With thousands of service men and women returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Small Business Administration is welcoming them home with programs and initiatives to help them start, grow and expand their businesses.
“Around Veterans Day, our thoughts turn to the men and women who are serving or have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to all who have made sacrifices and served our country in the armed forces,” SBA Administrator Karen Mills said. “When you consider the leadership and management skills our veterans develop while on active and reserve duty, it’s no wonder we see so many of them choose a path as entrepreneurs and small business owners.”
SBA provides veterans access to much needed business counseling and training, capital and business development opportunities through government contracts.
Those products and programs include:
SBA and Syracuse University are expanding the successful Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) program to an eighth school, Cornell University. The growing partnership between SBA and Syracuse University, now in its third year, provides training on how they can start and grow a small business with programs targeted to service-disabled veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and their family caregivers, women veterans, and National Guard and Reserve members and their families.
The “boot camp” was created and delivered by a network of some of the best business schools in the country. Last year, the first year SBA partnered with Syracuse University, 129 service-disabled veterans participated in the program.
Since the program’s inception, more than 320 wounded warriors have graduated and more than 150 businesses have been launched by graduates. Participating schools include: Syracuse University, University of Connecticut, UCLA, Florida State University, Texas A&M University, Purdue University, Louisiana State University, and Cornell University.
SBA is also providing $2.6 million through a cooperative agreement over three years for two new programs supporting veteran entrepreneurs.
The first, Women Veterans Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE), focuses on training, networking and mentorship for women veterans. The three-day, off-site training program, online training and network support structures are delivered in several locations around the nation, and anticipates serving up to 1,400 female veterans over a 36-month period.
The second, Operation Endure & Grow, targets National Guard and Reserve Component members, their families and partners. The goal of this program is to mitigate the small business economic hardship of deployed members and their families. The eight-week online course focuses on the fundamentals of launching and/or growing a small business for those who will sustain the business when the service member is deployed, injured or killed. Initially, 550 individuals are expected to participate. Together, V-WISE and Operation Endure & Grow are expected to serve over 1,950 individuals and their families over three years.
Access to Capital
SBA had a near record year lending to veteran-owned small businesses in fiscal year 2011. SBA lending to veterans in fiscal year 2011 amounted to more than 4,300 loans totaling $1.5 billion in its flagship 7(a) and 504 programs. Since 2007, SBA’s Patriot Express loan pilot initiative alone has guaranteed loans of more than $667 million to nearly 8,100 veterans, reservists and their spouses to establish or expand their small businesses. The initiative, extended through 2013, provided more than 1,560 loans totaling $142 million in fiscal year 2011. Patriot Express is offered by SBA’s network of participating lenders nationwide and features one of SBA’s fastest turnaround times for loan approvals.
SBA worked with both contracting officers and veteran-owned small businesses to deliver the highest-ever percentage of federal contracts to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses in FY2010, totaling $10.4 billion. Also, through parity legislation, SBA reestablished a level playing field for service-disabled veteran-owned businesses that compete with other small businesses for set-aside contracts.
The Office of Veteran’s Business Development provided SDVOSB procurement training to more than 3,000 SBVOSB’s in 2011 to help achieve the 3 percent SDVOSB goal. The SBA is expanding its outreach to service-disabled veterans with an online contracting tutorial to help veterans and military spouses who own small businesses identify and take advantage of federal contracting opportunities.
Task Force Report
SBA chairs the Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development focused on improving and expanding opportunities for veteran business owners. The Task Force recently issued its first Report to the President and included 18 recommendations to increase access to capital, improve business development opportunities, and meet federal contracting goals for veteran-owned small businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. You can read the whole report here.
SBA reaches out to veterans through its 68 SBA district offices, 15 Veterans Business Outreach Centers nationwide, more than 1,000 Small Business Development Centers, 110 Women’s Business Centers and some 12,000 SCORE volunteers. SBA also has numerous programs creating government contracting opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses. For more information, visit www.sba.gov/vets and www.sba.gov/reservists.