Founding new business is a process that anyone with skills, ideas, a budget, and staying power can decide to do. Fortunately, for military veterans, the process of starting a business will seem quite natural, since your military training and service gives you advantages many entrepreneurs lack. In fact, veterans display more innate entrepreneurial traits than non-veterans, giving you a leg up. Your odds of success are higher because of your veteran status – there are currently more than 3 million veteran-owned businesses in the U.S. today.
The best place to start in planning your new business is discovering what your business will sell. Once you know that, you can determine where you will operate and how you will find customers. Here’s what else you should know about becoming a business owner.
Your business concept. The first step in starting a business is to assess what you’re good at, what you’re interested in, and what the market is willing to pay for. Where those three areas overlap is your business sweet spot. For example, if you were trained as a plumber in the military and you love the profession, odds are fairly good that you could find a market ready for your services. On the other hand, if you are a top chef but hate cooking meals for others, opening a restaurant or bakery would not be a good fit for you. Business USA has a handy checklist to help you make some decisions.
Your equipment. What technology, machinery, or transportation will you need to serve your customers? These decisions should be made based on the type of business you’ve decided to start. Some ventures may only need a computer and printer. Others may need a commercial truck. Figure out what the essentials are and how large an investment you’ll need to acquire them. It may help to divide your list into two parts: the equipment you must have to start up, and the equipment you’d like to invest in later if things go well.
Location, location, location. Your type of business will also determine where you can set up shop. A freelance writer or snow-plowing service can operate from a home office, while a commercial printer or coffee shop will need space outside your home. For retail and restaurant, spend time at your location, observing the foot and automobile traffic. For industrial businesses, look for square footage that’s adequate and affordable. Always ask yourself: What are your options? And: What are the anticipated costs?
Show me the money. If you discover you’ll need funding to open your doors, the Small Business Administration is a good starting point for information about SBA lenders and veteran-specific programs. Angel investment group Hivers and Strivers is another option for military entrepreneurs in need of outside investment. Once you’re up-and-running, TCP’s Veterans’ Opportunity Fund is another potential source of growth capital.
Get training and find resources. If you could benefit from mentoring, consider applying for Victory Spark – an accelerator for veteran-run startups that offers seed funding to those who complete the program. Post-9/11 veterans with service-connected disabilities are eligible for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) program designed to fast track business ideas. The Bunker is an incubator for veteran-owned technology startups, offering six months of support. Boots2Business is a training program for veterans, offered by the SBA to educate armed service members about the entrepreneurial process.
Landing customers. Once you’re up-and-running, make sure you become certified as a veteran-owned business. This designation can qualify you for federal and state contracts.
The startup process is both exciting and challenging, offering the same kinds of opportunities for growth and work satisfaction you found in the military.
Interested in learning more? Check out some advice from our veteran customers on how to start a business.