What Support is Available for Military Veterans Starting a Business?

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For Veterans Starting a Business in the UK

If you’re making the switch from the military to civvy street and are thinking about starting your own business, the good news is that there are plenty of resources available across a range of areas that can help.

Many of the skills that are required to build a career in the military are the same as those you need to run your own business. Being able to lead a team, work under pressure, adapt, be open to change and think on your feet are all requirements when entering the world of self-employment. There’s a clear overlap between life in the services and in a startup, but what resources are available to help you make that leap?

In this guide, we bring together all of the support that’s available for military veterans, including professional advice, finance options, grants, mentorship, support, training and more, to empower you to start and grow your own business. We provide details of the support available to veterans in the UK, the US, Canada and Australia, so you can find resources that are geared specifically towards you.     

Popular Sectors

According to the Federation of Small Businesses’ report – A Force for Business – which was published in 2019, 340,000 (6 percent) of the UK’s small businesses are run by ex-military personnel, making entrepreneurship and self-employment a tried and tested path for British veterans.

The most popular sectors for self-employed military veterans are:

  • Manufacturing (18 percent)
  • Wholesale, Retail and Repair (12 percent)
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical (12 percent)
  • Construction (10 percent)  

Despite the switch from military to startup being a common route for ex-service personnel, there is a lack of public awareness in the UK about the importance of supporting veterans in life and in business, particularly when compared to the US. However, there are still a number of training schemes, funding options and events that are available specifically to service leavers. 

Funding Options

If you need capital to start or grow a business, there are a number of funding options out there that are designed specifically for entrepreneurs who are ex-armed forces. That includes:

X-Forces Enterprise

X Forces could help you access funding support via the government’s Startup Loans programme. Unsecured personal loans of up to £25,000 (£11,000 average) are available at fixed interest for a period of up to five years. There’s also 12 months of free mentoring and support to help get your business idea off the ground. 

The eligibility criteria are as follows:

  • You must be over 18 years of age
  • Both you and the business must be based in the UK
  • The business has been trading for less than two years

Visit X-Forces Funding  website

PDQ Funding

PDF offers unsecured funding in the shape of veteran business loans, merchant cash advances and loans for veterans with bad credit. 

To be eligible for the funding, your business must:

  • Be registered in the UK
  • Have been actively trading for a minimum of six months
  • Have a monthly turnover or monthly card sale transactions of at least £5,000
  • Be run by someone over 18 years of age
  • Be run as a limited company or a sole trader

Visit PDF Funding Website

SME Loans

SME Loans is another example of a lender that provides specialist startup and small business loans for military veterans. Lending amounts range from £1,000-£500,000, with loans available to UK-based businesses that have been trading for at least six months and have a monthly turnover of at least £5,000.

Of course, being ex-military does not exclude you from applying for business loans and other sources of finance that are available from the government. Here’s more information about how to apply for a government-backed startup loan.  

Visit the SME Loans Website

Grants

There are few better ways to boost your prospects as a prospective or existing business owner than to access the grants that are available to ex-military personnel. 

The Royal British Legion and RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity have partnered up to provide employment grants that help military veterans gain the skills they need to start a business. Two grants are currently available:

  1. Licenses grant – One-off grants of up to £250 are available to help ex-military personnel find work by obtaining a sector-specific licence e.g. obtaining a security licence. 
  2. Training, travel, accommodation and equipment grant – If you want to take a training course to acquire the skills to run your own business, this one-off grant of up to £1,000 could be available to you.
There are also local and central government grants that are available for startup and small businesses operating in specific sectors and regions which you may be eligible for. Find out more here

There are also local and central government grants that are available for startup and small businesses operating in specific sectors and regions which you may be eligible for. Find out more here

Training

Although many of those in the military already possess the characteristics and traits required to run their own businesses, they often need training to acquire the more technical skills they’re likely to need.

Help for Heroes

Help for Heroes, in partnership with X Forces, runs a free, six-day Business Experience Course to help wounded veterans decide whether self-employment is for them and teach them some of the essential skills they’ll need. The course covers topics such as:

  • How to create and maintain a profitable business
  • How to market a business
  • How to create a budget and manage cash-flow
  • Preparing for launch

Visit the Help for Heroes Website

RFEA

RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity can organise access to training through grants and programmes that are organised by other military charities and through its knowledge of provision in every UK region.

Visit RFEA – the Forces Employment Charity

The Unsung Hero Business Startup Programme.

The University of Wolverhampton offers The Unsung Hero Business Startup Programme. This free course teaches ex-military personnel the skills they need to start and run a business. The course is split into 2 x two-day courses over two months and five individual sessions with a business adviser. Areas covered include:

  • Business Planning
  • Market Research
  • Marketing 
  • Finance
  • Sales and Networking

Visit the Unsung Heroes Programme

X Forces Enterprise

X-Forces Enterprises provides a range of free courses and workshops to help military veterans decide whether they want to pursue self-employment and what their business journey could look like. The available courses include:

  • ABF Self-Employment Discovery Workshop
  • ABF Startup Skills Workshop
  • CTP Startup Workshop for Service Leavers
  • Blind Veterans Startup Workshop
  • Help for Heroes Business Experience Course (described above)
  • Empowering Armed Forces Widows and Dependants through Enterprise Course

Visit X-Forces Funding  website

Advice, Mentorship and Support

Professional advice and support are incredibly valuable for entrepreneurs both during the setting up stage and when the business is up and running. It could make the difference between the success and failure of your business, so you would be wise to access the resources that are available to you. 

The Military Coworking Hub offers virtual and physical membership to various coworking hubs on military bases located around the country. Physical membership costs just £20 per year and allows you to use the hub at your nearest base, provided that you meet the eligibility criteria.

Heropreneurs is a charity that supports entrepreneurs in the military community. It provides support packages to strengthen and develop your business proposition as well as mentoring programmes delivered by successful entrepreneurs who can provide valuable insights to reduce the risks of expensive mistakes. 

The Veterans’ Gateway offers support to ex-military personnel across a broad range of areas, including self-employment, and can put you in touch with organisations that can help you take your next step.

The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Scheme provides vital advice, guidance and support for prospective entrepreneurs aged 18-30 who are working fewer than 16 hours a week and have a business idea they’d like to explore. This scheme is open to all young people, not just military veterans. 

Support for Military Veterans Starting a Business in the USA

Veteran-owned businesses are an important engine for economic growth in the US, but more than that, self-employment allows veterans to transition successfully into civilian life and put the skills they developed during their military careers to good use. 

According to a report by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, there are 2.52 million veteran-owned businesses in the US, representing 9 percent of all American businesses. 99.9 percent of those are classified as small businesses, so it’s vital that existing and aspiring small business owners from a military background have the tools they need to succeed. 

Fortunately, there are a growing number of funding options, mentorship programmes and training courses designed specifically for US military veterans who want to run their own businesses. 

THAT INCLUDES

Funding Options

One of the biggest fears for all entrepreneurs is a lack of capital, but this can be even more pronounced for military veterans. They have to overcome the challenge of transitioning back into civilian life while also worrying about how to finance the launch and growth of their business. However, there are a number of funding options specifically for military personnel that could help. 

SBA Veterans Advantage 7(a) Loan

This is a loan that’s made available by the Small Business Administration specifically for military veterans looking for capital to grow their small business. The loans feature longer repayment terms and potentially lower fees than might be available from other funding options. For example, there is no upfront fee for loans of under $125,000 made to qualifying veteran-owned businesses. Fees may be payable as the loan amount increases but at a discounted rate.

