Support for Veterans Through Business Ownership
Happy Veterans Day and thank you to all the people who have enlisted to serve our country. I thank all veterans, but this post is mainly for highlighting those resources available to vets for small business ownership. As it is a topic that I care about and my personal sentiment is if you as a vet have taken the sacrifice in defending our country, then we can sacrifice some time to educate and help the transition to successful civilian life.
One path can be owning your own business. I find that here in Hawaii, so many military personnel consider settling down in the islands after they are done with their military service. Then the question turns into opening a business due to the opportunities of being a contractor. However, unfortunately business law tends to be abstract and also given the way the islands tends to do business and regulation that adds to their complexity. So hopefully if you, as a vet (or their spouse) are reading this, you find it helpful as a start.
What a Vet Should Learn Prior to Starting a Business
In the past have had the fortune of conducting one of my favorite seminars as a part of the Boots 2 Business (B2B) program. More on that down below. Specifically, entity formation, but as an attorney I would stress understanding more than just choosing between LLC or corporation. If opening a business as a vet consider the following:
- forming a business entity;
- differences between LLCs and corporations;
- structuring and governing the entity you choose;
- tax and accounting issues;
- basics of contract law;
- understand local and state regulations;
- applying to be a government contractor;
- if you have a service-related disability, then understanding the program requirements for the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program;
- moving your business and/or operating in multiple states; and
- if you are going to have a partner, then really understanding what a business partnership entails.
This is not an exhaustive list, but what I’ve come across in terms of frequently asked questions or issues. There are many other aspects such, as operational, marketing, human resource, and financial concerns for business ownership. In terms of where to get that education the B2B program is an educational and training program offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). It is put out under the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and basically gives a survey course of business ownership. Note that it is open not only to Veterans, but also Active Duty Service members, and their spouses. Definitely worth a check out if you are considering opening a business an eligible.
In addition to the US SBA’s main website, if you are in Hawaii, then consider the following:
- The SBA local office
- The Veteran’s Business Outreach Center of the Pacific (VBOC)– The VBOC is a program of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and funded partly by the SBA. It is committed to assisting veteran entrepreneurs by providing access to advisers on business and strategic planning, marketing, financial decisions, and starting, running, and exiting a small business.
- Hawai’i Small Business Development Center (SBDC)– The SBDC is also funded in part through the SBA, but also by the State of Hawaii. The SBDC provides advice, research, and training for business owners.
- SCORE Hawaii– is an organization dedicated to helping small businesses via education and mentorship. So they offer a varieties of educational activities, such as low-cost workshops or access to *mentoring.
*Note: whenever counseling with a new potential business owner client, I always tell them the biggest thing you can do for yourself is finding a good mentor.
Usually, military people transitioning to civilian life or vets have saved enough come to me when starting a new business. I would say that energy and enthusiasm is always enjoyable to work with, but as any small business owner can tell you there are other stresses. The stress of making it work. Stress of work-life balance. The stress of moving out of state. Sadness of closing down.
Just remember that there are all these resources not only to help start the business, but helping you move through your life of owning a business. For an attorney’s part, we do help with the formation, but also advising strategic decisions, which may or may not be tied to the business. One particular situation I see is military families starting a business here and then moving back to their home state. The question is what to do with the Hawaii-based business. This one-sheet should answer some preliminary questions, but as always you probably want to speak directly to an attorney for planning. Why? There is no one size fits all plan for every type of business owner. However, gaining key advice helps with strategic planning and I feel that veterans know the value of having a plan.
Finally, I would like to extend a big mahalo to all of the veterans (and to the family members that support them) for your dedication and service to your country. Thank you.