Did you know that military veterans are 45% more likely to become entrepreneurs than their civilian counterparts? That’s not to mention that 48% of military spouses are either business owners themselves or plan to be. No matter where you are on your small biz journey, there are free tools and resources meant specifically and exclusively for military-connected business people. Take advantage of these vetted programs:
1. The Institute for Veterans and Military Families
The Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) is run by Syracuse University. The program offers 11 online and/or in-person events and initiatives to nurture you and your business’s growth through world-class research, best practices, and networking.
2. DAV Patriot Boot Camp
This three-day in-person experience gives veterans and military spouses mentorship and education opportunities. It ends in a pitch competition with finalists competing for funding. While the program is free, participants are responsible for their travel and lodging costs.
3. Warrior Rising’s VETtoCEO Business Accelerator Program
VETtoCEO participants meet regularly online to network with their peers and learn from successful, established business owners. Cohort applications close periodically, but you can always snag a place on their waitlist.
4. Second Service Foundation
Looking for grants? The Second Service Foundation provides educational and in-person opportunities to help military-connected businesses grow. Their events happen around the country, with some pitching competitions exclusively offering military spouse entrepreneur grants.
5. Boots to Business
Explore what entrepreneurship looks like, learn important skills, and gain a knowledge base through Boots to Business courses by the Small Business Association (SBA). The two foundational courses are in-person with an additional online accelerator course.
Website: SBA Boots to Business
6. National Veterans Chamber of Commerce
Veterans and their family members can join the National Veterans Chamber of Commerce for free to receive access to certification programs, educational, and growth opportunities.
Using the U.S. Small Business Administration’s VetCert portal, military entrepreneurs wishing to contract with the federal government can apply for certification as a Veteran-Owned Small Businesses or Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses.
8. Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program
Available to military spouses and veterans, this all-expenses-paid program features a four-day in-person retreat followed by six weeks of virtual coursework, mentorship, and networking. It culminates in a pitch day in front of investors.
Website: PENFED Foundation
9. Veteran Institute for Procurement
The Veteran Institute for Procurement offers five different programs for military entrepreneurs, focused on growing business opportunities. They are all available at no cost to the entrepreneur.
10. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran Entrepreneur Portal
Gain easy access to free entrepreneur and business resources from the federal government when you use the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal.
11. U.S. Small Business Administration Veterans Business Outreach Center
From business plan guidance to mentorship services, the SBA has a special organization devoted to helping veterans transition from the military to small business ownership. Military spouses, active duty service members, and National Guard and Reserve members are also welcome.
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12. The Rosie Network
Created for the military community by members of the military community, The Rosie Network boasts six distinct initiatives that promote and empower veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs.
Website: The Rosie Network
13. Bunker Labs
Bunker Labs furnishes military entrepreneurs with online and in-person programming and coursework to expand their skills and grow their businesses, no matter their business’ stage of development.
Website: Bunker Labs
Veterati connects veterans, military spouses, and active duty service members with unlimited, one-hour mentorship phone calls. Ask questions, get answers, and glean advice from accomplished business mentors, all for free.
15. Dog Tag Bakery Fellowship
If you’re near Chicago or Washington, D.C., and dreaming of owning your own bakery or restaurant, the hands-on Dog Tag Bakery Fellowship might be for you! The fellowship combines college-level coursework with experiential learning and provides a stipend for participants. Military spouses, military-connected caregivers, active duty service members within six months of transitioning from the military, and veterans are eligible to apply.
16. Hiring Our Heroes’ Milspouse Roadmap
Not sure what to do next? Hiring Our Heroes offers an interactive roadmap tailored for military spouse entrepreneurs full of suggestions and resources to help guide you to your next professional stage.
17. Hiring Our Heroes’ Vet Roadmap
Hiring Our Heroes didn’t forget about veterans! They have a roadmap tool focused on military transition with a robust section for founding a business after service.
If you’re thinking about owning a franchise business (or if you already do), VetFran wants to support you with opportunities and resources from the national franchise community.
With the power of these resources behind you, there’s no telling where your entrepreneurial journey will take you!
Joanna Guldin-Noll writes one of the largest military spouse lifestyle blogs online, Jo, My Gosh! Her writing has been featured in national and international publications. She is currently the social media manager at Military.com and the co-founder of PILLAR, a free virtual deployment retreat for military spouses and significant others. Joanna lives in Pennsylvania with her Navy veteran husband John and her puppy Albus.