Starting a business and becoming your own boss is often touted as the quintessential “American dream.” But getting the money to fund that dream can be easier said than done.
However, if you’re a veteran, there are specific funding opportunities available to help you get your small business funded and flourishing. Below, we cover six small business loans for veterans, as well as information on how to apply and find more resources for your business.
1. SBA Loans
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers grants, training programs, and other types of funding exclusively for veterans and their families. These loans are typically offered at a lower rate and with better terms than what’s offered to small businesses run by non-veterans.
Though the requirements will vary (for example, some loans are exclusive to small businesses that are already operating), the SBA offers plenty of funding opportunities for those who have served our country. Learn more about these loans and resources, such as their Boots to Business program, on the SBA’s website.
2. Veteran Funding Organizations
The government isn’t the only one looking to help veterans climb the entrepreneurial ladder. Several third-party organizations, meaning those not affiliated with the government, have been created in recent years to help those who put their lives on the line achieve their dreams of being their own boss.
Keep in mind that, just like with SBA loans, funding opportunities from veteran-focused organizations are highly competitive. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t throw your hat in the ring. The following is a list of funding ventures catered to veterans looking to start a small business:
Aside from these national organizations, local funding options for veterans are also available across the nation. Nonprofits like PeopleFund, for example, offer loans to veterans living in Texas. While not every state or city has a similar organization, it can’t hurt to research options in your area to widen your funding pool.
3. State-Specific Funding Programs
You may have heard that some states are cheaper to start a business in than others when it comes to things like taxes and registration fees, but you may not realize that many of those same states allocate money each year for small businesses.
Common states for veterans starting a small business include Texas, Florida, California, and Pennsylvania, and each has its own veteran commission page. For all other states, a quick search for their veteran commission page should help point you in the right direction.
4. Traditional Banks
Though not catered exclusively to veterans, traditional banks often offer personal loans of varying sizes.
If you already have an account with one of these banks (for example, you have a checking account with Bank of America), check out their loans first to see what discounts are available for existing customers. From there, you can shop around the other heavy hitters to see where you can get the best deal.
5. Online-Only Lenders
Similar to traditional banks, online-only lenders offer veterans the opportunity to take out personal loans to start or grow their businesses. While online-only lenders are a bit newer in the financial sector, companies like SoFi and Upgrade offer flexible loans and allow you to apply online easily.
Another benefit to online lenders? They often don’t require as high a credit score, making them an ideal loan for veterans with bad credit (or even those who fall within the “fair” range).
6. Veteran Grants and Scholarships
Loans aren’t the only way to fund your new business. Small business grants and scholarships, while often harder to secure, are a great way to receive money without as many strings attached (read: no interest or other pesky fees).
To find opportunities for grants or scholarships, keep an eye out on third-party aggregate sites like GrantWatch and Scholarships.com, which compile opportunities from a variety of sources to help you find the best fit for your unique goals.
But deciding if scholarships, grants, or loans are right for your business can be tricky. If you have a unique situation that you believe warrants a grant or scholarship, and you know you can write a compelling application, that may be the best avenue for you. However, if you want to receive the money quickly, don’t want to deal with the selection process, and aren’t worried about affording interest payments, a loan may be the way to go.
What Veterans Qualify for a Loan?
Generally speaking, any veteran, military member, or reservist can qualify for a veteran loan. This includes the spouse of a veteran as well, even if the veteran has died in the line of duty.
However, you should be aware that most loan qualifications will differ from institution to institution, so conducting research before applying is key. But as long as a veteran or spouse of a veteran owns at least half of the business, you should be able to qualify for a majority of loans or grants available to our service men and women.
How to Get a Veteran Small Business or Startup Loan
The steps to get a veteran loan are similar to getting any type of startup business loan — do your research, gather documents, and send through applications. Here is a breakdown of the main steps you’ll need to take when applying:
1. Determine Your Funding Needs
Before you start your research, it’s a good idea to understand how much (and what kind) of funding your business really needs. This will ensure that you only apply for loans and other opportunities that will help your business succeed. Get started by projecting your business's financial growth accurately.
2. Do Your Research
Research is just as important when applying for loans as it is when starting a business. Make sure to check out a wide range of opportunities, from traditional banks to government-sponsored programs. And always read the fine print so you know exactly what is required of you if you do receive funding.
3. Gather Necessary Documentation
While the documentation needed for each loan or grant will vary, it’s a good idea to pull together everything you might need ahead of time. Depending on your active duty status and unique situation, this could include any of the following:
Certificate of Release
Form DD 214
DD Form 2
DD Form 2648
DD Form 2648-1
DD Form 1173
NA Form 13038
4. Apply for Loans and Grants
Once you’ve done your research and gathered the appropriate documents, you can begin to submit applications. Keep in mind that some organizations may ask for a business plan, tax returns, or other pieces of your financial history to help ensure you are serious about your next business venture.
5. Check for New Opportunities
As you wait to hear back from the institutions you applied to, don’t be afraid to do more research. New funding opportunities appear regularly, meaning you might have more opportunities than you thought. Continue to check in with third-party aggregate sites for easy access to the latest loan opportunities throughout the life of your business.
6. Use Your Money Wisely
If you do receive a loan, scholarship, or grant — make sure that money is spent wisely. There are plenty of ways to spend your new cash, from paying employees to buying the proper equipment to get your business off the ground. Just make sure your specific loan doesn’t have any stipulations on what it can and can’t be spent on before purchasing.
Veteran Business FAQs
Whether you’re just getting started with your newest small business venture or you have specific questions on the ins and outs of startup business loans for veterans, we’ve got you covered. Check out the most frequently asked questions below or see our Start a Business Checklist for veterans.
What Credit Score Do You Need for a Veteran Business Loan?
To receive a veteran business loan, you’ll typically need a credit score that’s rated as Good, Very Good, or Excellent (670 or higher). A score in this range helps prove to lenders that you are a responsible borrower and will make your payments on time.
But if you’re a veteran with bad credit, don’t fret. There are plenty of options available to help you get the money you need, specifically with online lenders that don’t have as strict requirements as traditional banks. Just be aware you’ll likely have to pay a higher interest rate because of your lower credit score.
Can You Start a Business While on VA Disability?
Yes, you can start a business while on VA disability. However, there are limitations based on your disability benefits rating.
VA disability benefits work on a scale from 0% to 100%, and your rate will depend on a variety of factors. If you end up receiving a rate of 100%, know that you will not be able to receive benefits if your small business makes income that exceeds the federal poverty limit. Those with a rating under 100% do not need to worry about exceeding that threshold with their small business.
How Many Loans Can a Veteran Get?
There is no federal or state limit to how many loans a veteran can apply for and secure throughout their small business lifetime. However, online lenders or more traditional sources will likely pull your credit score when considering your application, which can temporarily lower your rate and make it harder to secure loans at other institutions.
Veteran Business Resources
Not in the market for business funding, or just need some other information about being a veteran entrepreneur? We’ve rounded up some of the best resources for vets to get you where you need to go.
Here at Incfile, we’re in the business of helping those who have helped us. And who is more deserving of help than our service members? From business formation to bookkeeping and everything in between, we help businesses of all sizes operate smoothly and stay on track. In fact, we can help you start your LLC for just $0!
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Sarah is a copywriter and brand strategist who has helped companies of all sizes reach their audience with targeted content. Outside of her marketing work, Sarah is passionate about creative writing, yoga and hiking with her dog, Otis.