Starting a business can be a perfect fit for veterans.
In addition to showing great bravery and dedication to our country, serving in the military is a valuable education that provides numerous opportunities for success later in life. Armed with discipline and drive, veterans have a particular skill set that makes them ideal candidates to start a business. An entrepreneurial quest offers the benefits of flexible, hands-on work. For many vets, this type of challenge is just what's needed to bring a sense of structure and purpose to life outside of the work they've done serving our country.
If you're a U.S. veteran starting a business but you're unsure exactly how to begin, here are some tips and resources that can help get you moving in the right direction.
1. Do your research
You may be the very best at what you do, but unfortunately, if there's no demand for it, you will have a large uphill battle that may not prove to be worth your time. That's why it's imperative to research your market before you put in your time, money, or other resources.
To start, you must first decide where you want your business to be: Will it be something local or will it be online? Once you know your location, you'll want to consider your competition: How many other businesses are there doing what you want to do? How much do they charge for their services? Can you be competitive and still meet your costs? Is there room for growth? All of these are important factors in both establishing a business plan and finding funding.
Beyond that, there's a lot to think about before starting a business. You'll want to consider what type of business (sole proprietorship, limited liability company, corporation, etc.) you're going to start and what effect that will have on you. Will you be the sole owner or will it be a joint venture? How will this affect your taxes and other infrastructure? If these are things you aren't too well versed in, research is essential, and a good place to start is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They have a comprehensive list of business structures and the tax implications of each to help you in your process.
2. Write a business plan
Now that you have an understanding of what your industry and company structure will entail, it's time to start putting together the information about your business.This can be a tough task, but don't let this challenge hold you back. You can start small — choose your business name. Once you have that, draft up what you know your business will do, what goals you want to accomplish, how you'll market your business, and details about your competition that you found in your research. Don't forget to plan for how you'll address any problems that may arise.
If you get stuck along the way, remember there are plenty of guides and tutorials online that can help you understand what you'll need to do to get started. You can find general business plan tips here, and this guide on Military.com shows an example outline of a business plan. This can help you get going, as you can fill in the elements you know and discover where you need to do more research or what questions you still need to answer.
3. Find your funding
There are numerous VA small business loans available, and some are even geared specifically toward veterans with lower credit scores. You can start off by contacting your local banking institutions to see what kinds of programs they might have available. You can also find valuable resources for veterans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Of course, you can always opt to provide your own seed funding, especially if you have the funds readily available or don't have a lot of initial costs for getting started.
Most startups have many stories of relying on credit cards to make ends meet early on. If that's something you're considering doing, there are several smart credit card strategies to get you on your way. For example, you can use a credit card's introductory 0 percent interest financing to buy equipment and pay for upfront expenses.
If you have the cash to pay your credit card bills in full, you can consider using a cash back rewards credit card to maximize the value of your business purchases. Chase credit cards like the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited offer 1 percent and 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase, respectively, which means you can put those savings on your upfront purchases toward growing your business.
But, like with anything else that comes with starting a new business, you need to weigh your options. There are other options that are good for getting rewards on your purchases as you get your business up and running. One is the Discover it Cashback Match card which, for a certain amount of time, offers 5 percent cash back on purchases made on Amazon and other stores, plus unlimited 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. Practically every major issuer offers a card with cash rewards or promotional financing, so if either of those strategies appeals to you, shop around for one that makes sense for your wallet (and your credit).
4. Set up your business
Now that you have all the finer points of running your business smoothed out, it's time to put it all into action. You'll want to register your business name with your state business and get your tax ID number. This is also the time to get all the licensing and other legal documents you'll need. A local Veterans Business Outreach Center, through the Small Business Administration (SBA), can help you with training, counseling, and mentorship to help you get your business off the ground on solid footing.
5. Do what you love and know
Building a business around something you already know and love puts you one step ahead of the game. The less you have to think about just getting through your day, the more time you'll have to spend thinking creatively about growing and improving your business.
There may be a lot to learn about running a business, but there are resources for veterans out there to help you along the way. Most importantly, they don't all require you to spend additional money, as you're likely tightening your budget as you get your business up and going. In fact, the SBA has a free training program, Boots to Business, that offers a three-part workshop to help veterans understand some of the basics of starting and running a business. Any active military members who are currently transitioning out of the military, as well as their spouses, are eligible for this training program.
Ultimately, the goal is to inspire, empower, and equip all veterans with the knowledge and resources necessary to move forward on the path to entrepreneurship. Military training builds a young person up to do noble things, and it is with this in mind that we strive to support all aspiring veteran entrepreneurs in their goal of business ownership and success.
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