Q: Where can I find grants, programs or other resources that help veterans and people with disabilities start a business?
A: Grant money isn't easy to find (check out "Money Hunt" for more on this). However, there are dozens of organizations and resources dedicated to helping veterans and people with disabilities thrive as small-business owners. Here's a roundup of what's available to both audiences:
Self-employment for people with disabilities. The Small Business Self-Employment Service (SBSES) is an arm of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. You'll be able to collect information on counseling, technical assistance, financing, referrals and other issues specific to developing a small business. There's also a workshop series, "Entrepreneurship Services for People with Disabilities," being offered this year in 10 cities. For more information on SBSES and its programs, visit http://janweb.icdi.wvu.edu/sbsesor call (800) 526-7234.
Next, ask your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for help, as facilities dedicated to helping people with disabilities are forming across the country. The Seed Business Network, for example, provides small-business resources and services online to entrepreneurs with disabilities and others who are economically disadvantaged. A call to an SBDC office may lead you to a similar referral in your neighborhood. Call the SBA at (800) 8-ASK-SBA to locate the SBDC office nearest you.
Tap into support offered by industry associations, such as The Disabled Businesspersons Association, (800) RING-ECI. The group was founded in 1991 and has more than 10,000 members. You may also find more resources through an advocacy group called BOLD (Businesspeople Overcoming Limitations from Disabilities). Visit BOLDonline or call (303) 674-3383.
Although there are only a handful of state-sponsored programs on entrepreneurship, you should still check with local or state vocational rehabilitation services about self-employment training opportunities, regional initiatives and available assistance. Begin your research with the Internet directory at http://janweb.icdi.wvu.edu/sbses/VOCREHAB.HTM.
Entrepreneurial opportunities for U.S. veterans. You'll find that the SBA has the most programs to help veterans succeed in business. The SBA currently has four Veterans Business Outreach Centersproviding entrepreneurial development services. Each center offers prebusiness plan workshops, concept assessments, business plan preparations, feasibility analysis, entrepreneurial training and counseling, and mentorship. Other SBA resources: PRO-Net, a virtual one-stop-procurement shop, and the Veterans' Prequalification Program, which helps veterans who own small businesses with the loan application process. A Veterans Affairs Officer is also available in SBA district offices to help with your entrepreneurial adventure. For more details on the SBA's Veterans Business Outreach Program, visit http://www.sba.gov/VETSor call the Small Business Answer Desk at (800) 827-5722.
Don't forget to check with local veteran service organizations and advocacy groups, including The American Legion, the Foundation for American Veterans and the Department of Veteran Affairs. You may find some hidden programs that you're eligible for. Lastly, you may be able to get some pointers from the networkers at Veterans in Business.
A final thought: Since your new venture will need a business plan, why not enter your plan in a competition? Look for leads in Awards, Honors & Prizes. It lists more than 3,000 prizes, many of which carry cash awards.
Kimberly Stansell is an author, entrepreneur and businesswoman in Los Angeles. She has a knack for turning her desires into reality with little or no money and helps others do the same in her bookBootstrapper's Success Secrets: 151 Tactics for Building Your Business on a Shoestring Budget(Career Press). For more business-building tips and resources, visit her Web site, www.kimberlystansell.com.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.