Ready to Take the Entrepreneurial Leap?

This is the third story in the three-part series about military personnel and veterans entering the business world.

Have you ever dreamed of starting your own business? If the answer is yes and you are current or former military, take a look at some programs that will help you take the entrepreneurial leap.

Plan. It’s never too early to start planning for your dream business. No matter where you are in your planning stage, reach out to the Small Business Administration’s Veterans Business Outreach Program and enroll in its free Pre-Business Plan Workshops. You will work directly with a business counselor to develop a five-year business plan. The business plan includes legal, equipment requirements and cost, organizational structure, a strategic plan, market analysis, and a financial plan. The Small Business Association can also provide mentorship and assistance in international trade, franchising, marketing and accounting. While all this help is important, you will be the most important aspect of planning.

Get Educated. Whether you plan to open a lumber store or an accounting firm, a good education helps banks see you are serious about your potential company. American Sentinel University offers several online degree programs that will give you a strong entrepreneurial foundation, including bachelors in Business Administration and an MBA. You can use the government’s GI Bill to help pay for your online education.

Chase Funding. The old saying, “It takes money to make money,” is never more true than when an entrepreneur attempts to start a business. Luckily for any former or current military member, the SBA has earmarked $1 billion annually to be used especially for the use of veterans, service-disabled veterans, active-duty personnel, Reserve or National Guard members, spouses or widows. Patriot Express loans can be used to start a business or just to purchase some equipment. The interest rates generally range from 2.25 percent to 4.75 percent depending on the size and maturity of the loan. VetBiz.gov maintains a list of small business financing for veterans, including Vocational Rehabilitation funding and state microloan programs.

Check your State. Many states have special benefits for soldiers and veterans who own or want to own a business. Oregon, for example, allows activated Guard members to borrow up to $20,000 interest-free. In Illinois, the state treasurer’s office offers economic hardship loans for up to $250,000 with below-market interest rates. To learn if your state has special programs, visit Navoba.com/statetracker.

Build a Client Base. Strong businesses know their customer base before they even open the doors. And when you open your doors to those customers, be sure to advertise that you are a current or former member of the military. According to the National Veteran-Owned Business Association, which operates the website BuyVeteran.com, 70 percent of Americans would prefer to purchase from a veteran than a non-veteran.

“If you can just let your customers know that you’re a veteran or in the National Guard, they will have a sense of gratitude,” said Matthew Pavelek, managing editor for the magazine Vetrepreneur. “It also lets them know they will get a good job. People know there’s a code of ethics in the military and moral standards. They know they can trust you.”

Consider Franchising. Instead of starting your own business from scratch, you may want to purchase the franchise rights to a national brand. As a part of the International Franchise Association, nearly 400 franchise companies participate in the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative, known as VetFran. These companies offer financial incentives to honorably discharged veterans, including National Guardsmen who have served active duty.

For more information about earning your degree online or about American Sentinel’s military-friendly benefits, click here.

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