Each year, hundreds of thousands of US military personnel retire from active service. In transitioning back to civilian life, they must decide where to take the remainder of their careers. While some choose jobs in sales, health care, or fitness, many others decide to start a business. In fact, military veterans are 45 percent more likely to pursue self-employment than the average citizen.
According to the US Small Business Administration (SBA), there are more than 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses across the country. Despite possessing all the leadership and problem-solving abilities needed to thrive as entrepreneurs, many veterans still need help getting their business ideas off the ground. Fortunately, there are numerous organizations and programs that work hand-in-hand with veterans, providing them with all they need to launch successful businesses.
Let’s look at a few of the best resources available to veteran entrepreneurs:
1. Bunker Labs
Bunker Labs delivers the tools that veterans and military spouses need to pursue entrepreneurship. The organization not only strives to inspire more veterans to launch their own businesses, but it also works to help them meet and overcome all the challenges that they may face along the way. To this end, Bunker Labs operates several programs that help navigate veterans through this process.
Launch Lab Online serves as a jumping-off point for veterans with potentially lucrative business ideas. With their concept in motion, they can then move into the Veterans in Residence program. Facilitated through a partnership with WeWork, this program allows veterans to incubate their startup ideas over the course of six months. Those with particularly promising business ideas may become part of the CEO Circle, a program that helps high-traction businesses thrive.
Over the years, Bunker Labs has helped launch more than 1,000 startups responsible for creating nearly 2,000 jobs. Altogether, these businesses have generated revenues exceeding $117 million.
2. Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (VWISE)
Syracuse University partnered with the US SBA Office of Veterans Business Development to launch the VWISE program, which provides training to female veterans seeking careers as entrepreneurs. This three-phase program teaches key business skills while allowing women to pursue their passions.
The first phase of VWISE involves participation in a 15-day online course that covers business fundamentals. During the second phase, veterans attend a three-day conference where they meet other entrepreneurs and attend courses on topics ranging from finance to business planning. Phase three connects participants to mentors and other forms of business support from VWISE partners.
3. Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV)
For more than a decade, EBV has worked with post-9/11 veterans to help them thrive as entrepreneurs. Housed at Syracuse University, this program delivers crucial training to veterans who are in the earliest phases of business growth.
EBV recently added a new acceleration program that helps veteran entrepreneurs grow their businesses even more. To this end, EVB Accelerate covers a wide array of topics, including marketing, finance, and business planning. EVB graduates receive ongoing support to keep their businesses moving forward. More than 70 percent of all graduates have successfully launched businesses.
4. Boots to Business (B2B)
The US SBA runs the B2B program as part of the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program. After the two-day “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” session, veterans can take additional courses to learn the fundamentals of owning a business. With courses like “B2B: Revenue Readiness,” prospective entrepreneurs can enhance their knowledge in nearly any business area.
5. Patriot Boot Camp (PBC)
Launched in 2012, PBC empowers both active and retired military personnel to launch their own technology businesses. Budding entrepreneurs can participate in the three-day boot camp that helps inspire them and keep their business ideas moving.
PBC facilitates the program biannually, hosting cohorts of 50 tech entrepreneurs at a time. Boot camp participants hone the skills they need to run their businesses, and they also get to work one on one with mentors.
To date, PBC has built an alumni network of more than 900 veteran entrepreneurs. Seven of its alumni companies have made successful company exits via acquisition, while nearly two dozen others have gone on to participate in startup acceleration programs.
6. Warrior Rising
Warrior Rising helps prepare “vetrepreneurs” for successful careers as civilian business owners. Under the leadership of combat veterans-turned-entrepreneurs, the organization has worked with nearly 400 veteran-owned businesses in the last five years.
Warrior Rising assists other veteran entrepreneurs through more than training and mentorship alone; it also provides grants to those who need help getting their businesses started and provides access to other sources of funding.
Based in Georgia, VetToCEO facilitates an online program for prospective veteran entrepreneurs. Hosted over the course of seven weeks, this program is optimized for military personnel in all stages of business development. From active servicemembers who are considering entrepreneurship after retirement to veterans who are actively creating business plans, VetToCEO caters to individuals with varying goals.
The organization’s core program fully prepares its participants for careers in entrepreneurship by providing them with mentorship opportunities and helping them develop funding strategies and create business models.