There are numerous advertisements for small business loans for veterans. They loudly proclaim they help veterans start small businesses. However, if you have ever tried to get a loan to start a business you know that those loans are about as legit as the Tier Zero Guy pictured above. Advertising that you help veterans start businesses sounds great and is even better marketing, but in actuality it seems nearly impossible to get a loan. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try though.
For starters, to qualify lenders typically want you to have a business plan, which is easy enough to write. What they don't advertise is they also want you to have a certain amount of time in the business or industry you are seeking to finance, which is typically 2 years. If you have those two things you probably think that you are good to go. Wrong! Lenders don't advertise this, but they want you to have a surplus of capital (Cash in the bank), or other tangible assets as collateral. Essentially, passing the lenders test to get your veterans small business loan is next to impossible for most applicants, and if you find an unsecured loan it probably won't be enough.
Don't get me wrong, there are good lenders out there, and some may even help veterans. In my experience though, they are definitely the minority, and good luck with your search. As a veteran entrepreneur, you are going to have to do what you did in the military, be resourceful. Whether that is boot strapping (Using your savings), crowdfunding, angel investors, venture capital, series A funding, or any combination of the above. Don't get discouraged, accept that you will make mistakes, you will fail at times, but stay steadfast in your determination to succeed. There's no such thing as luck. There are things like hard work, discipline, timing, and capitalizing on opportunities though.
At the end of the day you have to maintain your integrity. You don't have to put down or do underhanded things to others to succeed in business. To the contrary, if you do karma has a way of finding you. Below are a few Do's and Don'ts to help guide you in your transition from the Military to Veteran Entrepreneur.
Apply for loans (unsecured & secured): Doors don't open unless you knock, or breach them. Organizations like Kabbage.com may be a good option, just as StreetShares.com (Veteran Owned & Operated) may be as well.
Write a business plan: Google veteran business plans, and you'll find a lot of resources to guide & help.
Remember your Training: OSMEAC, and many other acronyms still apply.
Ask for help: This can be difficult for some, as vets are in the mindset of self sufficiency. A good place to start are veteran incubators such as, The Bunker, which has numerous locations in the USA.
Identify your best funding options: This could be crowdsource funding like Indiegogo.com, angel investors & venture capital, tv shows (Entertainment Attorney Advised), or whatever best applies to your goals.
Research your potential business relationships: Google peoples names, businesses, search court records, check rip off reports, scams, linked in, and as many sources as you can to confirm the authenticity of the people & companies you source for business purposes.
Don't Quit: Anything worth having or doing requires work.
Don't go it alone: You may need partners in order to succeed, and if not you will still need the expertise of freelancers, and other subject matter experts, including legal and accounting advice.
Don't place large deposits: If you have a product don't start working with manufacturing consultants, invention promotion firms, or similar companies. These companies are known to require large upfront deposits, over promise, and under deliver. So much so that the USPTO helped pass, "The Inventors Protection Act of 1999." Despite this and other laws, inventors and entrepreneurs are still victimized at an estimated annual rate of 20 million dollars a year. Lesson here is if it sounds too good to be true it is, and if they demand large amounts of cash upfront walk away.
Don't be afraid to fail: You will, what counts is that you pick yourself up and keep moving forward.
August 2015: This video shows the prototype version of the OMNA Tourniquet Surfboard Leash. The collapsable windlass was inferior in the water so it was replaced with a marine ratcheting buckle, which can be seen at www.omnainc.com