To be eligible for a loan, the business must be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by any of the following:

The StreetShares Foundation was set up with ex-military entrepreneurs in mind. It offers a number of lines of credit for veteran-owned businesses, including term loans, merchant cash advances and invoice finance arrangements. It also has a grant program, the Veteran Small Business Award, which gives financial support to veterans who lack the financial means to launch or grow their businesses.

Hivers and Strivers is an angel investment group that specifically funds veteran-owned startups. It invests in companies across a wide spectrum of industries and also provides ongoing support for entrepreneurs and business advice. To be eligible, you should be a graduate of one of the military academies. You can submit your small business idea on their website.

The Veterans Business Fund (VBF) was created to assist veterans who want to become small business owners or grow their businesses but do not have the necessary equity capital to qualify for a small business loan. To qualify, veterans must be able to prove that a bank loan would have been approved if there had been more equity. If approved, the loans are non-interest-bearing, making it a very cost-effective way to fund your business.

The HCC Veteran Entrepreneurship Training (VET) Program gives small business owners who have served in the US military access to expert training and hands-on entrepreneurial guidance. Importantly, it can also help military veterans secure funding by giving them access to industry-specific angel investors and funding partnerships they may not have otherwise have been able to connect with.

The Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business Program, run by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, aims to help veteran entrepreneurs secure government contracts. The federal government sets aside 3 percent of its contracting dollars for small businesses that are owned by disabled veterans every year. That makes this a great way to get cash coming into the business and boost its profitability.

To apply, you must go to your local Veterans Affairs office to get your business registered. You will then be added to the directory and contacted when contracts that are suitable for your business are available. 

Grants

There are various grants available to US ex-services personnel that can help you get your business off the ground.

To qualify for federal or government grants, or grants from non-profit organisations, you must usually be an honourably discharged veteran, a service-disabled veteran, an active member of the military participating in the military’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) or the spouse of any of the above. 

The VA Small Business Grant from the US Department of Veterans Affairs is designed to support military veterans who want to get their businesses up and running. Like any other grant, the money you receive does not have to be repaid, but strict requirements will have to be met by your business. Read the guidelines for the grant carefully to check that you qualify before you apply.

The Vocational Readiness and Employment (VR&E) Program for Disabled Vets is another grant that’s overseen by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The amount of funding you can access depends on the nature and severity of your disability. Grant money can be used to purchase inventory, business supplies and essential equipment or pay the licensing fees required to start a new business. Applicants must submit a business plan to be considered for funding. 

Even if you don’t qualify for funding, you can still benefit from the other services the VR&E program provides. That includes:

  • Career Support
  • Counselling
  • Job Training
  • Skills Coaching
  • Resume Writing

Grantwatch is an online resource that provides information on the government grants that are available to a wide range of businesses, including grants for veterans. It currently has the details of more than 100 grants that are available to ex-military personnel across the US. As well as veteran-run enterprises, businesses that work specifically with veterans can also apply.

Although the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grant is not specifically aimed at veteran-owned businesses, businesses owned by ex-military personnel benefit from SBIR grants to the tune of nearly $90 million a year. That makes it a resource well worth exploring if your business is eligible. To apply, your small business must have a focus on scientific research and be able to meet the specific objectives of the grant. You should also be able to prove that your project has commercial potential. 

Growth Grants from the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) are available to all qualifying entrepreneurs as well as veterans. The grants total no more than $4,000 but that could be just what you need to pay for the advertising, equipment, training, hiring or more that your business needs.

You must become a member of the National Association for the Self-Employed to apply and include a business plan with your application. 

 

Training

Applying for grants or funding only makes sense if you have a viable business idea and the knowledge to execute it. That’s why resources that teach veterans how to run a successful business are so valuable. 

The Veteran Business Outreach Center Program, funded by the Small Business Administration, provides business owners with training, mentoring and counselling through 15 locations across the US. The centers provide access to training courses in areas such as business management and market research, as well as programs that equip potential business owners with the tools they need to turn their vision into reality. A Veteran Business Outreach Center should be your first stop if you have one in the vicinity. 

The fantastic Boots to Business training program is free for veterans who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs. It is funded by the Small Business Administration and delivered through military installations, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and Veterans Business Outreach Centers in locations across the US.

The course begins with a two-day, in-person event. Participants can then enrol on multiple online courses over an eight week period that cover the basics of business ownership. As well as veterans and their spouses, this course is also available to those on active duty who are transitioning out of the military.

The Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans (EBV) is an intensive training course for veterans and their families that teaches them everything they need to know to run their own business. The program is free for post-9/11 veterans. 

The course is delivered in three phases:

  • Phase 1: Self-Study – This introductory part of the course is delivered online.
  • Phase 2: Nine-Day Residency – You’ll attend a series of intense workshops that are led by successful entrepreneurs and hosted at one of eight partner universities across the country. 
  • Phase 3: Ongoing Support –  You’ll receive a year of mentorship and support from experts associated with the EBV.

Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) is a three-phase entrepreneurship course designed specifically for female veterans which is run by the Institute for Veterans and Military Veterans at Syracuse University. The cost of the program, lodging and all meals during the residency stage of the course is funded by the SBA. 

Much like the EBV above, the course is split into three phases:

  • Phase 1: A 15-day online course
  • Phase 2: A three-day entrepreneurship training event
  • Phase 3: Ongoing mentorship, training and support for graduates while they launch or grow their businesses

Bunker Labs is an independent company that offers a range of funded training courses that provide support for military veterans at different stages of starting and growing a business.

The following courses are available in 28 locations across the US:

  • Launch Lab Online: This is the first step for active duty and military veterans who have a business idea and want to start the next chapter in their lives. 
  • Veterans in Residence: Veterans who are ready to launch their new businesses can access this startup incubator and leadership program. The program gives veterans and military families access to business support, workspace and entrepreneur communities over six months. 
  • CEOCircle: Businesses that are experiencing rapid growth and traction can continue their journey with Bunker Labs through the CEOCircle program. It provides the support business owners need for future success.

The Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP) is an entrepreneurship training company that teaches veteran entrepreneurs how to win and deliver government contracts. This course is only suitable for veterans who already own and run a business. It offers three main training programmes that are delivered in person, four times a year. Each course consists of 27 hours of training delivered over three days and is available at no cost to the participant (apart from travel to the event).

The courses include:

  • VIP Start: For small businesses that want to become procurement-ready
  • VIP Grow: For businesses that want to expand to the federal level
  • VIP International: For companies that are ready to start pursuing international contracting opportunities 
  • Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that provides a range of services and resources to help active-duty military, veterans and their spouses become entrepreneurs. At its core is an intensive, three-day technology entrepreneurship boot camp that culminates in a pitch practice competition to help attendees secure investment. The program runs twice a year in locations across the US and accepts 50 startup founders per program.

Dog Tag Inc. (DTI) is a five-month-long, in-person business program offered by Georgetown University. The program seeks to give veterans with service-connected disabilities, military spouses and caregivers a bridge to a productive civilian life in the form of self-employment. Upon completion of the program, graduates receive a Certificate in Business Administration and are ready to re-enter the world of work or to set up on their own.  

Advice, Mentorship and Support

There are also a number of other useful resources that do not fit into the previous categories but still provide valuable assistance for military veterans who want to start or grow a business. 

The Veterans Franchise Transition Initiative is a program that is committed to helping veterans become franchise owners. It provides a toolkit that includes a directory with over 650 franchise businesses that offer significant discounts to ex-military personnel and their spouses. It also offers training resources that are available to veterans who want to learn about franchising before they take the next step.

