Veteran-owned businesses are often underserved in terms of funding and grant opportunities. Small business grants offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to obtain the funding they need to start or maintain their business. Not to mention, there are many free resources developed to help veteran-owned small businesses thrive.
If you’re looking for free money for your business but aren’t sure where to start, we’re here to help with the top small business grants for veterans.
Top Small Business Grants for Veterans
The first step to obtaining a grant for your small business is finding the right one for you and your business’s needs. To increase the likelihood of you winning the grant, it’s important to identify grant opportunities that you qualify for before applying. We’ve broken down the top small business grants and resources for veterans based on three important criteria.
Choosing the best business grant comes down to three things:
- The type of business you have
- The needs of your business
- What you want for the future of your business
Our Top Business Grants for Veterans:
The StreetShares Foundation offers the best business grant for veterans creating a social impact. The StreetShares Foundation provides a grant for veterans that contribute a positive change to the military and veteran community.
Warrior Rising offers the best grant for veteran-owned startups. Not only does Warrior Rising provide grants and additional funding resources, but they also offer an effective training program for veteran entrepreneurs.
The Office of Veterans Business Development Resources offers the best support when applying for a veteran small business grant. While this office doesn’t supply grants, it provides the resources for veteran-owned businesses to access grants and additional funding.
Hivers and Strivers offers the best business funding for young veteran entrepreneurs. Young US Military Academy graduates can find funding for their high growth business idea through the network of angel investors at Hivers and Strivers.
The Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses program offers the best business resources for service-disabled veterans. This program gives service-disabled veterans access to set-aside government contracts.
Best Grant for Veterans Creating a Social Impact: StreetShares Foundation
Grant amount: $4,000-$15,000
The StreetShares Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides grants and other funding opportunities for veterans and their families to support and maintain their small businesses. The mission of this organization is to educate, support, and encourage veteran entrepreneurship by providing the resources that may be challenging for this community to secure.
This is a terrific resource for veteran entrepreneurs because of its exceptional grant program as well as access to tools and mentorship.
To apply for a StreetShares Foundation grant, you need to meet the following criteria/eligibility requirements:
- Applicants must be a veteran, reserve, or transitioning active duty member (spouses and children of veterans who died in active duty can also apply for this grant).
- Applicants must own at least 51% of the business entity that is applying.
- Applicants must be low-income or lack financial resources to grow or support their business.
- This grant is available not only for veteran and active service military but for military spouses and children of veterans that died in active duty.
- There are three winners for this grant that receive different sums, so if you are in the top three, you still have the opportunity to earn money for your business.
- Once applications are submitted, your business’s fans can vote for your business to win the grant money.
- The application process is fairly intensive and requires a pitch video, application, and presentation at the Military Influencer Conference in order to qualify.
- Businesses must convey how their business model serves the military and veteran community, which means not all business types will qualify.
Best for Veteran-Owned Startups: Warrior Rising
Grant amount: Varies based on the grant
Warrior Rising is a nonprofit organization that works to support veterans become entrepreneurs or “vetrepreneurs” through education, business services, and funding opportunities. Grants from this organization are only accessible to applicants who complete their process of verifying eligibility and working to build a sustainable business model. The mission of this program is to empower veterans to be self-reliant and successful in their startup careers.
To apply for a Warrior Rising Grant, you need to meet the following criteria/eligibility requirements:
- Applicants must be a veteran or an immediate family member.
- Applicants must undergo an interview and training process.
- Businesses seeking funding must have a sustainable model to qualify.
- Funding is available for veterans and their families looking to start a small business.
- Warrior Rising offers educational opportunities and mentoring in addition to funding.
- This organization will work with veteran entrepreneurs to create a sustainable business model.
- The application process is time-consuming and does not guarantee funding quickly.
- There is no way to simply apply for a grant through this organization. You must undergo training prior to be considered for grant funding.
Best Business Grant Support: Office of Veterans Business Development Resources
While the Office of Veterans Business Development Resources doesn’t offer a grant, they provide the support small business owners need by prioritizing the availability, applicability, and usability of small business programs for veterans or their families.
In addition to helping veteran entrepreneurs identify and apply for funding or grant opportunities, this offshoot of the Small Business Administration (SBA) provides services to mentor, train, and otherwise support members.
- Offers guidance for finding and applying for loans and grants that your business qualifies for.
- Provides educational services and other types of business support for all stages of your business.
- There are services for families who have had an active-duty veteran pass away.
- This isn’t a grant or funding program, so you cannot receive funding from this source.
- There is no guarantee that the program will be able to find funding for you.
Best for Young Veteran Entrepreneurs: Hivers and Strivers
Funding amount: $250,000-$1,000,000
Hivers and Strivers provides funding for US Military Academy graduates to launch startups through a network of investors. The mission of this organization is to support young veterans in creating successful businesses that will provide at least 10x a return on their investment.
Young veteran entrepreneurs with a business idea that has promise for high growth potential may secure funding through this network of angel investors to launch their startup idea.
To apply for Hivers and Strivers funding, you need to meet the following criteria/eligibility requirements:
- Applicants must have graduated from a US Military Academy.
- Applicants must provide a business idea with exceptional growth potential.
- Applicants cannot be dishonorably discharged.
- If qualified, your startup can receive between $250,000 and $1,000,000 in the first funding round.
- The organization provides business counseling services to qualified applicants.
- If more than the typical amount of funding is required to start your business, Hivers and Strivers will potentially secure more funding through their extended network of investors.
- Investors expect a high return on investment, so your business idea needs to promise vast growth potential.
- This is a highly competitive program.
Best Business Resources for Service-Disabled Veterans: Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses Program
The Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program is an offshoot of the SBA that aims to allocate a percentage of federal contracting dollars toward supporting veteran-owned businesses. Essentially, this program gives access to set-aside contracts to even the playing field and allows these small businesses to compete for government contracts.
- This program offers access to set-aside contracts to increase the chance of obtaining a government contract.
- It is possible to self-represent as a service-disabled veteran by updating your SAM.gov account.
- By verifying your status as a service-disabled veteran, you have access to the Vets First Verification Program, which provides access to additional government contracts.
- You must qualify as a small business under the SBA standards.
- One or more service-disabled veterans must conduct day-to-day operations, which can be difficult depending on the disability.
In the world of small business funding, veteran-owned businesses are vastly underserved. By taking advantage of resources and grant opportunities for your business, you can not only receive free money to start or maintain your business — you can develop the skills necessary to build a strong, successful business.