Dear Professor Bruce: I am a female US veteran retired from active duty and I’m considering starting a small business. What resources are available to me?
Congratulations on your years of service to our country.
While you’ve re-entered civilian life at a challenging time, small businesses continue to be the backbone of the American economy and to contribute not only valuable goods and services, but jobs as well.
According to Karin Abarbanel, a start-up strategist for women and my co-author on Birthing the Elephant, “As a female vet, you have some powerful assets to drawn on.
Your military training may already have fostered some of the key ingredients required for small-business success: Discipline, ingenuity, persistence, and rapid decision making, to name a few. In a recent survey of 800 female veteran entrepreneurs, 55% said that their military leadership experience motivated them to launch their own businesses.”
Beyond these assets, Karin notes in a new guide called An American Crisis: Veterans’ Unemployment, there are a number of programs designed for you. In addition to the SBA’s Veteran Business Outreach Program, a new government-sponsored initiative called
V-WISE (Women Veterans Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship) combines online training and mentorship. And Capital One Financial Corporation is partnering with a nonprofit called Count Me In to launch the Women Veteran Entrepreneur Corps (WVEC), a mentorship program focused on business start-up and expansion.
There are also broad-based groups that offer training and networking opportunities to female entrepreneurs; among the best-established are Ladies Who Launch, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), and eWomenNetwork.
As a female vet, you may have access to targeted funding sources: The Patriot Express Pilot Initiative for example, or state-level initiatives like Employ Illinois – Military Reserve Loan. Using www.Business.gov you can also identify grants available through the federal
government, though resources are limited and competition can be keen. Realistically, however, many female entrepreneurs find that outside funds are hard to come by.
They find it difficult to obtain loans or credit lines when they are starting out and only a small percentage of venture capital dollars go to women-owned start-ups. As a result, ‘bootstrapping’ may be the most likely path to success.
Marketing is a critical activity in launching a business and many aspiring entrepreneurs find they need support in this area. If so, then there are a variety of budget-friendly ways to learn how to share information and promote your business. SCORE is a great place to start: Many entrepreneurs gain valuable, front-line advice from retired marketing executives though this no-cost resource. You can also look into marketing courses at local
universities and community colleges.
For more information, please visit: www.veteransunemploymentbook.com.