The Best Business Grants For Veterans
Many veterans that have spent their lives protecting our nation and our freedom also own and operate small businesses. According to a Small Business Administration study, there are 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses in the U.S. These veteran business owners continue to give back to the nation by providing jobs to 5.8 million employees.
Like any other small business owners, veterans face financial hardships on the path to entrepreneurship. Emergency expenses, cash flow shortages, and expansion are just a few situations where a business might need extra capital. Veteran-owned businesses may face even more financial challenges – for example, if a reservist that also owns a small business is suddenly deployed, money, time, and resources may become scarce quickly. While your incoming revenue should cover most of your expenses in theory, there will always be times when the current cash flow situation just isn’t enough.
If you’re a veteran who runs your own business and are facing a financial challenge, there are options available to you. One of the best options? Grants for veteran-owned businesses. With a grant, you can receive money to fund startup costs, pay for the research and development of new products, or support your established business. Best of all, grants don’t have to be repaid.
What’s the catch? Obtaining a grant is difficult for many business owners. You may not know where to even begin to find these grants. Once you find them, the application process can be confusing, and you’ll find the competition extremely stiff. Not only do you have to be a veteran to qualify for these grants, but you may also have to meet additional requirements, including the location of your business, the industry you’re in, and your time in business. Grants are available through the federal government, nonprofit organizations, and even corporations.
However, just because it’s difficult to receive a grant doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The first step is to understand what grants are available to you, learn the requirements, and move through the application process. In this article, we’ll explore the best grant options available to veterans, how to find your own grants, and other financial options available for your business. Ready to move one step closer to getting the business funding you need? Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- StreetShares Foundation Veteran Small Business Award
- National Association For The Self-Employed Growth Grants
- FedEx Small Business Grant Program
- USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program
- How To Find & Apply For VA Small Business Grants
- Other Financial Resources For Veteran-Owned Businesses
- Final Thoughts
StreetShares is an online lender that specializes in lending to veterans. In addition to financing products like loans and lines of credit (which we’ll discuss later in this post), small business grants are also available through the StreetShares Foundation.
As of 2019, the StreetShares Foundation awards grants to three winners. First place receives $15,000, second place receives $6,000, and third place wins $4,000.
The StreetShares Foundation Veteran Small Business Award is open to any military veteran, reserve or active duty member of the Armed Forces, or a qualifying spouse, child, or immediate family member. Applicants must live in the U.S., be at least 21 years old, and own at least 51% of the business. All businesses must be legal entities and must have an impact on the veteran community to qualify. Award amounts and additional requirements may change from year to year.
To be eligible for the grant, all applicants must view educational content through StreetShares. Once qualifying content has been downloaded or viewed, the application is available. Applicants must write a summary of their business and submit a video. The Foundation will choose up to 10 finalists based on the business idea, how the award will be used, the history of the business, the product-market fit, and the social impact on the military and veteran community. Once the finalists are selected, their businesses will be presented to the public and put to a vote to determine the winners.
National Association For The Self-Employed Growth Grants
For businesses with smaller capital needs, the National Association for the Self-Employed Growth Grant provides small grants up to $4,000. Like other grants, the funds must be used for a specific purpose, such as purchasing equipment or hiring new employees.
Applications are reviewed quarterly and awards up to $4,000 are distributed monthly. To qualify, you must submit an application outlining your business need and providing details of how you will use the grant to fund this need.
You must also be a member of the NASE to qualify. Annual fees are $120, but veterans only have to pay $99 for an annual membership. Once you’ve joined, you are eligible to apply, and your application will be reviewed based on the association’s quarterly review schedule.
FedEx Small Business Grant Program
The FedEx Small Business Grant program has awarded over $500,000 in grants since its launch in 2013. In 2019, FedEx awarded 10 prizes to small business owners. One winner received $50,000 plus $7,500 in FedEx print and business services. One winner received the Silver prize of $30,000 plus $5,000 in FedEx print and business services. Eight winners took home Bronze prizes, each receiving $15,000 plus $1,000 in FedEx print and business services.
Winners may also receive additional prize packages, including website audits and design and social media workshops.
To qualify, all businesses must be for-profit and based in the U.S. All small businesses must have fewer than 99 employees and must have a time in business of at least six months. Participants must fill out an application, write a short profile for their business, and upload four photos. Participants may also submit a 90-second video for voting, although this isn’t required. Participants do not have to be military veterans to apply.
The annual program usually opens its entry period at the end of February, and interested small businesses can apply through the FedEx website.
USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program
Through the United States Department of Agriculture, eligible small businesses can receive grants from $10,000 to $500,000. To qualify, you don’t have to be in the agriculture industry, but your business must be located in an eligible rural area.
Other requirements include operating a business that has no more than 50 employees and less than $1 million in annual revenues. Grant proceeds can be used to purchase or develop commercial real estate, to cover expenses related to business planning, and for purchasing equipment.
All applicants can apply for the grant through their USDA Rural Development state office.
If you’re interested in opening a franchise, look into the resources offered through VetFran. Among these resources are videos, links to Small Business Administration loans and resources, and publications focused on owning a franchise. One of the best resources offered through VetFran is discounted franchise fees for qualified military veterans.
VetFran is partnered with over 600 franchises, including 7Eleven, Arby’s Choice Hotels, and Cinnabon. While traditional small business grants aren’t offered, these member franchises offer discounts that could save military vets thousands of dollars in initial costs. While VetFran itself doesn’t provide the incentives and discounts, the organization does provide a plethora of information about franchising, including websites and email addresses for its member franchises.
