A Nonprofit Business Accelerator Is Offering Grants to Veteran Small Business Owners

(U.S. Army)

Time and again, year after year, if there's one problem veteran entrepreneurs have in getting their businesses off the ground, it's access to capital. The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University has been researching veterans' barriers to entry in the marketplace since 2017, and capital is always the top issue.

Founders First, a nonprofit organization with a mission to empower diverse groups of business owners and entrepreneurs, is offering grants to 25 veteran small business owners to help relieve a bit of their capital crunch.

Named for Stephen L. Tadlock, Navy veteran and brother of Founders First's CEO Kim Folsom, the Tadlock Grant will offer $1,000 micro-investments to qualified business owners. To qualify, a company's founder must be a U.S. military veteran, have an active U.S.-based business and employ between two and 50 employees.

Applications are open now through Oct. 18, 2022. Recipients of the grant will be announced on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2022.

"American veterans give back to our country each and every day, and following their service, it's critical that they receive support from family, friends and local communities to thrive in their careers following their service," Folsom, founder and CEO of Founders First, said in a statement.

The Census Bureau's 2021 Annual Business Survey showed veteran-owned businesses make up 5.9% of all businesses in the United States, employ 3.9 million workers and contribute an estimated $177 billion in annual payroll. Other surveys find that veteran business ownership could be as high as 9.1%, employ six million Americans and generate around $1 trillion in annual receipts.

Veterans are also 45% more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Accessing capital has always been a tough issue for this group, like it is for many entrepreneurs, but the global COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the problem.

Founders First specifically targets entrepreneurs from underserved communities for grants and assistance like the Stephen L. Tadlock Grant for U.S. military veterans. Even if a veteran entrepreneur doesn't make the final cut for this particular grant, they may be eligible for one of Founders First's other job creation grants.

The nonprofit has other business leadership and entrepreneurial training programs with rolling application deadlines. They vary in length from 60 days to three months long, allowing graduates to compete for other cash grants while learning to start or expand their businesses.

On top of meeting the qualifications for application, veterans interested in the Stephen L Tadlock Grant will be asked to make a one- to three-minute, self-made pitch video as part of the process. Qualified veteran business owners may apply for the veterans grant on the Founders First website.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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