  • Access to networking events with other members of the organisation
  • Access to events and conferences that are run to help you build better businesses
  • Immediate notification of any changes that affect businesses in the Veteran-Owned Small Businesses or Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses programs.

American Corporate Partners (ACP) is a non-profit organisation that is dedicated to connecting military veterans with successful mentors who can help them navigate their journey into employment or entrepreneurship successfully. You’ll receive a handpicked mentor who has a relevant background and can give you the advice to propel your career in the right direction. 

The National Veteran Small Business Coalition (NVSBC) is an organisation that’s made up of veteran-owned small businesses that are interested in or involved in government contracting. There is a membership fee to join the NVSBC but it can provide significant benefits, including:

  • Access to networking events with other members of the organisation
  • Access to events and conferences that are run to help you build better businesses
  • Immediate notification of any changes that affect businesses in the Veteran-Owned Small Businesses or Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses programs.

The Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP) is a resource created by the US Department of Veteran Affairs to help veterans who want to start their own businesses find the support that’s available to them. Although it contains many of the same resources as this guide, it may also help you find local opportunities that we’ve not been able to list. 

Support for Military Veterans Starting a Business in Canada

Although Canada doesn’t track the number of military veterans who choose entrepreneurship, it is a common path many take when adjusting back into civilian life. In the US, veterans are 45 percent more likely to own a business than non-veterans, and estimates suggest that preference for self-employment among military veterans is replicated north of the border. 

Every year, about 5,000 people leave the Canadian armed forces. With an average age of 41, they are young enough to have decades of working life ahead of them and are bristling with many of the same traits, such as discipline and resilience, that are prerequisites for running a business.    

That, combined with the disconnect from the civilian workforce and the disadvantage of trying to break into existing professional networks, makes self-employment the natural choice for many veterans, but they still need a little help. These are the funding options, grants, training and mentorships programs they can turn to.  

Funding Options

Most small businesses need external funding to be able to open their doors and grow. But where will that funding come from and what funding options are available specifically to military veterans?

  • The Canada Small Business Financing Program is not a bad place to start if you want to explore your funding options. Small businesses and startups operating for-profit with gross annual revenues of $10 million or less are eligible. You should approach your bank with your business plan. They will discuss your needs with you and make a decision on the loan. The funds will be disbursed by the bank and the loan will be registered with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. 

Businesses can borrow up to $1 million to finance:

  • Land or buildings used for commercial purposes
  • Commercial vehicles
  • Machinery and equipment
  • The eligible costs of buying a franchise
  • Software and computer equipment

The loan cannot be used to buy inventory or goodwill, to pay franchise fees, to supplement working capital or to fund research and development.

  • Futurpreneur provides up to $60,000 in financing to military veterans who are starting a business. You can also participate in their mentorship program to help you launch your startup. You must be aged between 18-39 and ready to launch a business to qualify. Alternatively, if you run a business while in full-time employment, you could qualify for a collateral-free loan of $15,000 and support from more than 3,000 volunteer mentors.

Grants

If you need capital to get your business idea off the ground, grants for military veterans can help you take the next step without the burden of debt. 

  • Grantwatch Canada is an online directory that provides details of the grants that are available to a range of non-profit organisations and businesses, including those that are run by ex-military personnel. By clicking on each directory listing, you’ll be able to read more about the grant, the eligibility criteria and how you can apply. As well as veteran-run enterprises, organisations that work with veterans can apply for many of the grants.
  • YouHelp is a crowdfunding platform that veterans can use to raise money for their startup while they’re in the process of applying for grants. You can use your grant application or part of your business plan as the cornerstone of your campaign to explain what you plan to do and why. Prospective donors can then view your campaign page and make contributions.

You can use YouHelp to raise money for:

  • Nonprofits 
  • Small Businesses
  • Inventions
  • Startups
  • Personal and Individual Needs
  • This resource from the Government of Canada allows you to filter through a comprehensive list of grants and federal programs that are available to all kinds of businesses, including those owned by veterans. You can also filter the grants and financing information by industry to find the assistance that’s available in your sector. Searching for the grants available at a provincial level could help you uncover a potential source of funding that’s not covered in this guide.  

Getting government grants can be tough as there can be strong competition and the criteria your business has to meet is often stringent. Generally, to apply for federal and provincial grants, you will need to provide:

  • A detailed project description 
  • A detailed work plan with full costs 
  • An explanation of the benefits of your project
  • Details of the relevant experience you have 

Training

Although many of the skills and traits that ex-servicemen and women possess are well-suited to business ownership, there are also more specific skills that those who want to start a business should learn.

  • Operation Entrepreneur from the Prince’s Trust is a program that gives military veterans the help they need to start their own business. It offers free one-day workshops that serve as an introduction to entrepreneurship and provides examples of ways military skills can be transferred to business ownership. It also offers a more intensive, week-long boot camp where aspiring entrepreneurs can learn the basics of launching, running and growing a business and benefit from networking time with other entrepreneurial veterans.

There are 20+ free, one-day workshops on military bases across Canada and boot camps are held on four university campuses each summer. 

  • The Legion Military Skills Conversion Program is designed to advance and accelerate the civilian careers of former and current reserve and regular Canadian military members. It does that via a three-pronged approach:
  • Education Credentials: After an assessment of your knowledge and skills, you can be awarded credits or blocked credits for advanced placement towards certificate, diploma and degree programs. 
  • Entrepreneurial Training: Every year, veteran entrepreneurs can attend the Legion Lions’ Lair, where they are given the chance to learn up to date business practices and receive one-on-one mentorship to build a business plan. After completing a series of workshops, participants will pitch their business plan to a panel of judges and potentially receive investment. Workshops are run one evening a week from January to February each year and veterans can attend online via Skype or in-person at the BCIT Burnaby Campus. 
  • Job Seeking Assistance: Expert assistance is also available to prepare veterans and help them find a suitable role in the civilian jobs market.
  • Helmets to Hardhats offers apprenticeship opportunities in the trades to veterans and for anyone who is currently serving but in the process of transitioning to a civilian career. The trades are a very popular and potentially lucrative route into self-employment for Canadian veterans. Depending on your existing experience, the apprenticeship can be shortened and even bypassed entirely to fast-track the process. There are 14 trades where full apprenticeship training is available.
  • Coding for Veterans is an intensive training program that’s designed to equip Canadian military veterans with the skills they need to enter and succeed in a career in computer coding, cybersecurity or data analytics. Classes are taught in person or online and programs are available for all skill levels and experience.  

Advice, Mentorship and Support


As a forces veteran and small business owner, there are certain networks and programs you can access that could help to give your business a competitive edge. 

  • The Canadian Veteran Business Directory, run by Operation Entrepreneur, is Canada’s most comprehensive list of veteran-owned businesses. The directory is searchable by province and industry, making it an easy way for patriotic Canadians to support veterans and their families in their new lives. 

Each year the Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur runs its #BuyVeteranCA campaign, which draws the attention of 1.1 million Canadians and encourages people to buy from businesses listed in the directory. Listing with the directory is free and open to all current and former members of the Canadian military and their families.

  • The Soldiers to Leaders program connects veterans and those who are looking to start a career outside of the military with mentors in the field, vocation or industry they want to enter. The mentors are experts in their industries and have insight into the training you’ll need and how you can get started, whether it’s as an employee or running your own business. Even if they don’t currently have a suitable mentor on their books, Soldiers to Leaders will find one for you.  

Support for Military Veterans Starting a Business in Australia

Every year, around 5,000 military personnel transition from service in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to civilian life. One of the biggest challenges they face is finding meaningful employment, whether it’s as an employee or by choosing to join the growing ranks of the self-employed. 

