4 Small Business Grants for Veterans

5 min read

Key points

  • Veterans are 45% more likely than non-veterans to start a business, so there are plenty of grants and free resources available for veterans and their spouses.
  • You can take advantage of grants offered by private organizations such as the Second Service Foundation.
  • Warrior Rising and the Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab offer training, mentorship, and other resources.

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Did you know that veterans own almost 2 million small businesses that generate an impressive $1.3 trillion annually? In fact, veterans are 45% more likely than non-veterans to start their own businesses. However, starting a business can be daunting, especially for veterans transitioning to civilian life. Fortunately, there are many grants available to provide financial support for veteran-owned businesses, covering everything from startup costs to salaries.

1. Second Service Foundation: Military Entrepreneur Challenge

The Second Service Foundation, formerly the StreetShares Foundation, helps military veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs looking to start or grow a business venture. One of the grants offered is the Military Entrepreneur Challenge, a three-part event led by the Foundation.

The event includes a speed coaching session, a private pitch session to a judging panel, and an opportunity to pitch business ideas to a live audience for a chance to win a small business grant. In addition to grant money, the winners also receive access to training and mentoring programs from the Second Service Foundation, Brewing the American Dream, and the US Small Business Administration.

Grant amount: Regular season: up to $2,000; national pitch competition: up to $15,000

  • Regular season contests: nine grants will be awarded with all Semi-Finalists receiving $1,000 grants, and the First Place winner will be awarded an additional $1,000 ($2,000 total).
  • National pitch competition: three grants will be awarded with first place receiving $15,000, second place $6,000, and third place $4,000.

What you need to qualify:

  • Eligibility of military affiliation certification (veteran, Reservist, National Guardsman, or transitioning active-duty Military Member, military spouse, or Gold Star immediate family member).
  • At least 21 years of age at the time of application.
  • Entrants must be low-income and otherwise lack the financial means to start or grow an early-stage business or non-profit.
  • Entrants must own at least 51% of the business entity described in the application.

Deadlines to apply: You must register and attend speed coaching to be eligible to participate in the pitch competition. Registration numbers are limited based on venue and events are held frequently across the country.

Where to apply: On line

2. Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab

Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab (MVE-Lab) is a free three-month entrepreneurship accelerator for veterans and military spouses. During the program, you work on your business plan and learn from other veteran entrepreneurs and experts such as attorneys, accountants, and marketing specialists.

Grant amount: $20,000

What you need to qualify:

  • The program is for veterans, active duty, military spouses, and dependents (a dependent is a family member who depends on the veteran financially and meets certain criteria).
  • Examples of dependents for VA purposes are children between the ages of 18-26 and disabled children.

Deadlines to apply: Monday, Sept. 4, 2023 for Cohort 12

Where to apply: On line

3.Warrior Rising

Warrior Rising helps veterans looking to become entrepreneurs. The nonprofit focuses on providing veterans with the necessary tools and resources to start a business and be successful in their own business ventures.

The program includes a dedicated mentor, a business plan review, help with project management, and access to funding sources. Other benefits include grants, access to clients and investors, custom business suits, laptop computers, custom-built websites, search engine optimization, headshots, and professionally created marketing videos. Warrior Rising also continues to support veterans post-launch.

Grant amount: $20,000

What you need to qualify:

  • Veterans, active duty, military spouses, and immediate family members.

Deadlines to apply: No deadline, open application process

Where to apply: On line

4. Veteran Woman Entrepreneur Grant

The Texas Woman’s University offers the Veteran Woman Entrepreneur Grant Program. This program aims to support and empower female veterans who are venturing into business. It provides financial assistance and business resources to women who have served in the military and are starting or currently owning a small business in Texas.

Grant amount: $5,000

What you need to qualify:

  • Existing or to-be-formed veteran woman-owned business (at least 51% directly owned and controlled by one or more veteran women who are US citizens or US permanent residents).
  • The business must be a for-profit corporation, partnership, LLP or LLC, or sole proprietorship.
  • Business must be located and operated within the state of Texas.

Deadlines to apply: 2023 has been closed, but 2024 will be open soon.

Where to apply: On line when applications reopen

The tip of the iceberg

The four grants mentioned here are only a starting point when it comes to grants and resources available to veterans who want to become entrepreneurs. Grants.gov is a valuable resource for small business owners, especially veterans. With more than 1,000 grant programs overseen by the Office of Management and Budget, this database can help entrepreneurs access over $500 billion in grant funding annually from numerous federal agencies. This centralized resource is sure to benefit anyone seeking financial support to grow their business.

There are also a number of free resources such as Boots to Business, a comprehensive entrepreneurial education and training program offered by the US Small Business Administration (SBA). Veteran-owned small businesses contribute to their local economies, so taking advantage of these grants can prove very beneficial in the long run for all parties involved. Researching these opportunities allows veterans to take charge of their lives and create a bright future for themselves and for their families.

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