your audience.
📝Creating a Business Plan
A business plan is your roadmap to success, so be sure to include:
Your business objective and mission statement
The products or services you will offer
Your target market
The competitive landscape
Financial projections for the next three to five years
Marketing and sales strategies
Whether you decide to write the business plan yourself or hire a professional, remember to keep it concise, professional, and realistic. There are plenty of resources available online and offline, such as the Small Business Administration (SBA), that provide free templates and guidance on creating a business plan.
Remember, your business plan is a living document and should evolve as your business grows. While it should be thorough and well-researched, it doesn't need to be perfect. The most important thing is to get started.
Next, let's talk financing.
Exploring Traditional Financing
Starting a business requires capital. Traditional financing options for veteran-owned businesses include bank loans, credit cards, personal savings, or money from friends and family. However, these can put you and your personal assets at risk.
VA SBA Loan Programs
A safer bet might be VA SBA loan programs. These offer low-interest loans to veterans to start or expand their businesses. The SBA Veterans Advantage Program and Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan (MREIDL) are two such programs.
Other alternatives include crowdfunding, angel investors, or venture capital. These are excellent sources of funding if you have an innovative product or service and can demonstrate its potential market success.
🎖️Leveraging Your Veteran Status
Your status as a veteran entrepreneur comes with its own set of benefits. Federal agencies aim to award at least 3% of all contracting dollars to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses every year. This means you have a head start when competing for lucrative government contracts.
Another great resource is the Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC). The VBOC offers training, counselling, and mentorship to veteran entrepreneurs. By connecting with VBOCs, you can gain insights into the ins and outs of running a veteran-owned business.
Government programs and resources aside, you also have the advantage of being part of a close-knit community of veterans. Networking with other veteran entrepreneurs can open doors to collaboration opportunities and create a supportive environment.
Your military background can also be a powerful branding tool. People respect and admire veterans for their service and this goodwill can translate into support for your business.
Lastly, don't forget to leverage your military discipline and values. These are qualities that customers and partners look for in a business. They can set you apart from your competition and give you a unique edge.
🤝Networking and Building a Support System
As an entrepreneur, you need to build a support system. Here's how:
Join veteran and spouse entrepreneur groups. These communities can provide valuable advice, resources, and potential partnership opportunities.
Establish a network of mentors and advisors. Look for entrepreneurs who have walked the path before you. Their guidance can help you navigate the challenges of starting and running a business.
Connect with organizations that support veteran entrepreneurs. These organizations can provide training, resources, and funding opportunities.
Utilizing Training and Education Programs
Veteran entrepreneurship does not end with starting a business. To grow your business, you must continually educate yourself. This means staying updated on market trends, technological advancements, and changing customer needs.
Many organizations offer entrepreneurial training and education programs specifically for veterans. These programs offer courses in business management, marketing, financing, and other topics relevant to running a business.
There are also resources available to help you find and enroll in such programs. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), for instance, provides an online directory of resources. You can also reach out to local colleges and universities who often have entrepreneurship programs.
Other resources to consider are online learning platforms. Websites like Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning offer a wide array of business-related courses. Many of these courses are taught by industry experts and can be accessed at your convenience.
Lastly, don't underestimate the value of self-education. Reading business books, subscribing to industry magazines, and following relevant blogs are inexpensive ways to educate yourself.
🖥️Marketing and Branding Strategies
Your brand is more than just your logo or business name. It is your business' identity and the promise you make to your customers. As a veteran, you have a compelling story to tell. Use your military background to create a relatable and trustworthy brand.
Marketing, on the other hand, is about reaching out to your target audience and convincing them that your business is the solution to their needs. It is crucial to have an effective marketing strategy to reach a wider audience.
Next, consider your online presence. It is essential to have a professional website that provides information about your business.
Social media is another powerful marketing tool. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram can help you reach a large number of people at a low cost. You can also use these platforms to engage with your customers and build relationships.
😧Overcoming Challenges and Adapting to the Civilian World
Starting a veteran-owned business is not without its challenges. These can range from navigating the bureaucracy of starting a business to adapting to the different pace and lifestyle of the civilian world. Adapting to the civilian business world may take time and patience, but it is a journey worth undertaking. By applying your military skills and experiences to your business, you can carve a niche for yourself in the world of entrepreneurship. Let’s take a look at some of the Top three challenges and suggested strategies to help:
Use resources such as SBA and VBOC to guide you through the process of starting a business.
Adapting to civilian world
Seek mentorship from fellow veteran entrepreneurs who have successfully made the transition.
Explore various funding options, including SBA loans, crowdfunding, and angel investors.
Boots to Business (B2B) is an entrepreneurial education and training program offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) as part of the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program (TAP). SBAvets.force.com
VETRN trains veteran small business owners and family members, free of charge, on how to successfully grow their own small businesses. Vetrn.org
VetFran is a strategic initiative of the International Franchise Association (IFA) offering financial incentives, education, and support to veterans interested in franchise ownership and/or a career path in franchising. VetFran.org
Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP) provides veteran-owned business executives with comprehensive instruction on how to accelerate their federal government contracting business skills. nationalvip.org
Empowering You to Achieve Your Entrepreneurial Dreams
Embarking on the journey of entrepreneurship can be a daunting task, especially for veterans transitioning from the disciplined world of the military. But with the right resources and guidance, you can successfully start and grow your veteran-owned business. Don't forget, your military training has equipped you with unique strengths and experiences. So, soldier on, fellow entrepreneurs! The battlefield may have changed, but the mission remains the same. Here's to your success!
For more tips or to help move you in the right direction, contact me for a Veterans & Spouse only free 60 minute coffee and discussion.