One of the attractive aspects of self-employment for Australian veterans is having the opportunity to be their own boss. However, many veterans only find self-employment after becoming disillusioned with their experiences in paid civilian employment. Unfortunately, there are also a number of barriers to entry that can prevent veterans from becoming self-employed. Those barriers include a lack of finance, a lack of skills and the loss of the teamwork that some veterans so dearly miss. 

What is lacking is access to the right information and advice at the right time. Thankfully, the resources are out there, but they’re not always easy to find. That’s why we’ve brought together all the support available for Australian military veterans who want to become self-employed.   

Funding Options

Most military veterans require some form of external funding to turn their business idea into a reality or to propel it to new heights. Funding options in Australia that are specific to veteran-owned businesses are few and far between, but veteran entrepreneurs can access the range of funding options available to all startups. 

  • Startup and small business bank loans are available from banks such as ANZ and Commbank. Typically, they feature low-interest rates and no security required on loans up to $50,000. The loan repayments may also be interest-only for the first year, which makes them well-suited to early-stage companies that need all of their available capital to launch and grow. 
  • Seed and angel investors are single investors or investor groups who pool their funds together to back startups or early-stage businesses that are experiencing rapid growth. You can connect with equity investors and venture capitalists on your own or seek equity financing through veteran-focused organisations such as the Prince’s Trust Australia. It can help you connect with investors with a track record of backing veteran-owned businesses.
     
  • Instead of using cash to grow, some startups choose to exchange services and goodwill with other entrepreneurs in their communities and networks. This is called contra service swapping. Australia’s military veterans are a tight-knit group and swapping services between themselves can be a cost-effective way to grow. Once the business grows and produces a profit, the businesses you’ve been swapping with become your paid customers and service providers. 
         
  • The willingness of Australia’s military veterans to sacrifice for their country has earned them lasting gratitude. By using a crowdfunding platform such as Indiegogo, Kickstarter or OzCrowd, veteran entrepreneurs can cash in on that gratitude and raise funds for their businesses. 

Crowdfunding can be either donation-based or investment-based. In donation-based crowdfunding, you receive funding in exchange for exclusive offers and promotions and do not sacrifice any equity in your business. In investment-based crowdfunding, the investor receives a stake in your business in return for their funding. Importantly, the stakes with crowdfunding are low. If you fail to reach your funding goal, you can try again or switch to other options. 

Grants

Understandably, many entrepreneurs are interested in getting their hands on money that they don’t have to repay. Although there are no specific grants for military veterans, there are several grants that could help to get your business off the ground.

  • CSIRO Kick-Start provides matched funding to Australian startups and small businesses that are keen to partner with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in research activities. Aimed at the research and testing stage, entrepreneurs that are developing a ‘novel’ product or service can get up to $50,000 to help them develop and grow their business. 

The funding can be used to pay for the costs associated with researching, developing and testing a new product or service. Eligible businesses must:

  • Have an annual turnover of $1.5 million or less in the current and the previous two years 
  • Have been registered as a company for less than three years
  • Be registered in Australia for goods and services tax (GST)
  • The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has created a search tool that Australian startups can use to identify state by state assistance programs that they could be eligible for. Grants that may be of particular interest to military veterans include:
  • The New Enterprise Incentive Scheme allows eligible individuals who are unemployed but have a business idea to receive government funds and become business owners. The value of the grant varies on a case-by-case basis.
  • The Export Market Development Grant offers financial assistance to aspiring and current exporters. Businesses will receive up to 50 percent of the expenses incurred on eligible export promotion activities above a threshold of $5,000, provided that the total expenses are at least $15,000.
  • The Landing Pads program provides Australian startups with a residency of up to 90 days in a coworking space in major global innovation hubs around the world. Five Landing Pads have been established in Singapore, Shanghai, San Francisco, Berlin and Tel Aviv. The value of the grant depends on the size and nature of the business that is developing. To be eligible, startups must demonstrate scalability, traction and differentiation and explain how 90 days in a Landing Pad could benefit their venture.
  • The Entrepreneurs’ Programme allows entrepreneurs to access expert advice and financial support through the Accelerating Commercialisation Grant. It provides businesses with up to 50 percent of expenditure on a project, capped at $1 million. The Entrepreneurs’ Programme also offers funding support for incubators that help startups enter global markets. New and existing incubators can apply for $13,000 to $250,000 of funding for up to two years.

Training

While most military veterans typically possess many of the character traits that are necessary to run a business, there are some veteran-specific programmes that can fill the gaps when it comes to key skills such as marketing, business finance and tax compliance.

  • The Enterprise for Veterans programme, run by the Prince’s Trust Australia, supports all entrepreneurs in the veteran community, their spouses and transitioning defence members on their journey towards launching and growing a business. The programme offers one-day workshops, four-day boot camps and six-month boot camps that are designed to develop the skills and confidence required to explore self-employment, entrepreneurship and business ownership.
  • One-Day Workshops: The workshops offer a taster of the boot camp experience and should be the first port of call for veterans and their partners who are interested in exploring self-employment. Over five hours, participants will be introduced to the tools and networks that could turn their business dreams into a reality.      
  • Four-Day Boot Camps: The aim of the boot camps is to inspire and enhance participants’ entrepreneurial skills, including problem-solving, critical thinking, innovation, digital literacy, communication and self-management. Participants do not need to have a business idea to attend the programme but they should be interested in working for themselves or working for an existing small business.
  • Six-Month Boot Camps: The six-month boot camp takes would-be entrepreneurs through the process of developing a work-ready business plan. It incorporates national accreditation and tailored academic support to teach veterans and their partners everything they’ll need to know to launch and grow their business.       
  • VetForce Australia, which is run in partnership with the veteran support organisation  Soldier On, offers training and employment opportunities in the in-demand technology and cloud industry. It focuses on delivering structured, self-paced training that teaches veterans business skills training and includes Salesforce certification. 

Salesforce is a cloud-based software company that produces customer relationship management software that’s used by businesses in Australia and around the world. Becoming Salesforce certified can open doors both in the worlds of employment and self-employment. The four-week VetForce training and certification program is followed by ongoing mentorship to support veterans in gaining employment. 

Advice, Mentorship and Support     

  • The Veterans Employment Programme, run by the Department of Defence, is designed to help ex-services personnel find employment in the private and public sector, but also to explore the opportunities for self-employment in areas where skills gaps exist. There are also a number of state-specific employment programmes for veterans. That includes
  1. Victoria: The Victoria Public Sector Veterans Employment Strategy provides online resources to support veterans find employment in the public sector.
  2. New South Wales: The New South Wales Veteran’s Employment Programme helps veterans identify employment opportunities in NSW government. It also presents a programme which assesses veteran skills and offers gap training analysis.
  3. Queensland: Queensland Veteran’s Employment Pathway showcases the skills and capabilities of former military members to hiring managers in the Queensland government. 
  4. Western Australia: The Veteran’s Employment Transition Support programme encourages veterans to consider employment within the Western Australian public sector. It has a mentor network to provide advice and support for ex-ADF members who are transitioning to civilian life.       
  • Buy Veteran is an initiative run by the Prince’s Trust Australia that champions success stories from the veteran alumni of its programmes and encourages the wider community to buy from veteran-owned businesses. The #BuyVeteran campaign is an international collaboration with the Prince’s Trust Canada and draws the attention of more than a million consumers every year. Register your business with the Buy Veteran campaign for free in just a few minutes.  

