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Secret of Success: 6 Organizations Helping Veteran Entrepreneurs

You have the drive and vision, but you don’t need to go it alone

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Dog Tag Bakery.
Photo: Greg Kahn

Many veterans are the embodiment of the American dream — pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, serving their country and moving on to create a thriving business from nothing.

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You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published every two weeks. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

But success is not guaranteed. Starting your own venture and growing it beyond the launch requires tenacity, persistence and a lot of patience. Without a blueprint and support, it can be isolating and challenging to start a business, especially for veterans accustomed to structure, comrades and clearly defined roles.

Fortunately, veterans possess the discipline and drive to achieve their goals. Here are six organizations that help them:

Bunker Labs  

Bunker Labs provides programs and courses to help veterans and their spouses start and grow businesses. There are four free programs: Veterans in Residence, CEOcircle, Ambassador and Breaking Barriers. Bunker Labs holds events throughout the country to build military entrepreneurship communities.

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Blake Hogan, a former Marine and CEO of Bunker Labs, told AARP Veteran Report, “Many veterans are unsure where to turn for business advice or where to find professional networks. Bunker Labs bridges that divide and provides space for veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs to come together.”

Hivers & Strivers Capital  

Named after the West Point term “hive,” meaning someone who overachieves, this capital fund invests in military veteran founders who do the same. 

Veterans who seek funding and exude qualities of a “hive” to do whatever it takes to succeed can turn to Hivers & Strivers Capital. Founded by former Army intelligence officer Doug Doan, Hivers & Strivers only invests in companies led by U.S. veterans.

The Entrepreneur’s Source 

More than 150 coaches, many of them veterans, are available free to help veterans who provide their contact information to The Entrepreneur’s Source.

Veterans and coaches connect virtually. They identify goals by exploring all options from starting a business from scratch to buying an existing business to weighing the pros and cons of various franchise concepts.

Tamara Loring, head of brand ideology for The Entrepreneur’s Source, told AARP Veteran Report, “If the veteran is willing to invest in themselves, we are willing to invest in them. We will work with them and help them reach clarity about whether or not entrepreneurship is right for them.”

Boots to Business  

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) offer entrepreneurial training, coaching and mentorship to help veterans develop and analyze business plans.

Twenty-two regional offices throughout the country provide free webinars and programs, as well as assistance on marketing, accounting and international trade.

Available to transitioning service members and their spouses, the Boots to Business foundational program covers the skills, resources and knowledge to launch a venture. Veterans can learn more about the schedule and online registration process.

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Wounded Warrior Project 

Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit for veterans, offers free assistance with entrepreneurship for wounded post-9/11 veterans and their families by investing in organizations’ programs.

Kevin Rasch, regional director of the Warriors to Work program and a former Navy officer, told AARP Veteran Report, “We work closely with the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University to help warriors interested in starting their own small business. Hosted by IVMF, we’ve held and funded boot camps exclusively for warriors and their families that offer experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management.” Contact WWP here.

Dog Tag Bakery  

Dog Tag Bakery combines education with hands-on experience as participants earn business certificates from Georgetown University or Loyola University. The bakery is a living business school that teaches entrepreneurship and business topics, but the majority of fellows and alums are not bakers.

This five-month, four-day-a-week fellowship program is affiliated with WWP. Once participants are approved via an application process, tuition costs and books are covered. Fellows receive a monthly stipend while learning how to establish a successful business, build community and embrace storytelling and personal growth.

Bottom line

You’ve got what it takes to pursue your American dream. But part of what you learned in uniform is that the best leaders seek help and draw on resources wherever they are available.

You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published every two weeks. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

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