Mission Possible: Securing Government Contracts for Veterans and Military Spouses

For military veterans and spouses looking to embark on their small business journey, government contracting represents a promising avenue. This article serves as a guide, shedding light on the intricate process, potential challenges, and the wealth of resources available to aid veterans and spouses in securing federal and state government contracts.

Understanding the Process: Embarking on government contracting involves a series of steps, each important to the overall success of your small business. Let’s dive into several of the key areas needed to start on the road of government contracting.

Conduct Market Research: Begin by conducting extensive market research to identify government agencies, departments, and prime contractors seeking the products or services aligned with your skill set. You can begin with local government (i.e. City of Austin)  as well as with the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) veteran contracting assistance programs.

Registration: Navigate the bureaucratic landscape by registering your business in the System for Award Management (SAM), the central database for vendors engaging with the federal government. Additionally, consider obtaining certifications like Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) or Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) for access to set-aside contracts. Government agencies at both the federal and state levels have set-aside programs specifically designed to leverage contracting opportunities for veteran-owned businesses. These programs reserve or “set-aside” a certain percentage of contracts for businesses owned by veterans or service-disabled veterans.

Proposal Development: Crafting compelling proposals is an art. Clearly state your business’s capabilities, past performance (if any), and unique value proposition (a clear message about the value of your product or service). Tailor each proposal to meet the specific requirements of the solicitation. Work with your local Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) program, which provides entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling, and mentorship to veteran-owned businesses.

Contract Administration: Upon being awarded a contract, meticulous attention to detail is required to ensure compliance with the contract’s terms and conditions, deliverables, reporting requirements, and performance standards. We recommend that you seek support with reviewing contracts or legal terms and conditions before committing.  To receive advice, join EGBI for one of our Legal Clinic, offered twice a year EGBI to work with one of our volunteer attorneys in a one-on-one consultation session to business owners.

Challenges Faced by Veterans and Spouses: While the opportunities are abundant, veterans and spouses encounter several challenges along the way.  Here are some things to keep in mind as you navigate this process:

Competitive Landscape: Government contracting is fiercely competitive, with established firms and experienced contractors vying for the same opportunities.

Complex Procurement Processes: The intricacies of government procurement processes, regulations, and compliance requirements can be overwhelming, particularly for those new to the scene.

Resource Constraints: Limited access to capital, technical expertise, and administrative support can pose significant hurdles for veterans and spouses seeking government contracts. So, we suggest that you reach out to as many resources (various agencies local and federal) as you can in an effort to garner insights in how to obtain the best opportunities for your small business.

Certification and Credentialing Requirements: Meeting certification and credentialing prerequisites, such as obtaining security clearances or industry-specific certifications, can be especially challenging for those transitioning from military service to entrepreneurship.

Resources for Veterans and Spouses: Thankfully, a multitude of resources are available to provide support and guidance. Here are some federal and local support networks available that we recommend you connect with to help you with your small business and government contracting ambitions.

Federal:

Small Business Administration (SBA): The SBA offers various programs, including the SDVOSB/VOSB certification initiative, government contracting assistance, and workshops dedicated to federal procurement.

Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs): PTACs offer free counseling, training, and resources to aid small businesses in navigating government contracting opportunities at the state and local levels.

Veteran Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs): VBOCs provide specialized services, including business counseling, training, and mentorship tailored to the unique needs of veteran-owned businesses.

Local:

SCORE Mentors: SCORE offers the expertise of volunteer mentors, many of whom are seasoned business owners, to guide and support entrepreneurs in various facets of government contracting.

Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs): Organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legion, and Disabled American Veterans (DAV) offer resources, advocacy, and networking opportunities for veteran entrepreneurs.

Economic Growth Business Incubator (EGBI): is a non-profit organization which provides training, coaching, and support to aspiring and existing business owners who face barriers to growing a successful business.

In summary, while embarking on the path of government contracting may seem daunting, securing government contracts can be a rewarding journey for military veterans and spouses, offering not only financial growth but also a pathway to economic success. By comprehending the process, overcoming challenges, and tapping into the wealth of available resources, veterans and spouses can position themselves for success in the competitive world of government contracting.  

