Is Small Business Ownership for you?

By Ted Daywalt   

As a veteran, owning a business of your own can have a lot of advantages, but successful small businesses require a lot of hard work and upfront planning. The United States Small Businesses Administration (SBA) offers programs and services that can help veterans start, manage, and grow a successful small business.

In addition, the SBA Office of Veterans Business Development offers programs and services specifically for veterans, service-disabled veterans, and Reserve and National Guard small business owners.

Click on the links below to learn about the programs, services, and technical assistance SBA offers to help you manage and grow your small business.

Phase 1: Determine if Small Business Ownership Is Right for You
Take entrepreneurial tests that will help you in determine if owning a business is right for you.

Phase 2: Get Business Development and Technical Assistance
Get access to SBA’s network of resource partners that can help you with your small business. Included in this network are resources that provide assistance specific to veteran and service-disabled veteran business owners/entrepreneurs. In addition, there are tools specifically designed to help self-employed members of the Reserve and National Guard balance successful business ownership with Title 10 activations and deployment, including restarting or reestablishing their businesses upon de-activation from active duty.

Veteran Business Outreach Centers (VBO Centers)
VBO Centers provide business training, counseling and mentoring, and referrals. Their staff can assist you in the development of market research and business plans, and give you training assistance on how to become an entrepreneur.

Veteran Business Development Officers (VBD Officers)
Assigned to local SBA servicing offices, VBD officers are a great point of contact as you begin the development process. In addition to providing general business development assistance, they have crucial knowledge of local markets and businesses.

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)
Business development centers operate in each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. They provide consulting and education services to small business owners on topics ranging from management practices to technical skills. For example, you can receive training on conflict management and Oracle databases at the same center.

Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE)
A nonprofit organization, SCORE is made up of retired business owners and executives with decades of experience starting and operating businesses of all types. SCORE provides free and confidential counseling and low-cost workshop services, which can help you learn to write a business plan, apply for a loan, hone your management skills, and become a more confident small business owner.

Online Women’s Business Center
If you are a female veteran, the Women’s Business Center can provide additional assistance, such as counseling and training, and a variety of need-based funding and financing opportunities.

Native American Affairs
Within the Office of Entrepreneurial Development, the Office of Native American Affairs concentrates on outreach and support for Native American small business owners. If you are Native American, this office can help you find specific business resources and other Native American businesses. In addition, the office will assist you in attending national economic development conferences.

Small Business Training Network (SBTN)
Through the SBTN, you can take online courses in a variety of business and management areas, receive online counseling, access the full SBA library of resources, and view connections to other educational and training opportunities.

Reserve and Guard Tools
In addition to quick access on topics such as training, debt relief, and local resources, this site provides access to the SBA document, Getting Veterans Back to Business. This is a great resource tool that can guide you as you start your business venture.

Phase 3: Obtain Capital and Financing Resources
Learn about the various loan programs SBA offers small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs, and get information on how to apply for an SBA-backed loan and criteria for qualifying.

Basic 7(a) Loan Program
7(a) loans are the most basic and used type loan of SBA’s business loan programs. The SBA and participating lenders will share responsibility to guaranty your small business loan. These loans can reach a maximum of $2 million. Click on the site above or with a participating local lender to see if you are eligible.

CDC/504 Loan Program
The CDC/504 loan program is a long-term financing tool for economic development within a community. The 504 Program provides growing businesses with long-term, fixed-rate financing for major fixed assets, such as land and buildings. A Certified Development Company (CDC) is a nonprofit corporation set up to contribute to the economic development of its community. CDCs work with the SBA and private-sector lenders to provide financing to small businesses. There are about 270 CDCs nationwide. Each CDC covers a specific geographic area. Click the link above to find your local CDC.

Micro-Loans
The Micro-Loan Program provides loans to start-up, newly established, or growing small businesses. If you are looking for a small amount of money, or need a slightly quicker process, micro-loans may be an option. They are managed by local lenders. Click the link above to learn more about micro-loans and to find a local lender in your area.

Surety Bond
The SBA may financially guaranty a variety of your business’ contracts through a surety bond. This makes your business eligible for a greater number of contracts awarded by government agencies and private firms as well.

International Trade
If your business includes the exportation of goods or services, you must visit this site. It provides technical support and guidelines for exporting as well as links to trade missions and financing for small businesses that do work internationally.

Military Reservists Economic Injury Disaster Loans
If your employees are deployed, it could potentially damage your business. This program helps to prevent losses by funding eligible small businesses with low-interest loans to cover essential operating expenses in the event of staff loss due to the call-up of vital company employees who also happen to be military reservists.

Small Business Investment Corporations (SBICs)
If your new or planned business is seeking capital, the SBA can guide you in finding authorized private partners, called SBICs, that may help to finance your venture. This is one of the largest sources of investment funds, and you can be sure of the standards of the firms you are dealing with since all SBICs must be approved and licensed by the SBA.

Phase 4: Procure Government Contracting
Get information on the various government contracting programs SBA offers in assisting small business owners and entrepreneurs in bidding on and winning federal government contracts.

Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concerns (SDVOSBC)
If you are a veteran disabled while in the service, you may be eligible for this program. Federal contracting officers may restrict competition for selected contracts to SDVOSBCs, which can give your business a better opportunity to compete for government contracts.

HUBZone Program
If you are interested in operating your business in an urban or rural area that doesn’t have a strong business sector already, you may be living in a Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Zone. Therefore, you could be eligible for the SBA to promote you as a HUBZone vendor to federal agencies seeking contractors.

8(a) Business Development Program
If your business is 8(a) certified, the 8(a) Business Development Program can give you information and assistance on support for government contractors, access to capital, management and technical assistance, and export assistance.

Technology – SBIR/STTR Program
If your business deals with technology, you can apply for grants from these programs. They give awards to businesses that innovate in using or marketing technology. Awards are dispensed over two to three years and may total up to $850,000.

Contract Assistance for Women-Owned BusinessesIf your business is eligible, you can receive assistance in marketing, mentoring, and financing government contracting. The SBA also assists in teaming your company with corporate partners that may provide additional financial or management support for your business.

Small Disadvantaged Businesses (SDB)
This office oversees the HUBZone program as well as general business development. If you believe your business has ties to your community — which may be struggling, you may qualify as a certified SDB. After certification, your business will qualify for special bidding privileges and credit conditions.

Procurement Center Representatives
Locally stationed, these individuals will help you identify and apply for federal contracts set aside for small businesses. In addition to counseling small businesses, they also work with federal agencies to make contract opportunities available.

Commercial Market Representatives (CMRs)
Even if you cannot carry out a full contract on your own, CMRs will help you subcontract with larger firms on a wide range of federal contracts. They monitor those firms for subcontracting opportunities and are willing to train your staff on how to obtain subcontracts.

Procurement Technical Assistance Centers
If you are unfamiliar with the government procurement process or how to seek a government contract, these centers can assist you with the process. They provide you with training and support to understand contracting requirements, paperwork, and how to find the appropriate contracts for your business.