6 Training and Development Programs to Help Veteran Entrepreneurs

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(U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aubree Owens)

American military veterans are a powerhouse of economic activity just waiting to be unleashed on the world. The only thing that can stop a veteran entrepreneur, it seems, is not getting started in the first place.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), veterans are 45% more likely to start a business than non-veterans, and an overwhelming 85% of veteran-owned businesses were started (not purchased or inherited) by the veteran who runs them.

So where does a veteran with a good idea go when he or she just needs a way to get started? Here are some programs that provide training, access to capital or both.

1. Boots to Business

This program is an educational program designed for transitioning service members, including guard and reserve members, as part of the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program. It’s also available to military spouses of transitioning members.

The Boots to Business program is training from the SBA, so there’s no catch, no fees and no hard sale at the end of the two-day training class. It does offer follow-on training through other SBA and associated classes, but the Boots to Business class is the SBA’s foundational program. Visit SBAvets.force.com to learn more.

2. Boots to Business Reboot

The Reboot class is also from the Small Business Administration, but it’s designed for veterans and their spouses to explore owning a business, establishing a foundation for business knowledge and helping develop a business plan.

Boots to Business Reboot (or B2BR) also provides resources for veterans looking for access to capital for their start-up cost, technical help and even some partners with opportunities to get right to work. Check out the SBA’s Reboot Page for more information.

3. Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) was designed to teach disabled post-9/11 era veterans how to manage their own small business. It also offers online training for family members of those veterans who qualify, at no cost to them.

EBV was developed at Syracuse University in upstate New York but is hosted at different schools around the country. Conducted in three phases, the first phase is a 30-day online program, followed by a nine-day residency at one of a handful of universities around the country. The third and final phase is a 12-month support plan, as veteran entrepreneurs build and grow their businesses.

To learn more about the EBV and its various iterations (including an accelerated version), visit the program page at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families.

4. Bunker Labs

Bunker Labs is a nonprofit organization that not only has built a nationwide network of affiliated locations, but also a nationwide network of alumni. These alums are veterans and spouse entrepreneurs who have gone through the process of forming an idea and creating a business and are looking to help others do the same.

The nonprofit has a number of programs for would-be veteran business owners, including its online interactive learning program, networking sessions, residencies for military and veteran entrepreneurs (including workspaces), opportunities to meet with veteran CEOs and even a national tour to promote and empower veteran businesses.

Military members, veterans and their families can find out more about these opportunities at BunkerLabs.org.

5. InVetIt

Navy veteran, entrepreneur and design guru Thomas Theriault and his team want to help veteran entrepreneurs get their business off the ground, using some of the best e-commerce practices around. The InVetIt Team has helped dozens of veteran entrepreneurs increase awareness and revenues through solid design and marketing.

The team will meet with veteran business owners, discuss their product and goals, and develop a plan to grow sustainably. They create a customized suite of services and a timeline to build the brand, grow awareness and increase sales. Then they implement that plan, responding to a predetermined set of performance metrics.

This program is for veterans who already have a product or service, but anyone interested in discovering brand growth and marketing plans should check out the InVetIt website.

6. VETRN

VETRN’s entrepreneurship training is a six-month program designed to instruct military veterans in business strategy, planning and financial management. Unlike many academic regimens, VETRN -- which stands for Veteran Entrepreneurial Training and Resource Network -- is a tuition-free program that provides a college-level business education.

While only 12 veterans are accepted into each cohort, each of the students is provided with a mentor to help work through the classes and the days after completion of their business studies.

Even if veterans don’t qualify to be part of the VETRN entrepreneurship program, the organization still provides educational opportunities in everything from computer literacy training to preparing resumes or even mentoring. To learn more, visit the VETRN website.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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