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From Battlefield to Boardroom: A 10-Step Guide to Launching Your Dream Veteran Owned Business

Trading military uniform for loafers or heels, salutes for spreadsheets – transitioning from military service to civilian life can be a thrilling yet daunting adventure. But for those with the entrepreneurial spirit burning bright, it’s also the perfect time to launch your own venture. Owning a small business offers freedom, flexibility, and the chance to build something truly your own. It requires careful planning, dedication, and a systematic approach. 

So, veterans, buckle up for a crash course in turning your military expertise into business success!

Step 1: Find Your North Star (aka-Your Business Idea):

  • Identify your passion: What skills did you hone in the military that could translate into a business? Are you a logistics whiz? A master of communication? A data analysis dynamo? Finding your niche not only fuels your passion but also helps you target the right market. Assess your skills, experience, and passions to determine your potential business ideas.
  • Conduct market research: Don’t jump in blindfolded. Research your target market, identify existing competitors, and pinpoint any gaps you can fill. Is there a demand for your unique skillset or service? To try to understand customer needs, conduct market research interviews with friends and family. This will help you identify any challenges with your idea early. 

Step 2: Craft Your Battle Plan (aka-The Business Plan):

  • Write a business plan: This roadmap will guide your journey. Define your business goals, target audience, marketing strategy, and financial projections. Remember, a solid plan attracts investors, partners, and ultimately, success.
  • Seek funding: Explore your options. Veterans have access to special loans, grants, and programs like the SBA’s Veterans Business Development Center. In addition, Economic Growth Business Incubator (EGBI) has several resources we can share with you to help you source for the best local funding opportunities. If needed, don’t shy away from seeking funding to fuel your growth.

Step 3: Choose a Business Structure and Register Your Business with the Texas Secretary of State (aka-Business Formation):

  • Select a Legal Structure: Choose the most suitable legal structure for your business, such as sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation.
  • Register Your Business: Register your business name and obtain necessary licenses and permits at the federal, state, and local levels. Lastly, apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN): Obtain an EIN from the IRS for tax purposes with the IRS.

Step 4: Set Up Your Operations:

  • Establish Your Workspace: Set up a physical or virtual workspace for your business operations. Procure Equipment and Supplies. Purchase or lease necessary equipment, tools, and supplies to support your business activities.
  • Set up your business accounting and financial systems. Implement accounting software and financial systems to track income, expenses, and financial transactions. This includes opening your business bank account to connect your accounting information.

Step 5: Assemble Your Team:

  • Leverage your network: Your military connections are a treasure trove! Reach out to fellow veterans with business experience, tap into mentorship programs, and build a team of advisors and collaborators.
  • Hire strategically: Surround yourself with talented individuals who complement your skillset. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks and leverage the strengths of your team.

Step 6: Develop Your Brand and Marketing Strategy:

  • Create Your Brand Identity: Develop a strong brand identity, including your logo, website, and marketing materials.
  • Define Your Target Audience: Identify your target customers and develop tailored marketing strategies to reach them.
  • Implement Marketing Tactics: Execute marketing tactics such as digital marketing, social media, networking, and advertising to promote your business.
  • EGBI has resources such as our Marketing Roundtable, Toastmasters, and other marketing support to help you during your business journey.

Step 7: Execute with Precision (aka-Launch Your Business):

  • Start small and scale gradually: Don’t try to conquer the world overnight. Test your concept, refine your offerings, and grow organically based on customer feedback and market demand. You may want to consider having a “soft” launch to gather feedback and make improvements from the onset. Then you can plan an official launch after making any necessary changes based on the outcome of the soft launch.
  • Embrace the power of technology: Utilize tools like project management software, online marketing platforms, and communication apps to streamline your operations and stay ahead of the curve.
  • Monitor and Adapt: Continuously monitor your business performance, gather customer feedback, and make necessary adjustments to improve operations.

Step 8: Manage and Grow Your Business:

  • Provide Excellent Customer Service: Prioritize customer satisfaction and strive to exceed their expectations. After all, your customers are the heart of your business.
  • Manage Finances: Monitor your financial performance, manage cash flow, and make informed financial decisions to ensure business sustainability.
  • Seek Growth Opportunities: Explore opportunities for expansion, diversification, and innovation to grow your business over time.

