Does a Veteran Make a Good Entrepreneur?

There’s no better person to start a business than a veteran.

“A veteran’s work ethic is amazing,” said Todd Baxter, an Army veteran and former executive director of the not-for-profit Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester, New York.  “In the military it’s ingrained in us that you don’t work nine to five, you work until the job is done.  It’s the same way when you’re an entrepreneur.”

Other qualities that make veterans golden for entrepreneurship, Baxter said, are their driven “Type A” personalities, ability to communicate well with others and tendency to embrace risk, rather than shy away from it.

USMC veteran Andrew Follett, 32, of Rochester, knew he was taking a risk when he left a comfortable job as an asset protection manager for a major American retailer after leaving active duty and a one and a half year stint in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor.

“Opening my own gym had always been a dream of mine,” though, said Follett, who served from 2003 to 2011, and he decided to go for it.

He used some veteran entrepreneur resources locally and online and started his business Crossfit Ridgeway in February 2016.  He loves being a business owner and credits his military background with his successes thus far.

“From a time management and leadership perspective my military service helps,” Follett said.  “Coaching is a big aspect of what I do and I lead by example.  Almost everything I do as a business owner is influenced by my time in the Marines.”

If you’re interested in joining the ranks of the 2.4 million veterans like Follett who own their own business, here are some great public and private resources to get started.  Many are free or low cost and most have online learning options available.

Boots to Business is a two-step entrepreneurial training program offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as a training track within the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP).  Over 20,000 service members and spouses have participated in Boots to Business since it was founded in 2013.  The two-step training program for transitioning veterans and spouses includes a two-day classroom course called “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” and an eight-week, instructor-led online course called “Foundations of Entrepreneurship” that offers in-depth instruction on the elements of a business plan and tips and techniques for starting a business. You can register for any upcoming SBA Boots to Business course at your military installation’s transition services office. 

For more information visit: https://www.sba.gov/bootstobusiness or call (202) 205-VET1.

Boots to Business Reboot is an entrepreneurial training program designed for veterans and their dependents that have already made the transition back to civilian life. Like Boots to Business, the Reboot program is offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as part of the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP). It is made possible through a public private partnership with the Institute of Veterans and Military Families, the Marcus Foundation and First Data Corporation.  The curriculum continuum includes steps for evaluating business concepts, the foundational knowledge required to develop a business plan and information on SBA resources available to help access start-up capital and additional technical assistance. Veterans of all eras, plus service members (including National Guard and Reserves) and their spouses are eligible to enroll in classes. 

For more information visit: http://www.sba.gov/bootstobusinessreboot or call (202) 205-VET1.

Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) is a nonprofit that helps veterans launch businesses.  Located within universities and community or veterans outreach centers nationwide, VBOC provides transition assistance programs (including the aforementioned Boots to Business and Boots to Business Reboot) as well as business development assistance, counseling and mentoring, and resource referrals. VBOC receives much of its funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

For more information visit: https://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/vboc

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and a network of 10,000 volunteers, the nonprofit is able to deliver services at no charge or very low cost.  These services include free and confidential business mentoring in person, via email or by video, free business tools and templates and inexpensive or free workshops locally or online.  SCORE is headquartered in Virginia and has 300 chapters nationwide.  The organization’s Veteran Fast Launch initiative provides a package of free software and services and mentoring to veterans and their families.

For more information visit: https://www.score.org/content/veteran-fast-launch-initiative or call (800) 634-0245. 

The Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP) offers direct access to the resources necessary to guide every step of entrepreneurship. The portal is run by the Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  It includes an interactive tool to connect veterans with the right resources specific to their small business objective, a search tool for government contracting programs and many other valuable tools.

For more information visit: https://www.va.gov/osdbu/entrepreneur/index.asp

VetFran provides access and opportunities in franchising to veterans and their spouses.  It was founded in 1991 by the late Don Dwyer Sr. to assist veterans returning from the first Gulf War and has since helped thousands of veterans open their own franchise.  Over 650 VetFran member companies (such as Little Caesars, Midas, Ziebart and Liberty Tax Service) offer financial discounts, mentorship and training opportunities for aspiring veteran franchisees. One out of seven franchise businesses are owned and operated by veterans and, according to the International Franchise Association Educational Foundation, more than 66,000 veteran-owned franchise businesses in the United States provide jobs directly for 815,000 Americans and generate more than $41 billion in GDP.

For more information visit: http://www.vetfran.com/ or call (202) 628-8000.

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) is a unique, free initiative designed to leverage the skills, resources and infrastructure of higher education to offer cutting-edge training in entrepreneurship and small business management to post-9/11 veterans with service-connected disabilities. Founded in 2007 and operated by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, the program is designed to take participants through the steps and stages of venture creation, with a tailored emphasis on the unique challenges and opportunities associated with being a veteran business owner. Participants take part in a 30 day online program, nine day residency at an EBV university and yearlong mentorship program.

For more information visit: http://ebv.vets.syr.edu/ or call (315) 443-0141.

Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) is a nominally priced training program in entrepreneurship and small business management for women veterans and female military spouses/partners. The three-phases of the program include a 15-day online course, three day entrepreneurship training event and ongoing mentorship, training and support opportunities for graduates launching or growing their business.  The program is operated by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University and counts 2,375 women as graduates.  It’s funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the philanthropic support of corporate and foundation partners nationwide.

For more information visit: http://vwise.vets.syr.edu/apply or call (315) 443-6898.

Bunker Labs is a national non-profit created by military veterans for veterans to start and grow their own businesses. Through local chapters across the U.S., Bunker Labs provides educational programming, access to resources and a local network to help military veterans and their spouses start and grow businesses. Programs include Bunker in a Box (an online, self-paced, free, entrepreneurship learning experience) and EPIC (a 12-week in-person or online entrepreneurial program for innovation and collaboration). Bunker Labs locations include: Austin, Bay Area, Chicago, Columbus, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Madison, Minneapolis, Nashville, New York City, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, Seattle and Washington D.C.

For more information visit: https://bunkerlabs.org/

Hivers and Strivers is an angel investment group focused on early stage investments to support start-up companies founded and run by graduates of the U.S. Military Academies. Most of Hivers and Strivers investors have served in the military and are successful senior executives with experience in a broad range of industries and business models. The group typically invests two hundred and fifty thousand to one million in a single round.

For more information visit: http://www.hiversandstrivers.com/

American Legion Entrepreneur Series is a free, online video tutorial series to help military veterans start a business. The ten part series will guide veterans from coming up with a business plan, to getting financing, marketing, networking, hiring and growing a business.

For more information visit: https://www.legion.org/careers/entrepreneur.