According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses in the United States, helping to employ over 5.8 million employees and generate $1.2 trillion in sales.

While integral to the economy, veteran-owned businesses face the same challenges as other entrepreneurs and small business owners. Fortunately, there are ample financial resources available to support veterans’ business ventures and help them reach their goals. Read on for our round-up of handy business tips and resources that are specifically designed for veterans.

Leverage available resources

There are a variety of resources for veteran entrepreneurs to take advantage of as they aim to start or grow their business. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is a great place to start, as it offers numerous resources, including the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal, which offers step-by-step guidance on financing, training, government contracts and more.

Another helpful avenue is the Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Office of Veteran Business Development. It provides programs specifically to help veterans succeed in business, including Boots to Business, a series of professional development courses open to veterans, and the Saint John’s University Entrepreneurial Boot Camp for Vets, which is a free, three-phase course on starting a business.

Find a business mentor

With all of the business information available at our fingertips these days, many new business owners might not see the immediate value in finding a mentor when they can rely on podcasts, books, online courses and other resources. However, nurturing a one-on-one relationship with someone you admire who can personally advise you and your company can make a tremendous impact on your success. According to a study by the Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE), business mentoring increases startup and survival rates, and 30% of entrepreneurs who had just one interaction with a business mentor reported growth in their business, a number that increased from subsequent interactions.

Veteran business owners can access SCORE’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors in the nation for free resources and mentoring services as well as content specifically geared toward veterans.

Invest in your education

Knowledge is a powerful asset for business owners. Overseeing every facet of a business requires constant on-the-job learning, which is why investing in business education can help strengthen your entrepreneurial vision, streamline your long-term strategy and make your operations more efficient.

VetToCEO offers a free online course to help veterans prepare for the challenges of owning and operating a business. The 7-week program helps attendees create a business model and develop a funding strategy, and it enables them to collaborate with other veterans. Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) is an entrepreneurship training program for female service members and military spouses/partners dedicated to helping them find their passion and learn the business savvy skills necessary to turn an idea or startup into a growing venture.

Network with other entrepreneurs

Investing in money and education is crucial for business owners, and so is investing in relationships. Networking with like-minded entrepreneurs and business owners can lead to a variety of lucrative results, including building key connections, enhancing insider knowledge and creating exclusive opportunities.

Bunker Labs is a non-profit organization that allows military veterans and their spouses to take online and in-person educational courses that provide education on how to run a successful business. It is also a helpful networking resource, connecting veterans with fellow entrepreneurs and mentors.

​​Apply for veteran business financing

When it comes to business financing, veterans have a variety of loan financing options available through specialty lenders, credit unions and banks to get their business up, running and thriving. While shopping for a loan, be sure to review all your options, and review loan qualifications and guidelines set by each lender.

The SBA’s Microloan Program is a great place to start to secure a business loan. It provides startups with loans up to $35,000. In addition, the SBA 7(a) Express Loan Program grants loans up to $350,000 within 36 hours. The SBA also offers additional programs and benefits for service-disabled veterans. Hivers & Strivers is another great resource. An investment group founded and run by graduates of the U.S. Military Academies, it provides financial support to startups. A typical Hiver and Strivers investment is $250,000 to $1,000,000.

Military veterans bring a wealth of skill and expertise from their service experience to their business pursuits. With mentor support, education opportunities, networking access and veteran resources, they can streamline their financial approach and set themselves up for greater success.

Discover “banking for good” resources and more information to launch your business at www.efirstbank.com.

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