Step 9: Remember Your Mission (aka-Your Why):

  • Maintain discipline and focus: Military service instilled in you the value of hard work, perseverance, and discipline. Apply those qualities to your business and stay laser-focused on your goals.
  • Never stop learning: The business world is a dynamic battlefield. Stay updated on industry trends, attend workshops, and continuously hone your skills to adapt and thrive.

Step 10: Stay Informed and Seek Support:

  • Stay Educated: Stay updated on industry trends, regulations, and best practices to remain competitive.
  • Join Veteran Entrepreneurial Networks: Connect with other veteran entrepreneurs and business organizations for support, resources, and networking opportunities.
  • Utilize Government Resources: Explore government programs, grants, and resources available specifically for veteran-owned businesses.

Extra Tip: Don’t hesitate to tap into the vast network of resources available to veterans! The Small Business Administration, SCORE, and Veteran Service Organizations offer invaluable support, training, and guidance. EGBI also provides a number of valuable resources for our veteran business owners as well as it is a privilege for us here at EGBI to support our veteran business owners.

Remember, transitioning from military service to business ownership is a marathon, not a sprint. Embrace the challenges, celebrate the wins, and never lose sight of your mission. With your unique skills, unwavering determination, and a well-crafted strategy, you can conquer the entrepreneurial battlefield and build a business as impressive as your military service.

About the Author,

Monica Perras, Army Veteran, Entrepreneur, and Business Coach and Veteran Services Coordinator at Economic Growth Business Incubator is an advocate for veteran and non-veteran small business owners.  With over seven years as a small business owner, Monica works to support aspiring and existing business owners who face barriers to growing a successful business, often, many of them being military veterans. If you’re a veteran looking to start or grow your business, reach her at perras@egbi.org for more information.


Find the Spanish version here.

Opening Opportunities: A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Certified Veteran-Owned Small Business and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business State and Federal

As a Veteran, you’ve already demonstrated courage, commitment, and resilience in your service to the nation. Now, imagine translating those qualities into entrepreneurial success by starting or expanding your own business by tapping into government contracting opportunities. The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers certification programs for Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSB) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB), providing a pathway to exclusive contracts and fostering economic growth.

You might ask, “why would I need a certification as a veteran owned business through the Small Business Administration?” Well, there are a few good reasons why this certification is a good idea for your business as a veteran.  One, it allows you to compete for certain federal and/or state government contracts.  It also will allow you to purchase government supply surplus items that can help you to continue to grow your business. And importantly, it underscores your brand as a veteran-owned or service-disabled veteran-owned business to your customers and your community.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process to achieve VOSB or SDVOSB certification.

Step 1: Verify Your Eligibility

Before diving into the certification process, ensure you meet the eligibility criteria. For VOSB, veterans must own and control at least 51% of the business. For SDVOSB, service-disabled veterans must meet the same criteria. Confirm your eligibility and proceed with confidence.

Step 2: Gather Your Documents

Collect the necessary documentation, which typically includes:

  • DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.
  • VA disability letter (for SDVOSB).
  • Corporate documents (articles of incorporation, operating agreements, etc.).
  • Business financial statements.
  • Business tax returns.
  • Ownership and control documentation.

Step 3: Create an SBA Account

Navigate to the Small Business Administration (SBA) website and create an account. This account will be your gateway to the online certification application. Ensure you provide accurate information during the account creation process.

Step 4: Complete the Online Application

Select the certification program (VOSB or SDVOSB) and complete the online application. Upload all required documents and double-check the accuracy of the information provided. This step is pivotal in moving forward with the certification process. You want to make sure there are no delays due to not providing all the required information.

Step 5: Obtain a D-U-N-S Number

If your business doesn’t have a Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) Data Universal Numbering System (D-U-N-S) number, obtain one. This unique identifier is essential for government contracts and will strengthen your application.

Step 6: Register on SAM.gov

Register your business on the System for Award Management (SAM) website. This no cost registration is a prerequisite for federal government contracting and complements your VOSB or SDVOSB certification.  Importantly, this is a required registration to do business with the U.S. Government.