How To Find & Apply For VA Small Business Grants
If you’ve missed the deadline for applying for the grants discussed in this article, don’t qualify, or are looking for more grant opportunities, there are additional resources you can use to find your own grants.
To find federal grant opportunities, check out Grants.gov. This searchable database of federal grants is easy to use. Through this website, you can search and apply for grants, use the educational resources to learn more about grants, and even track your submissions. A mobile app is now available for Android and iPhone, making it easy for you to search for grants on the go.
Another great resource is the SCORE Association. This nonprofit agency has counselors and mentors located nationwide. These volunteers can not only point you toward national and local grants, but also provide free business advice for starting or building your business. You can participate in online workshops as well, and take advantage of the other free resources available to small business owners.
Try using resources at your local library to find small business grants. Many library branches offer specialized tools, including search engines and databases, that provide information on available small business grants for startups and established businesses in all industries.
Once you’ve found grants, the next step is to begin the application process. Because grants are to be used for very specific purposes and are extremely competitive, take the time to adequately prepare.
Before getting started, make sure that you meet all requirements of the grants that interest you. Once you’re sure that you qualify for a startup grant, complete all required registrations. This may include registering on a website to fill out an application and/or applying for an Employer Identification Number or DUNS number.
The next steps vary based on the specific grant program. Some grant programs require you to create a short business profile or a short video giving information on your business and why you need a grant. Other grants have more extensive requirements, including writing a detailed business plan and in-depth summary of how you plan to use grant proceeds. Work through these steps very carefully. You don’t want to overlook a minor detail that could render you ineligible to receive the grant.
Your grant proposal should sound professional and include details. Your proposal should be well-organized, and you should do your research on details such as potential costs. Include supporting documentation and citation to back up your claims as needed.
If you’re new to the application process, consider hiring a grant writer. If this simply isn’t in your budget, there are free resources online that can help you through the process.
Other Financial Resources For Veteran-Owned Businesses
Whether you don’t qualify for a grant program or have greater financial needs than a grant can cover, there are more financing options available for your business. The Small Business Administration and StreetShares stand out by offering low-cost loan options to veteran-owned businesses just like yours.
VA SBA Loans
SBA loans have developed a reputation among small business owners for their low interest rates and great terms. Rates and terms are comparable to those offered by bank and credit union loans. The best part, though, is that even if you don’t qualify for traditional loan options, you may still receive an SBA loan. This is because these loans are backed by the government in amounts up to 85%, taking some of the risk away from the intermediary lender. What does this mean for you? Your small business can still be approved for an affordable loan, even if you’ve been turned down by other lenders.
One of the most popular loan options is the SBA 7(a) program. Through this program, you can receive up to $5 million for nearly any business purpose. The SBA sets the interest rates at the prime rate plus a maximum markup of 4.75%, so these loans are extremely affordable.
For military veterans, the SBA Veterans Advantage program is available. Through this program, you’ll receive the same high borrowing limits and low rates and terms of the 7(a) loan, with the added advantage of reduced guarantee fees.
To qualify for the SBA Veterans Advantage loan, your business must be a veteran-owned business that is considered a small business based on the SBA’s definition. You must demonstrate the ability to repay the loan and meet all criteria for receiving an SBA loan, including personal credit score requirements.
If you’re a military reservist or are in the National Guard, a deployment can throw your business off track. You shouldn’t have to worry about a pile of expenses that pose a threat to your business when you go on active duty. Luckily, the SBA has a financial solution.
The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program provides loans up to $2 million for military reservists or National Guard members during or immediately following deployment. Under this program, you can receive a loan with interest rates set at 4% and repayment terms up to 30 years. Loan proceeds can be used to cover operating costs but can’t be used to refinance debt, expand a business, or cover lost income or profits.
You may also qualify for other SBA loan options not specific to veterans. For example, if you need capital for your startup costs, you can apply for SBA microloans up to $50,000 through an SBA-approved nonprofit lender. Interested in learning more about SBA loans? Check out our post on SBA loans for veterans.
We already touched on StreetShares earlier when discussing grants. However, if you missed the deadline to apply, don’t want to go through the hassle of applying for the program, or don’t qualify, StreetShares has traditional financing options for your business.
StreetShares was founded by veterans and was originally targeted only toward veterans. Today, however, any qualifying business owner can apply for StreetShares financing. There are some special concessions made for veteran-owned businesses, which we’ll discuss in detail a bit later.
You can apply for a StreetShares installment loan of up to $250,000 to be repaid over 3 to 36 months. The interest rates for these loans are around 6% to 14%.
If a flexible line of credit better fits your financial needs, StreetShares offers those, too. You can apply for a line of credit of up to $250,000 with repayment terms of 3 to 36 months. Interest rates are around 6% to 14% for a StreetShares line of credit.
To qualify for a loan or line of credit, you must be in business for at least 2 years. However, some businesses may qualify with a time in business as short as six months. You must also have a minimum personal credit score of 620. However, if you’re a veteran, this score requirement is lowered to 600. You must also have an annual business revenue of $100,000.
If you have federal, state, or commercial contracts, you could also qualify for contract financing. You can receive up to 90% of your contract in advance by paying a factor fee. You can apply for contract financing in addition to an installment loan or line of credit.
Grants for a veteran-owned small business are difficult to receive, but you can improve your odds by doing your research and taking your time throughout the application process. A grant is a great way to fund your business, and you don’t have to worry about repaying funds.
Even if you don’t qualify for grants, your veteran-owned business can take advantage of other affordable financing options to start or expand your business. Consider SBA loans or our picks for small business loans for veterans to give your business the financial boost it needs to be successful.