What Support is Available for Military Veterans Starting a Business?

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UK
USA
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For Veterans Starting a Business in the UK

If you’re making the switch from the military to civvy street and are thinking about starting your own business, the good news is that there are plenty of resources available across a range of areas that can help.

Many of the skills that are required to build a career in the military are the same as those you need to run your own business. Being able to lead a team, work under pressure, adapt, be open to change and think on your feet are all requirements when entering the world of self-employment. There’s a clear overlap between life in the services and in a startup, but what resources are available to help you make that leap?

In this guide, we bring together all of the support that’s available for military veterans, including professional advice, finance options, grants, mentorship, support, training and more, to empower you to start and grow your own business. We provide details of the support available to veterans in the UK, the US, Canada and Australia, so you can find resources that are geared specifically towards you.     

Popular Sectors

According to the Federation of Small Businesses’ report – A Force for Business – which was published in 2019, 340,000 (6 percent) of the UK’s small businesses are run by ex-military personnel, making entrepreneurship and self-employment a tried and tested path for British veterans.

The most popular sectors for self-employed military veterans are:

  • Manufacturing (18 percent)
  • Wholesale, Retail and Repair (12 percent)
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical (12 percent)
  • Construction (10 percent)  

Despite the switch from military to startup being a common route for ex-service personnel, there is a lack of public awareness in the UK about the importance of supporting veterans in life and in business, particularly when compared to the US. However, there are still a number of training schemes, funding options and events that are available specifically to service leavers. 

Funding Options

If you need capital to start or grow a business, there are a number of funding options out there that are designed specifically for entrepreneurs who are ex-armed forces. That includes:

X-Forces Enterprise

X Forces could help you access funding support via the government’s Startup Loans programme. Unsecured personal loans of up to £25,000 (£11,000 average) are available at fixed interest for a period of up to five years. There’s also 12 months of free mentoring and support to help get your business idea off the ground. 

The eligibility criteria are as follows:

  • You must be over 18 years of age
  • Both you and the business must be based in the UK
  • The business has been trading for less than two years

Visit X-Forces Funding  website

PDQ Funding

PDF offers unsecured funding in the shape of veteran business loans, merchant cash advances and loans for veterans with bad credit. 

To be eligible for the funding, your business must:

  • Be registered in the UK
  • Have been actively trading for a minimum of six months
  • Have a monthly turnover or monthly card sale transactions of at least £5,000
  • Be run by someone over 18 years of age
  • Be run as a limited company or a sole trader

Visit PDF Funding Website

SME Loans

SME Loans is another example of a lender that provides specialist startup and small business loans for military veterans. Lending amounts range from £1,000-£500,000, with loans available to UK-based businesses that have been trading for at least six months and have a monthly turnover of at least £5,000.

Of course, being ex-military does not exclude you from applying for business loans and other sources of finance that are available from the government. Here’s more information about how to apply for a government-backed startup loan.  

Visit the SME Loans Website

Grants

There are few better ways to boost your prospects as a prospective or existing business owner than to access the grants that are available to ex-military personnel. 

The Royal British Legion and RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity have partnered up to provide employment grants that help military veterans gain the skills they need to start a business. Two grants are currently available:

  1. Licenses grant – One-off grants of up to £250 are available to help ex-military personnel find work by obtaining a sector-specific licence e.g. obtaining a security licence. 
  2. Training, travel, accommodation and equipment grant – If you want to take a training course to acquire the skills to run your own business, this one-off grant of up to £1,000 could be available to you.
There are also local and central government grants that are available for startup and small businesses operating in specific sectors and regions which you may be eligible for. Find out more here

There are also local and central government grants that are available for startup and small businesses operating in specific sectors and regions which you may be eligible for. Find out more here

Training

Although many of those in the military already possess the characteristics and traits required to run their own businesses, they often need training to acquire the more technical skills they’re likely to need.

Help for Heroes

Help for Heroes, in partnership with X Forces, runs a free, six-day Business Experience Course to help wounded veterans decide whether self-employment is for them and teach them some of the essential skills they’ll need. The course covers topics such as:

  • How to create and maintain a profitable business
  • How to market a business
  • How to create a budget and manage cash-flow
  • Preparing for launch

Visit the Help for Heroes Website

RFEA

RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity can organise access to training through grants and programmes that are organised by other military charities and through its knowledge of provision in every UK region.

Visit RFEA – the Forces Employment Charity

The Unsung Hero Business Startup Programme.

The University of Wolverhampton offers The Unsung Hero Business Startup Programme. This free course teaches ex-military personnel the skills they need to start and run a business. The course is split into 2 x two-day courses over two months and five individual sessions with a business adviser. Areas covered include:

  • Business Planning
  • Market Research
  • Marketing 
  • Finance
  • Sales and Networking

Visit the Unsung Heroes Programme

X Forces Enterprise

X-Forces Enterprises provides a range of free courses and workshops to help military veterans decide whether they want to pursue self-employment and what their business journey could look like. The available courses include:

  • ABF Self-Employment Discovery Workshop
  • ABF Startup Skills Workshop
  • CTP Startup Workshop for Service Leavers
  • Blind Veterans Startup Workshop
  • Help for Heroes Business Experience Course (described above)
  • Empowering Armed Forces Widows and Dependants through Enterprise Course

Visit X-Forces Funding  website

Advice, Mentorship and Support

Professional advice and support are incredibly valuable for entrepreneurs both during the setting up stage and when the business is up and running. It could make the difference between the success and failure of your business, so you would be wise to access the resources that are available to you. 

The Military Coworking Hub offers virtual and physical membership to various coworking hubs on military bases located around the country. Physical membership costs just £20 per year and allows you to use the hub at your nearest base, provided that you meet the eligibility criteria.

Heropreneurs is a charity that supports entrepreneurs in the military community. It provides support packages to strengthen and develop your business proposition as well as mentoring programmes delivered by successful entrepreneurs who can provide valuable insights to reduce the risks of expensive mistakes. 

The Veterans’ Gateway offers support to ex-military personnel across a broad range of areas, including self-employment, and can put you in touch with organisations that can help you take your next step.

The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Scheme provides vital advice, guidance and support for prospective entrepreneurs aged 18-30 who are working fewer than 16 hours a week and have a business idea they’d like to explore. This scheme is open to all young people, not just military veterans. 

Support for Military Veterans Starting a Business in the USA

Veteran-owned businesses are an important engine for economic growth in the US, but more than that, self-employment allows veterans to transition successfully into civilian life and put the skills they developed during their military careers to good use. 

According to a report by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, there are 2.52 million veteran-owned businesses in the US, representing 9 percent of all American businesses. 99.9 percent of those are classified as small businesses, so it’s vital that existing and aspiring small business owners from a military background have the tools they need to succeed. 

Fortunately, there are a growing number of funding options, mentorship programmes and training courses designed specifically for US military veterans who want to run their own businesses. 

THAT INCLUDES

Funding Options

One of the biggest fears for all entrepreneurs is a lack of capital, but this can be even more pronounced for military veterans. They have to overcome the challenge of transitioning back into civilian life while also worrying about how to finance the launch and growth of their business. However, there are a number of funding options specifically for military personnel that could help. 

SBA Veterans Advantage 7(a) Loan

This is a loan that’s made available by the Small Business Administration specifically for military veterans looking for capital to grow their small business. The loans feature longer repayment terms and potentially lower fees than might be available from other funding options. For example, there is no upfront fee for loans of under $125,000 made to qualifying veteran-owned businesses. Fees may be payable as the loan amount increases but at a discounted rate.

