There are over a million military spouses, with 700,000 married to active duty personnel and 400,000 married to reserve personnel. They all have one feature in common: they are married to someone who is serving the nation in uniform.
Military spouse unemployment is around 23 percent, and this is a cause for concern—especially since 85 percent want to or need to work. Running your own business as a military spouse can be liberating. It can also make you very adaptable to the highly mobile lifestyles that military spouses frequently lead.
Entrepreneurship is one of the most difficult challenges that anyone can face. It may be difficult to form partnerships with suppliers or even financial partners such as banks in order to get your business off the ground. Military spouses start businesses for a variety of reasons, and there are programs to educate, train, and mentor them.
Small-business grants might be of assistance if you’re a military spouse entrepreneur seeking funding. As opposed to small-business loans or other forms of debt-based financing, business grants may offer free funding. Applying for these small-business grants can be difficult and time-consuming, but the payoff can be worthwhile if you are successful.
12 Best Sources of Small Business Grants for Military Spouses
Here are the best places to look for small-business grants if you are contemplating starting a business as a military spouse.
This is one of the top sources to consider when seeking grants to start your business as a military spouse. This website features a wide range of information about grant programs, eligibility, and policies. Also, note that it allows users to apply for grants and track their applications all in one location.
Have it in mind that this source is not only for Veterans or their spouses, but since it features information related to all available grants, it’s one of the best places to find federal grant-making agencies. In this centralized source, you can find over 1,000 different grant programs and avoid the need to search multiple sites and application processes just to apply for federal grants.
The Second Service Foundation
A military veteran or their spouse may win a grant for their business through the Military Entrepreneur Challenge run by the Second Service Foundation, formerly StreetShares Foundation. An application must be submitted that includes a two-minute video presentation defending why your company should be awarded.
After the application period terminates, the Second Service Foundation will announce eight to 15 finalists on its website, and three entrepreneurs will present their companies at an event. A $15,000 prize will be awarded to the winner, a $6,000 prize to the runner-up, and a $4,000 prize to the third-place finisher.
National Military Family Association
The National Military Family Association provides military spouses with a variety of educational and business grants. The Financial Counselor Fellowship provided by the organization includes expenses for attending classes offered by the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education.
Grant recipients can even use the funds to retake the Accredited Financial Counselor exam if required. After passing the exam, the spouse can work as an Accredited Financial Counselor in a financial aid office or as an independent financial adviser.
Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab
Small business owners in Michigan may benefit from the Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur Lab at Grand Valley State University. Those who participate in this three-month program are given startup training and networking opportunities, among other things.
During the duration of the program, participants are prepared for their business launch by identifying potential customers, finding the right tools, and meeting with industry experts. Winners of the pitch competition receive small-business grants at the end.
VetFran business grant fund
Veterans or spouses that own or pursue a VetFran franchise are eligible for a VetFran Business Grant Fund. These grants, which range from $0 to $10,000, may be used to acquire anything from equipment to products or services required to start or operate the business.
Employees’ compensation or salaries cannot be paid with these grants. When looking to apply, you will be expected to show proof of VetFran franchise ownership, have two recommendation letters, and a 500-word essay on how the applicant will use the grant award.
Veterans Business Outreach Center
Another viable source for small business grants for military spouses is the Veterans Business Outreach Center Program (VBOC), which is part of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Veterans, military spouses, and transitioning service members can seek business development assistance at any of the Veterans Business Outreach Centers across the country.
VBOC can assist you in determining if your business idea is viable, conducting a comprehensive feasibility study, and educating you in franchising, international trade, accounting, and internet marketing, among other areas.
VBOC also provides free business seminars and in-person appointments to answer your business concerns. You may be able to receive government funding through the SBA Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which helps cover operating costs while on active duty.
The Corvias Foundation provides the “Our Family Educational Grant,” which allows family members of active-duty military personnel to further their education and professional development skills. The grant program provides financial assistance, education, and business networking opportunities to spouses.
From its inception in 2006 to August 2014, the “Our Family for Families First” Foundation has awarded more than $800,000 in educational grants to 163 military spouses. The Corvias Foundation sponsored grants for 20 military spouses in September 2013, each of whom received a $5,000 educational grant
Small Business Innovation Research Grants
Although not exclusively meant for veterans or military spouses, note that the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program offers numerous grants funding to small businesses that create technological innovations. SBIR grants are categorized into two types: Phase I and Phase II.
Phase I grants are meant for businesses that require funding to test their business’s commercial viability. Note that these grants go up to $150,000 and are non-dilutive.
Have it in mind that those who obtained the Phase I grant and successfully proved that their proposal is viable are also eligible to receive a Phase II grant. Phase II grants tend to depend on your Phase I work performance, and you can potentially receive up to $1 million over two years.
To remain updated on the newest grant opportunities, you should consider checking out GrantWatch, a free website that collates all federal, regional, and local grants for small businesses, veterans, military spouses, and nonprofits. GrantWatch is updated daily with the most recent grants, making it an extremely valuable resource for both veteran and non-veteran business owners.
Boots to Business
Organized by the SBA as part of the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program, Boots to Business is noted as one of the most viable free courses on entrepreneurship available for veterans and their spouses. It is mostly organized into two parts: Introduction to Entrepreneurship and B2B Revenue Readiness.
In the former, participants will learn the basics of entrepreneurship, which will provide them with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to establish and manage a successful business. The SBA is phasing out real-world classes in conjunction with COVID-19.
The course begins with Introduction to Entrepreneurship, a course that is usually provided in person. The Mississippi State University course B2B Revenue Readiness is provided free of charge to course participants who have completed the introductory course
Women’s Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program
The Women’s Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program (WVETP) is made possible thanks to SBA funding. The WVETP offers valuable business training to female veterans, service members, and military spouses.
The Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) program, run by Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, is a component of this program. V-WISE assists female veterans and military spouses in discovering their passion and learning critical business expertise to enable them to grow their businesses.
The program is divided into three phases: a 15-day online course, a three-day training event, and ongoing mentorship, support, and training opportunities.
Military Spouse Business Association
The Military Spouse Business Association regularly conducts the Red, White, and Blue Awards, which provide grants to military families and veterans who own businesses. Its Red, White, and Blue Awards are open to all companies wherein the current spouse of a member of the United States Armed Forces or the spouse of a retired or honorably discharged military veteran holds the majority stake.
Annually, the program awards two $500 grants, two $750 grants, and two $1,000 grants, with one of each duo going to a veteran-owned startup and one going to a military-family-owned startup.