SBA celebrates National Veterans Small Business Week

Thursday, October 13, 2016

by Betsy Markey, SBA Region VIII Administrator
As Americans prepare to celebrate National Veterans Small Business Week (NVSBW), Oct. 31- Nov. 4, I thought it was important to give an overview of the many programs and services offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to veterans and their spouses. This year’s NVSBW theme is “Veteran Entrepreneurs: Success across generations,” and will highlight the stories of veteran business owners from every era. 

Veteran entrepreneurs are a driving force in our economy. Each year, the SBA assists thousands of veterans, reservists, members of the National Guard, and service-disabled veterans to start and grow their small businesses. Nearly one in every 10 American businesses today is owned by a veteran, collectively employing nearly six million workers and generating more than $1.2 trillion in receipts. With our partners, we are working to empower the next greatest generation of veteran entrepreneurs to build on the outstanding successes of the generations that came before them.

Support for our nation’s veterans starts at home.  Not only do we owe our veterans a tremendous amount of gratitude for their service and sacrifice to our nation, but we also have an obligation to help them find a way to earn a decent living once they return home. The SBA takes their commitment to our country seriously and with a sense of urgency, and our Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet has made improving SBA services for veterans one of her top priorities.  Our goal is to ensure that their transition into civilian life is seamless and without difficulty, so we have designed new lending and business assistance programs specifically for veterans and their spouses.

Over the last 20 years I have talked with hundreds of veterans about ways they can become self-sufficient and successful. With nearly 27 million living veterans in this country the SBA is tasked with providing innovative programs and services that will meet their specific needs and address their many challenges. Studies show that 62 percent of all veterans are still in the workforce today.   What does this mean to the average veteran?  It means that our veterans must continue to find a way to earn a living – and small business ownership may be the answer.

Quality information is the key to entrepreneurial success. Our counseling network stretches into every community in America. SBA, and our resource partners, counsel, train and mentor more than 200,000 veterans and transitioning service members each year. Our services include Veterans Business Outreach Centers, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and SCORE executive mentors. They give tailored, one-on-one advice, no matter your business size or industry. Counseling topics include cash flow management, business planning, tax and regulatory compliance, and ways to sell to the federal government. Best of all - it’s all for free.  The Office of Veteran Business Development has created a robust website with online business plans and other critical information for starting a business located at www.sba.gov/vets.

Our flagship program to assist transitioning military is called Boots to Business. We originally launched Boots to Business for post 9/11 service members separating from military service. Boots to Business is the two-step entrepreneurial training program offered by the SBA as a training track within the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP). We’re on 180 military installations now, and this year we crossed an important milestone: We’ve trained more than 40,000 service members and military spouses on how to start a business. The program has been so well-received that we “rebooted” it for veterans of every era – not just those separating from military service.

Military spouses make great entrepreneurs, and small business ownership can be a transportable, flexible vocation that supports a military career.  SBA knows this. So, as part of our mission, we empower military spouse entrepreneurs by providing the same counseling and training, access to capital, and disaster assistance that are provided to service members and veterans.    

Over 250,000 military personnel transition to civilian life every year. Amazingly, veterans are 45 percent more likely to start a small business verses the average American. Over the past year, our veterans lending has doubled. SBA helped push out more than a billion dollars in capital to veterans nationwide. The agency eliminated all bank fees for veterans on loans of $350,000 or less.  Almost 75 percent of all veteran loans fall in that range. For bigger loans – from $350,000 to $5 million – SBA cut the fees in half. This can save borrowers tens of thousands of dollars. When we make it easier for good business owners to access good capital, we know it means more growth.

Another important way Uncle Sam gives back to those who gave so much to their country is by awarding government business to our military heroes. Last year, the federal government broke its record for contracts awarded to businesses owned by service-disabled vets, with nearly $14 billion going to these small firms.

During National Veterans Small Business Week SBA district offices, and resource partners across the country, will host local events including Boots to Business, Reboot, webinars, and workshops on access to capital, federal procurement, and entrepreneurial development. 

The SBA encourages veteran business owners to share their small business success stories and asks local communities to demonstrate appreciation for veteran entrepreneurs and small business owners by joining the NVSBW conversation using the #MyVetBiz hashtag. Our veterans demand and deserve our support at home.  National Veteran Small Business Week is one way we say thanks to those that sacrificed for this country.  

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