To be eligible for a loan, the business must be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by any of the following:

The StreetShares Foundation was set up with ex-military entrepreneurs in mind. It offers a number of lines of credit for veteran-owned businesses, including term loans, merchant cash advances and invoice finance arrangements. It also has a grant program, the Veteran Small Business Award, which gives financial support to veterans who lack the financial means to launch or grow their businesses.

Hivers and Strivers is an angel investment group that specifically funds veteran-owned startups. It invests in companies across a wide spectrum of industries and also provides ongoing support for entrepreneurs and business advice. To be eligible, you should be a graduate of one of the military academies. You can submit your small business idea on their website.

The Veterans Business Fund (VBF) was created to assist veterans who want to become small business owners or grow their businesses but do not have the necessary equity capital to qualify for a small business loan. To qualify, veterans must be able to prove that a bank loan would have been approved if there had been more equity. If approved, the loans are non-interest-bearing, making it a very cost-effective way to fund your business.

The HCC Veteran Entrepreneurship Training (VET) Program gives small business owners who have served in the US military access to expert training and hands-on entrepreneurial guidance. Importantly, it can also help military veterans secure funding by giving them access to industry-specific angel investors and funding partnerships they may not have otherwise have been able to connect with.

The Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business Program, run by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, aims to help veteran entrepreneurs secure government contracts. The federal government sets aside 3 percent of its contracting dollars for small businesses that are owned by disabled veterans every year. That makes this a great way to get cash coming into the business and boost its profitability.

To apply, you must go to your local Veterans Affairs office to get your business registered. You will then be added to the directory and contacted when contracts that are suitable for your business are available. 

Grants

There are various grants available to US ex-services personnel that can help you get your business off the ground.

To qualify for federal or government grants, or grants from non-profit organisations, you must usually be an honourably discharged veteran, a service-disabled veteran, an active member of the military participating in the military’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) or the spouse of any of the above. 

The VA Small Business Grant from the US Department of Veterans Affairs is designed to support military veterans who want to get their businesses up and running. Like any other grant, the money you receive does not have to be repaid, but strict requirements will have to be met by your business. Read the guidelines for the grant carefully to check that you qualify before you apply.

The Vocational Readiness and Employment (VR&E) Program for Disabled Vets is another grant that’s overseen by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The amount of funding you can access depends on the nature and severity of your disability. Grant money can be used to purchase inventory, business supplies and essential equipment or pay the licensing fees required to start a new business. Applicants must submit a business plan to be considered for funding. 

Even if you don’t qualify for funding, you can still benefit from the other services the VR&E program provides. That includes:

  • Career Support
  • Counselling
  • Job Training
  • Skills Coaching
  • Resume Writing

Grantwatch is an online resource that provides information on the government grants that are available to a wide range of businesses, including grants for veterans. It currently has the details of more than 100 grants that are available to ex-military personnel across the US. As well as veteran-run enterprises, businesses that work specifically with veterans can also apply.

Although the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grant is not specifically aimed at veteran-owned businesses, businesses owned by ex-military personnel benefit from SBIR grants to the tune of nearly $90 million a year. That makes it a resource well worth exploring if your business is eligible. To apply, your small business must have a focus on scientific research and be able to meet the specific objectives of the grant. You should also be able to prove that your project has commercial potential. 

Growth Grants from the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) are available to all qualifying entrepreneurs as well as veterans. The grants total no more than $4,000 but that could be just what you need to pay for the advertising, equipment, training, hiring or more that your business needs.

You must become a member of the National Association for the Self-Employed to apply and include a business plan with your application. 

 

Training

Applying for grants or funding only makes sense if you have a viable business idea and the knowledge to execute it. That’s why resources that teach veterans how to run a successful business are so valuable. 

The Veteran Business Outreach Center Program, funded by the Small Business Administration, provides business owners with training, mentoring and counselling through 15 locations across the US. The centers provide access to training courses in areas such as business management and market research, as well as programs that equip potential business owners with the tools they need to turn their vision into reality. A Veteran Business Outreach Center should be your first stop if you have one in the vicinity. 

The fantastic Boots to Business training program is free for veterans who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs. It is funded by the Small Business Administration and delivered through military installations, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and Veterans Business Outreach Centers in locations across the US.

The course begins with a two-day, in-person event. Participants can then enrol on multiple online courses over an eight week period that cover the basics of business ownership. As well as veterans and their spouses, this course is also available to those on active duty who are transitioning out of the military.

The Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans (EBV) is an intensive training course for veterans and their families that teaches them everything they need to know to run their own business. The program is free for post-9/11 veterans. 

The course is delivered in three phases:

  • Phase 1: Self-Study – This introductory part of the course is delivered online.
  • Phase 2: Nine-Day Residency – You’ll attend a series of intense workshops that are led by successful entrepreneurs and hosted at one of eight partner universities across the country. 
  • Phase 3: Ongoing Support –  You’ll receive a year of mentorship and support from experts associated with the EBV.

Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) is a three-phase entrepreneurship course designed specifically for female veterans which is run by the Institute for Veterans and Military Veterans at Syracuse University. The cost of the program, lodging and all meals during the residency stage of the course is funded by the SBA. 

Much like the EBV above, the course is split into three phases:

  • Phase 1: A 15-day online course
  • Phase 2: A three-day entrepreneurship training event
  • Phase 3: Ongoing mentorship, training and support for graduates while they launch or grow their businesses

Bunker Labs is an independent company that offers a range of funded training courses that provide support for military veterans at different stages of starting and growing a business.

The following courses are available in 28 locations across the US:

  • Launch Lab Online: This is the first step for active duty and military veterans who have a business idea and want to start the next chapter in their lives. 
  • Veterans in Residence: Veterans who are ready to launch their new businesses can access this startup incubator and leadership program. The program gives veterans and military families access to business support, workspace and entrepreneur communities over six months. 
  • CEOCircle: Businesses that are experiencing rapid growth and traction can continue their journey with Bunker Labs through the CEOCircle program. It provides the support business owners need for future success.

The Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP) is an entrepreneurship training company that teaches veteran entrepreneurs how to win and deliver government contracts. This course is only suitable for veterans who already own and run a business. It offers three main training programmes that are delivered in person, four times a year. Each course consists of 27 hours of training delivered over three days and is available at no cost to the participant (apart from travel to the event).

The courses include:

  • VIP Start: For small businesses that want to become procurement-ready
  • VIP Grow: For businesses that want to expand to the federal level
  • VIP International: For companies that are ready to start pursuing international contracting opportunities 
  • Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that provides a range of services and resources to help active-duty military, veterans and their spouses become entrepreneurs. At its core is an intensive, three-day technology entrepreneurship boot camp that culminates in a pitch practice competition to help attendees secure investment. The program runs twice a year in locations across the US and accepts 50 startup founders per program.

Dog Tag Inc. (DTI) is a five-month-long, in-person business program offered by Georgetown University. The program seeks to give veterans with service-connected disabilities, military spouses and caregivers a bridge to a productive civilian life in the form of self-employment. Upon completion of the program, graduates receive a Certificate in Business Administration and are ready to re-enter the world of work or to set up on their own.  

Advice, Mentorship and Support

There are also a number of other useful resources that do not fit into the previous categories but still provide valuable assistance for military veterans who want to start or grow a business. 

The Veterans Franchise Transition Initiative is a program that is committed to helping veterans become franchise owners. It provides a toolkit that includes a directory with over 650 franchise businesses that offer significant discounts to ex-military personnel and their spouses. It also offers training resources that are available to veterans who want to learn about franchising before they take the next step.

