After WWII, veterans started over 49% of all small businesses. Some experts lament that now that veterans now only are 9% of business owners, but that is in line with our portion of the adult population. And veteran entrepreneurs are more successful financially than non-vets are. You probably have heard of the many big businesses, like FedEx, that were started by veterans. But 89% of all businesses are small businesses and the majority are solopreneurs.

Whatever you want to be — a coach, retailer, consultant, HVAC shop, professional organizer, home health care or theatre founder – now is your time!

I recently ran a seminar for the Virginia Women Veterans Summit 2018 and there was a large turnout of those interested in their own business with about 20% looking at founding a non-profit. This is in line with recent studies which show in the USA that women are now over 40% of all new entrepreneurs.

Studies show that veterans who want to start a business run into trouble in four major areas:

  • the lack of a professional network
  • the lack of a local network
  • little or no business experience
  • limited capital

You can fix all those problems! Sometimes working for a company/non-profit in your field for a few years will help you address all those. Going back to school – full or part-time to hone technical skills or add business skills may be a smart move. You might also consider starting your business as a side gig while you build capital and expertise.

As a volunteer at my local Small Business Development Center ( SBDC locator ), I have seen too many veterans fail because they did not do their homework first. This might be lack of knowledge about the specific business or about basic business practices, it often includes assumptions about some giant pot of ‘free money’ for veterans or about how easy it is to become a government contractor as a veteran. Far too many also do not seek out resources until they are already in trouble or near bankruptcy.

Doing your preparation and being able to adjust your plan as you learn more about the market is vital. For most of us vets, it is also something we learned in the military!


1. What need or problem are you going to solve?

  • Why does this problem or need interest you?
  • What do you offer to solve it? (Expertise, education, new technology ideas, etc.)

2. What is your purpose in starting this new business or non-profit?

  • What is your vision?
  • What is your definition of success?

3. Do you fully believe what you want to do is possible for you to do?  Are you ready to dedicate yourself fully every day to building this?

4. Do you have the skills you need to be successful building a business or non-profit?

  • What do you need to learn? How will you do that?
  • Are you naturally curious?
  • Are you willing to actively market yourself all the time?
  • How good are you at seeking advice and help?
  • Are you flexible enough to change direction based on what you learn?

5. How will you use your current contacts (your network) and build new ones to support your idea?

  • Are you active in professional and business organizations that are relevant to your goal?
  • What are you doing on social media to make the right connections?
  • Which groups in the area you want to create your work are worth your time?


Research and Planning:
Have you defined the need or problem your business/non-profit will satisfy?
How will you be better than others in this space?
What makes your vision unique?

Resources including those below plus local public library, professional/trade publications, and local economic development agencies.

Grow and develop your networks in your chosen field, local area, and business groups. Consider women’s networks, local business groups, professional and veteran groups. Check out MeetUp, EventBrite, local calendars, community groups, and your network for leads. Later some of these will be good places for you to market as well.

Minimize Risks:
Learn the business and regulatory requirements you face – your SBDC is a great support here. Assess where you need an attorney or CPA and find one that specializes in small businesses or non-profit ogranizations.

Do you have the savings/resources to go without an income for 12-24 months?  If not, how will you build those or do you have a spouse/other who will support you during this time?

Grants, loans, crowd-funding, investors are all limited and time-consuming to get. None pay your living or most basic expenses at the start.


A. Federal and State

US Small Business Administration     The SBA also has information sections and services for veterans and women.

Veterans Administration Small Business   VA small biz info

IRS  IRS info for small-businesses-self-employed

FTC   FTC small-businesses credit and protections

National Womens Business Council


Small Business Development Centers  SBDC locator

SCORE- consulting services  SCORE

Veteran Business Outreach Centers   VBOC locator

B. Non-profits

Institute for Veterans & Military Families – entrepreneurship programs for veterans, women veterans, spouses

Kauffman Foundation

Womens Business Enterprise National Council