Are thinking of registering your business as a Veteran-owned business but not sure where to start? This article will tell you how to become a Veteran-owned business, along with the reasons why you should. Although it will take some time and paperwork, the process is not complicated. And if you are a veteran, no one knows how to navigate red-tape and paperwork like you!
Why should you become a Veteran-owned business? For one, people want to do business with veterans. They consider it part of their patriotic duty to support those who defend our freedom. They also know that they can rely on the work ethic, values, and honesty that a veteran business will provide. Being a Veteran-owned business will give you a competitive advantage over other companies in your industry and will help you obtain government contracts.
You will also open a treasure trove of grants, financing, and all sorts of resources when you designate your business as Veteran-owned. And if you have a service-connected disability, you may be eligible for additional benefits as a service-disabled Veteran-owned business.
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s find out what you need to do to register and market your business as Veteran-owned.
What are the requirements for becoming a Veteran-owned business?
You must be a veteran, and you must own at least 51% of the company to be considered a Veteran-owned business. To prove your military service status, you must have a copy of your DD 214. Along with being a majority owner, you’ll need to show that you are actively involved with daily operations. A silent partnership does not apply here. You, as the veteran, will need to be working in the business.
If you are hoping to register as a service-disabled Veteran-owned business, a copy of your VA Disability letter will be required.
That’s it! That is all you need to be considered a Veteran-owned business. You do not need an official designation unless you want to compete for government contracts or display official logos provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). But it’s a good idea to go ahead and apply for registration. The process is straightforward, and verification gives your business an added layer of credibility.
How do you apply for verification of your Veteran-owned business?
The VA administers the Vets First Verification Program, and you can complete the application online. There are four stages to the process: intake, assessment, federal review, and decision. (If you’ve filed for disability benefits, this sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) If you want to be sure you qualify, take the prequalification quiz before beginning the process. The good news is, there are lots of support for you along the way. This detailed checklist will help you start the application process. And if you need a human being to help guide you, there are Verification Assistance Counselors who can help. Find your local office here.
As you complete the application process, you’ll need to upload some documentation such as tax documents, lease agreements, and articles of organization. These required documents will vary by type of business. The application process is free of charge, and it takes about 60 days to get a decision.
How is the process different for service-disabled Veteran-owned businesses?
Thanks to The Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999, the federal government rewards 3 percent of prime federal government contracts to Veteran-owned businesses. Eligibility requirements are the same, with the addition of the veteran having a service-connected disability as determined by the VA.
You can self-identify your business by updating your business profile at SAM.gov. To obtain VA verification, you’ll go through the same process as detailed above.
This designation can qualify your business for benefits and resources set aside for service-disabled veterans.
What resources are available to Veteran-owned businesses?
There are many resources that you should absolutely use to set up and grow your Veteran-owned business. One agency that has multiple resources is the Small Business Administration (SBA). Some of their offerings are:
- Boots to Business, an entrepreneurial education, and training program
- Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, a program offered through Syracuse University for women veteran entrepreneurs
- Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans, another program offered through Syracuse University
- Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV), an education program offered through Saint Joseph’s University
- Dog Tag, Inc., a five-month fellowship through Georgetown University
- Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) Program, workshops, business plan assistance, mentorship, and more
Be sure to check state and local organizations, along with chambers of commerce, for other resources available to Veteran-owned businesses. One example is the Targeted Small Business program in Iowa that helps women, minority, and service-connected disabled veteran businesses overcome start-up and growth challenges. Approved companies appear in a directory, are invited to exclusive networking events, and are afforded select state contract bidding preferences. Your state may have similar programs.
How should you market yourself as a Veteran-owned business?
As mentioned above, people want to do business with veterans. Yet often, veterans are reluctant to market themselves as a Veteran-owned business. Why? Veterans are typically very humble about their military experience and never want to exploit their veteran status. While these feelings are understandable, sharing your veteran status lets customers know what kind of business owner you are. One they can trust and count on, who has a strong work ethic. Think of it as sharing your resume and experience. Your veteran status is your competitive advantage over competitors. And let’s face it, you are in business to succeed!
Need some successful Veteran-owned businesses to follow?
Here are just a few successful Veteran-owned businesses that you can follow for inspiration:
Black Rifle Coffee Company – premium coffee, apparel, and gear
Bottle Breacher – 50 caliber bottle openers, groomsman gifts, apparel, and more
Grunt Style – patriotic apparel and gear
Merica Bourbon – sharing the great taste of freedom and bourbon
Sword & Plough– fashionable bags repurposed from military surplus material
JDog Brands – veteran franchise junk removal and carpet cleaning business
VIQTORY – recruitment marketing agency and publisher