  • Access to networking events with other members of the organisation
  • Access to events and conferences that are run to help you build better businesses
  • Immediate notification of any changes that affect businesses in the Veteran-Owned Small Businesses or Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses programs.

American Corporate Partners (ACP) is a non-profit organisation that is dedicated to connecting military veterans with successful mentors who can help them navigate their journey into employment or entrepreneurship successfully. You’ll receive a handpicked mentor who has a relevant background and can give you the advice to propel your career in the right direction. 

The National Veteran Small Business Coalition (NVSBC) is an organisation that’s made up of veteran-owned small businesses that are interested in or involved in government contracting. There is a membership fee to join the NVSBC but it can provide significant benefits, including:

  • Access to networking events with other members of the organisation
  • Access to events and conferences that are run to help you build better businesses
  • Immediate notification of any changes that affect businesses in the Veteran-Owned Small Businesses or Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses programs.

The Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP) is a resource created by the US Department of Veteran Affairs to help veterans who want to start their own businesses find the support that’s available to them. Although it contains many of the same resources as this guide, it may also help you find local opportunities that we’ve not been able to list. 

Support for Military Veterans Starting a Business in Canada

Although Canada doesn’t track the number of military veterans who choose entrepreneurship, it is a common path many take when adjusting back into civilian life. In the US, veterans are 45 percent more likely to own a business than non-veterans, and estimates suggest that preference for self-employment among military veterans is replicated north of the border. 

Every year, about 5,000 people leave the Canadian armed forces. With an average age of 41, they are young enough to have decades of working life ahead of them and are bristling with many of the same traits, such as discipline and resilience, that are prerequisites for running a business.    

That, combined with the disconnect from the civilian workforce and the disadvantage of trying to break into existing professional networks, makes self-employment the natural choice for many veterans, but they still need a little help. These are the funding options, grants, training and mentorships programs they can turn to.  

Funding Options

Most small businesses need external funding to be able to open their doors and grow. But where will that funding come from and what funding options are available specifically to military veterans?

  • The Canada Small Business Financing Program is not a bad place to start if you want to explore your funding options. Small businesses and startups operating for-profit with gross annual revenues of $10 million or less are eligible. You should approach your bank with your business plan. They will discuss your needs with you and make a decision on the loan. The funds will be disbursed by the bank and the loan will be registered with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. 

Businesses can borrow up to $1 million to finance:

  • Land or buildings used for commercial purposes
  • Commercial vehicles
  • Machinery and equipment
  • The eligible costs of buying a franchise
  • Software and computer equipment

The loan cannot be used to buy inventory or goodwill, to pay franchise fees, to supplement working capital or to fund research and development.

  • Futurpreneur provides up to $60,000 in financing to military veterans who are starting a business. You can also participate in their mentorship program to help you launch your startup. You must be aged between 18-39 and ready to launch a business to qualify. Alternatively, if you run a business while in full-time employment, you could qualify for a collateral-free loan of $15,000 and support from more than 3,000 volunteer mentors.

Grants

If you need capital to get your business idea off the ground, grants for military veterans can help you take the next step without the burden of debt. 

  • Grantwatch Canada is an online directory that provides details of the grants that are available to a range of non-profit organisations and businesses, including those that are run by ex-military personnel. By clicking on each directory listing, you’ll be able to read more about the grant, the eligibility criteria and how you can apply. As well as veteran-run enterprises, organisations that work with veterans can apply for many of the grants.
  • YouHelp is a crowdfunding platform that veterans can use to raise money for their startup while they’re in the process of applying for grants. You can use your grant application or part of your business plan as the cornerstone of your campaign to explain what you plan to do and why. Prospective donors can then view your campaign page and make contributions.

You can use YouHelp to raise money for:

  • Nonprofits 
  • Small Businesses
  • Inventions
  • Startups
  • Personal and Individual Needs
  • This resource from the Government of Canada allows you to filter through a comprehensive list of grants and federal programs that are available to all kinds of businesses, including those owned by veterans. You can also filter the grants and financing information by industry to find the assistance that’s available in your sector. Searching for the grants available at a provincial level could help you uncover a potential source of funding that’s not covered in this guide.  

Getting government grants can be tough as there can be strong competition and the criteria your business has to meet is often stringent. Generally, to apply for federal and provincial grants, you will need to provide:

  • A detailed project description 
  • A detailed work plan with full costs 
  • An explanation of the benefits of your project
  • Details of the relevant experience you have 

Training

Although many of the skills and traits that ex-servicemen and women possess are well-suited to business ownership, there are also more specific skills that those who want to start a business should learn.

  • Operation Entrepreneur from the Prince’s Trust is a program that gives military veterans the help they need to start their own business. It offers free one-day workshops that serve as an introduction to entrepreneurship and provides examples of ways military skills can be transferred to business ownership. It also offers a more intensive, week-long boot camp where aspiring entrepreneurs can learn the basics of launching, running and growing a business and benefit from networking time with other entrepreneurial veterans.

There are 20+ free, one-day workshops on military bases across Canada and boot camps are held on four university campuses each summer. 

  • The Legion Military Skills Conversion Program is designed to advance and accelerate the civilian careers of former and current reserve and regular Canadian military members. It does that via a three-pronged approach:
  • Education Credentials: After an assessment of your knowledge and skills, you can be awarded credits or blocked credits for advanced placement towards certificate, diploma and degree programs. 
  • Entrepreneurial Training: Every year, veteran entrepreneurs can attend the Legion Lions’ Lair, where they are given the chance to learn up to date business practices and receive one-on-one mentorship to build a business plan. After completing a series of workshops, participants will pitch their business plan to a panel of judges and potentially receive investment. Workshops are run one evening a week from January to February each year and veterans can attend online via Skype or in-person at the BCIT Burnaby Campus. 
  • Job Seeking Assistance: Expert assistance is also available to prepare veterans and help them find a suitable role in the civilian jobs market.
  • Helmets to Hardhats offers apprenticeship opportunities in the trades to veterans and for anyone who is currently serving but in the process of transitioning to a civilian career. The trades are a very popular and potentially lucrative route into self-employment for Canadian veterans. Depending on your existing experience, the apprenticeship can be shortened and even bypassed entirely to fast-track the process. There are 14 trades where full apprenticeship training is available.
  • Coding for Veterans is an intensive training program that’s designed to equip Canadian military veterans with the skills they need to enter and succeed in a career in computer coding, cybersecurity or data analytics. Classes are taught in person or online and programs are available for all skill levels and experience.  

Advice, Mentorship and Support


As a forces veteran and small business owner, there are certain networks and programs you can access that could help to give your business a competitive edge. 

  • The Canadian Veteran Business Directory, run by Operation Entrepreneur, is Canada’s most comprehensive list of veteran-owned businesses. The directory is searchable by province and industry, making it an easy way for patriotic Canadians to support veterans and their families in their new lives. 

Each year the Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur runs its #BuyVeteranCA campaign, which draws the attention of 1.1 million Canadians and encourages people to buy from businesses listed in the directory. Listing with the directory is free and open to all current and former members of the Canadian military and their families.

  • The Soldiers to Leaders program connects veterans and those who are looking to start a career outside of the military with mentors in the field, vocation or industry they want to enter. The mentors are experts in their industries and have insight into the training you’ll need and how you can get started, whether it’s as an employee or running your own business. Even if they don’t currently have a suitable mentor on their books, Soldiers to Leaders will find one for you.  

Support for Military Veterans Starting a Business in Australia

Every year, around 5,000 military personnel transition from service in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to civilian life. One of the biggest challenges they face is finding meaningful employment, whether it’s as an employee or by choosing to join the growing ranks of the self-employed. 