Step 7: Submit Your Application

Once your application is complete, submit it through the SBA’s online portal. This marks a crucial step toward unlocking exclusive contracting opportunities for your veteran-owned business.

Step 8: Await Verification and Approval

Patience is key as the SBA reviews your application. Be prepared for potential requests for additional information and respond promptly to expedite the certification process. So, please be sure to keep your eye on your emails from the SBA.

Step 9: Respond to Requests for Information

If the SBA requires additional information or clarification, respond promptly and efficiently. This responsiveness demonstrates your commitment to the certification process.

Step 10: Receive Your Certification

Upon approval, you’ll receive official certification as a VOSB or SDVOSB. This achievement opens doors to government contracts reserved only for veteran-owned businesses.

Step 11: Market Your Certification

Update your marketing materials, website, and government contracting databases to showcase your VOSB or SDVOSB status. This certification is a powerful tool in attracting both government and private-sector contracts.

For further support with this process, seek guidance from the SBA through your local Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) Program here.

Conclusion

Becoming certified as a VOSB or SDVOSB is a strategic move that not only honors your military service but also positions your business for success in the competitive world of government contracting. Follow these steps diligently, stay informed, and embrace the opportunities that come with being a certified veteran-owned business. We here at EGBI wish you good luck on your journey to unlocking new horizons for your entrepreneurial venture!

Please do not hesitate to reach out to EGBI’s Business Coach and Veteran Services Coordinator Monica Perras at perras@egbi.org or call her directly 737-239-0221.  A business coaching appointment is at no cost due to a contract with the City of Austin.

Find the Spanish version here.

A Can’t Miss Benefit: A Guide to Obtaining a Veteran Verification Letter in Texas

Starting a new business comes with its challenges, but if you’re a veteran in the state of Texas, there’s a unique opportunity to ease the burden. The Texas Veterans Commission Veteran Entrepreneur Program offers a Veteran Verification Letter (VVL), a powerful tool that not only recognizes your service but also provides tangible benefits. In this blog, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of obtaining a
VVL and unlocking significant cost-saving advantages.


Eligibility Check

Before diving into the application process, ensure you meet the eligibility criteria for the Veteran
Verification Letter. To qualify, you must have:
– An Honorable/General Under Honorable US Military Discharge
– 100% Veteran-Owned (can be more than one veteran owner)
– A new entity formation between January 1, 2022, and December 31, 2025


Step 1: Requesting a VVL

1. Visit the Texas Veterans Commission website.

2. Click on the “Connect with a Business Consultant” button to initiate the process.

3. Complete the three-part questionnaire provided by the Texas Veterans Commission.


Step 2: Information Gathering

Prepare the following documents before initiating contact with a Business Consultant:
– DD214 – Member 4 or Service Copy 2: Ensure it shows discharge status.
– VA Letter of Service Disability: Must include branch of service, dates of service, and discharge status.
– NGB22 (Texas National Guard Only): For Texas National Guard members.
– Verification of any name changes: Include relevant documents like Marriage Certificates,
Divorce Decrees, etc.


Step 3: Contact with a Business Consultant


After completing the questionnaire, a Business Consultant from the Texas Veterans Commission will contact you directly. Be ready to share the gathered information and discuss your business plans.


Benefits of the Veteran Verification Letter.

Upon successful verification, you’ll receive a Veteran Verification Letter. This document holds significant advantages for your new business:
-Waived $300 Registration Fee: Say goodbye to the initial registration fee with the Secretary of
State.
-Five Years of State Franchise Tax Exemption: Enjoy the first five years of your business without the burden of state franchise tax.


Conclusion
Obtaining a Veteran Verification Letter through the Texas Veterans Commission can be a game-changer for your new business. Not only does it recognize your military service, but it also provides substantial financial benefits. Follow the steps outlined in this guide, and you’ll be on your way to unlocking opportunities that will make a meaningful difference in the early years of your entrepreneurial journey.
This is a great first step towards many more to come.


Thank you for your service, and best of luck with your new venture!


Please do not hesitate to reach out to EGBI’s Business Coach and Veteran Services Coordinator Monica
Perras at perras@egbi.org or call her directly 737-239-0221.  A business coaching appointment is at no
cost due to a contract with the City of Austin.

Find the Spanish version here.