Military spouses and veterans make great entrepreneurs with an added benefit of being able to “transport” their small business to support the moving demands that come with a military career. When it comes to military spouses in particular, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) provides military spouse entrepreneurs and business owners the same counseling and training, access to capital, and disaster assistance that are provided to service members and veterans. Keep in mind, whether you went to school for business or not, it is highly encouraged you take the various forms of training available to you to ensure the success of your business. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers tons of resources available to spouses, veterans, and even service members including SBA led entrepreneurial training programs that take place on over 180 installations and local communities, free of charge.
According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses comprise of 99% of all U.S. businesses. Military spouses especially start their own business since it gives them the freedom to work from any duty station and the ability to continue their career. However, not every small business is positioned for success, only about two-thirds of businesses with employees survive at least two years. So here are some steps to ensure your business is successful!
By this point you probably already have a business idea, so now you should complete some market research to determine the potential success your business can have on the community. Does your local area already provide customers with the same product or service as you would be selling? The key here is you do not want to oversaturate the market with the same product or service. In addition, these other businesses would be considered competitors, which if not properly understood can be detrimental to your business. When completing research, try to answer these questions:
Is there a need for your product/service?
Who needs it? What demographic?
How much of your target demographic is in the market/community?
Are there other businesses offering the same or similar product/service?
Do your competitors successfully fulfill the product/service needs of your target audience? If their business is not successful it can be a result of a lack of need for the product/service in the particular market or it could be that their business is not adequately or effectively providing the product or service. So be careful if you find that similar businesses are going under, you do not want to get into a market that has no need for your product/service, but if the other business is not providing the product/service in a way that the customer wants, it could be a golden opportunity for you!
After completing your research, now is when you make your business plan. A business plan is essentially a blueprint that will guide your business from the very beginning through the establishment and eventually the growth of the business. If you intend to seek financial assistance, it is highly recommended you create a traditional business plan which is a longer and detailed plan that investors and banks look for in order to help them validate your idea. If you are not seeking financial assistance, a simple one-page business plan can provide enough clarity to help you determine what you want to achieve and how you plan to achieve it.
3. Organize your finances
Many small business require an initial investment that are usually one-time expenses. In addition, plan on having to cover ongoing expenses until your business turns a profit. When it comes to expenses, create a spreadsheet that has honest estimates for one-time expenses (i.e. licenses, permits, equipment, legal fees, branding, inventory, trademarking, property lease) and any operating expenses you estimate you will need for at least 12 months (i.e. rent, utilities, marketing, advertising, supplies, employee salaries). You should also decide on how you are going to manage the business’ money. Whether you decide to set up an accounting system yourself or hire an accountant, it is important to put a system in place so you can better manage your budget, set rates, and file taxes.
4. Prepare Legal Paperwork
Once you have your business name picked out, you should start by checking to see if it is currently trademarked or in use. If not, you need to register the business name with the state or county clerk. If you are creating a website, do not forget to register the domain name as well.
Depending on the type of business you are starting, different licenses and permits may apply; so do your research and make sure you fill out the ones that apply to your business. When in doubt, you can always seek legal assistance or find a local business licensing office and ask questions. Also, you will have to decide where your business will be located (i.e. home, or physical location) since different permits and licensing are required for each. Also keep in mind, some housing associations and apartment complexes ban businesses from operating out of their home/apartment, so make sure if you are planning to work out of your home that you are allowed to do so.
5. Hire and promote
If you decide to hire a team, now is the time to start the process. If you are interested in hiring independent contractors, you should meet with an attorney to complete the independent contractor agreement. If you are not planning on hiring any outside help, keep in mind that running a business has its own set of challenges, therefore, ensure you have a support group of friends and family ready to support and even occasionally assist when times get tough. Now that your business is up and running, it is time to start attracting customers. Use grand opening events, social media, and family and friends to spread the word. Keep in mind, success does not happen overnight, so be patient with the process.
If during any step of the process you need more information or unsure how or where to start, the U.S. Small Business Administration has various training programs and resources that can help you in your business start-up:
- Boots to Business: Provides an overview of business ownership as well as opportunities and challenges associated with business ownership; open to transitioning service members (including National Guard and Reserve) and military spouses. https://www.sba.gov/offices/headquarters/ovbd/resources/160511
- Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE): Assists women veterans and female military spouses/partners find their passion and learn business skills necessary to turn an idea into a successful operation. http://vwise.vets.syr.edu/
- Bunker Lab – Entrepreneurial Program for Innovation and Collaboration (EPIC): A 12-week in-person course designed to help participants develop the talents and skills required to launch a business. https://bunkerlabs.org/launch-lab-cohort/
- Bunker Lab – Bunker in a Box: Provides Active Duty military and veterans materials to strengthen their learning and connect with other veterans from all over the country. http://bunkerinabox.org/
- Lift Fund (San Antonio): Provides small business owners with limited access to capital a chance to start their business in San Antonio, TX. https://sanantonio.liftfund.com/
- Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families (EBV-F): An education and self-employment training program designed to take advantage of the skills, resources and infrastructure of higher education to offer experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management. http://ebv.vets.syr.edu/families/
- Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP): a veteran entrepreneurship program that specifically addresses federal procurement. https://nationalvip.org/ViewPage/About%20VIP/About%20the%20Veteran%20Institute%20for%20Procurement-/
- IVMF – Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV): Offers no cost experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management to post-9/11 veterans and military family members who served as a caregiver to a veteran with a service-connected disability.
- Veteran Entrepreneurship Jumpstart Program: Provides tools, education, and mentorship to allow veterans the opportunity to start their own business.
Gregory, Alyssa. “10 Steps to Start a Small Business.” The Balance Small Business. 24 April, 2018.
McMahon, Linda. “Entrepreneurship for Military Spouses.” U.S. Small Business Administration. 14 June 2017.
“Military Spouses.” U.S. Small Business Administration. 2018. https://sanantonio.liftfund.com/
Murray, Jean. “Getting a Business License or Permit.” The Balance Small Business. 19 May 2018.
“Veteran-Owned Businesses.” U.S. Small Business Administration. 2018. sba.gov/business-guide/grow-your-business/veteran-owned-businesses