One of the attractive aspects of self-employment for Australian veterans is having the opportunity to be their own boss. However, many veterans only find self-employment after becoming disillusioned with their experiences in paid civilian employment. Unfortunately, there are also a number of barriers to entry that can prevent veterans from becoming self-employed. Those barriers include a lack of finance, a lack of skills and the loss of the teamwork that some veterans so dearly miss. 

What is lacking is access to the right information and advice at the right time. Thankfully, the resources are out there, but they’re not always easy to find. That’s why we’ve brought together all the support available for Australian military veterans who want to become self-employed.   

Funding Options

Most military veterans require some form of external funding to turn their business idea into a reality or to propel it to new heights. Funding options in Australia that are specific to veteran-owned businesses are few and far between, but veteran entrepreneurs can access the range of funding options available to all startups. 

  • Startup and small business bank loans are available from banks such as ANZ and Commbank. Typically, they feature low-interest rates and no security required on loans up to $50,000. The loan repayments may also be interest-only for the first year, which makes them well-suited to early-stage companies that need all of their available capital to launch and grow. 
  • Seed and angel investors are single investors or investor groups who pool their funds together to back startups or early-stage businesses that are experiencing rapid growth. You can connect with equity investors and venture capitalists on your own or seek equity financing through veteran-focused organisations such as the Prince’s Trust Australia. It can help you connect with investors with a track record of backing veteran-owned businesses.
     
  • Instead of using cash to grow, some startups choose to exchange services and goodwill with other entrepreneurs in their communities and networks. This is called contra service swapping. Australia’s military veterans are a tight-knit group and swapping services between themselves can be a cost-effective way to grow. Once the business grows and produces a profit, the businesses you’ve been swapping with become your paid customers and service providers. 
         
  • The willingness of Australia’s military veterans to sacrifice for their country has earned them lasting gratitude. By using a crowdfunding platform such as Indiegogo, Kickstarter or OzCrowd, veteran entrepreneurs can cash in on that gratitude and raise funds for their businesses. 

Crowdfunding can be either donation-based or investment-based. In donation-based crowdfunding, you receive funding in exchange for exclusive offers and promotions and do not sacrifice any equity in your business. In investment-based crowdfunding, the investor receives a stake in your business in return for their funding. Importantly, the stakes with crowdfunding are low. If you fail to reach your funding goal, you can try again or switch to other options. 

Grants

Understandably, many entrepreneurs are interested in getting their hands on money that they don’t have to repay. Although there are no specific grants for military veterans, there are several grants that could help to get your business off the ground.

  • CSIRO Kick-Start provides matched funding to Australian startups and small businesses that are keen to partner with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in research activities. Aimed at the research and testing stage, entrepreneurs that are developing a ‘novel’ product or service can get up to $50,000 to help them develop and grow their business. 

The funding can be used to pay for the costs associated with researching, developing and testing a new product or service. Eligible businesses must:

  • Have an annual turnover of $1.5 million or less in the current and the previous two years 
  • Have been registered as a company for less than three years
  • Be registered in Australia for goods and services tax (GST)
  • The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has created a search tool that Australian startups can use to identify state by state assistance programs that they could be eligible for. Grants that may be of particular interest to military veterans include:
  • The New Enterprise Incentive Scheme allows eligible individuals who are unemployed but have a business idea to receive government funds and become business owners. The value of the grant varies on a case-by-case basis.
  • The Export Market Development Grant offers financial assistance to aspiring and current exporters. Businesses will receive up to 50 percent of the expenses incurred on eligible export promotion activities above a threshold of $5,000, provided that the total expenses are at least $15,000.
  • The Landing Pads program provides Australian startups with a residency of up to 90 days in a coworking space in major global innovation hubs around the world. Five Landing Pads have been established in Singapore, Shanghai, San Francisco, Berlin and Tel Aviv. The value of the grant depends on the size and nature of the business that is developing. To be eligible, startups must demonstrate scalability, traction and differentiation and explain how 90 days in a Landing Pad could benefit their venture.
  • The Entrepreneurs’ Programme allows entrepreneurs to access expert advice and financial support through the Accelerating Commercialisation Grant. It provides businesses with up to 50 percent of expenditure on a project, capped at $1 million. The Entrepreneurs’ Programme also offers funding support for incubators that help startups enter global markets. New and existing incubators can apply for $13,000 to $250,000 of funding for up to two years.

Training

While most military veterans typically possess many of the character traits that are necessary to run a business, there are some veteran-specific programmes that can fill the gaps when it comes to key skills such as marketing, business finance and tax compliance.

  • The Enterprise for Veterans programme, run by the Prince’s Trust Australia, supports all entrepreneurs in the veteran community, their spouses and transitioning defence members on their journey towards launching and growing a business. The programme offers one-day workshops, four-day boot camps and six-month boot camps that are designed to develop the skills and confidence required to explore self-employment, entrepreneurship and business ownership.
  • One-Day Workshops: The workshops offer a taster of the boot camp experience and should be the first port of call for veterans and their partners who are interested in exploring self-employment. Over five hours, participants will be introduced to the tools and networks that could turn their business dreams into a reality.      
  • Four-Day Boot Camps: The aim of the boot camps is to inspire and enhance participants’ entrepreneurial skills, including problem-solving, critical thinking, innovation, digital literacy, communication and self-management. Participants do not need to have a business idea to attend the programme but they should be interested in working for themselves or working for an existing small business.
  • Six-Month Boot Camps: The six-month boot camp takes would-be entrepreneurs through the process of developing a work-ready business plan. It incorporates national accreditation and tailored academic support to teach veterans and their partners everything they’ll need to know to launch and grow their business.       
  • VetForce Australia, which is run in partnership with the veteran support organisation  Soldier On, offers training and employment opportunities in the in-demand technology and cloud industry. It focuses on delivering structured, self-paced training that teaches veterans business skills training and includes Salesforce certification. 

Salesforce is a cloud-based software company that produces customer relationship management software that’s used by businesses in Australia and around the world. Becoming Salesforce certified can open doors both in the worlds of employment and self-employment. The four-week VetForce training and certification program is followed by ongoing mentorship to support veterans in gaining employment. 

Advice, Mentorship and Support     

  • The Veterans Employment Programme, run by the Department of Defence, is designed to help ex-services personnel find employment in the private and public sector, but also to explore the opportunities for self-employment in areas where skills gaps exist. There are also a number of state-specific employment programmes for veterans. That includes
  1. Victoria: The Victoria Public Sector Veterans Employment Strategy provides online resources to support veterans find employment in the public sector.
  2. New South Wales: The New South Wales Veteran’s Employment Programme helps veterans identify employment opportunities in NSW government. It also presents a programme which assesses veteran skills and offers gap training analysis.
  3. Queensland: Queensland Veteran’s Employment Pathway showcases the skills and capabilities of former military members to hiring managers in the Queensland government. 
  4. Western Australia: The Veteran’s Employment Transition Support programme encourages veterans to consider employment within the Western Australian public sector. It has a mentor network to provide advice and support for ex-ADF members who are transitioning to civilian life.       
  • Buy Veteran is an initiative run by the Prince’s Trust Australia that champions success stories from the veteran alumni of its programmes and encourages the wider community to buy from veteran-owned businesses. The #BuyVeteran campaign is an international collaboration with the Prince’s Trust Canada and draws the attention of more than a million consumers every year. Register your business with the Buy Veteran campaign for free in just a few minutes.  
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