Veteran-owned businesses play a significant role in the U.S. economy. Veterans owned 5.6 percent of all U.S. businesses in 2020, employed 3.6 million people and generated almost $1 trillion in revenue, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

But despite their great impact, an Small Business Administration (SBA) report found that veterans often have a more difficult time accessing capital than non-veteran business owners. 

Fortunately, many federal, state and private organizations offer small business grants for veterans, which can be used to grow or start your business. Here’s where to look and how to apply.

1. Second Service Foundation

The Second Service Foundation, formerly named the StreetShares Foundation, is a nonprofit organization that helps veterans create or grow their businesses by providing funding through its grant program — the Military Entrepreneur Challenge. 

Participants have to pitch their business before a group of judges. In 2019, the first-place winner received $15,000; the second-place winner received $6,000 and the third-place winner received $4,000.

Application process

Applications are currently closed, but you can add your name to Second Service Foundation’s email list to be notified when they reopen.

Apply here

2. Warriors Rising Small Business Grants 

Warriors Rising is a nonprofit organization founded by veterans in 2015 that offers small business grants and mentorship to veterans and their immediate family members. Members are called “Veterepreneur”s and undergo a six-step process that includes Zoom coaching sessions and one-on-one mentorship.

Application process

You can apply online to become a Vetrepreneur. If your application is accepted, you’ll receive a confirmation email, followed by a phone call to discuss the next steps. Afterward, you’ll receive onboarding documents to fill out via email.

Apply here

3. is an online database where you can search for a variety of federal grants. Grants are offered by several government departments, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Application process

To apply, you have to create a account. Before you apply, make sure to review the grant’s eligibility requirements.

Apply here

4. Hivers and Strivers

Hivers and Strivers is an investment group that invests only in veteran-owned businesses. You receive between $100,000 and $1 million in funding in exchange for equity in your company. The firm encourages pitches about “highly scalable” ideas. Though not technically a grant, veterans may be interested in this potential funding source.

Application process

You can submit your pitch online via Hivers and Strivers’ website. Cannabis or lifestyle businesses and companies that secure government contracts don’t qualify.

Apply here

Alternatives to small business grants

Although small business grants can help you start or grow your business, they might not be the best choice for you. Grant programs are usually competitive, and the grantor might only allow you to use the funds for certain purposes.

If you’re looking for funding options that are generally easier to qualify for, come with fewer restrictions and are more widely available, consider the following alternatives.

  • Small business loans. You can also pay for business expenses with a veteran business loan from a traditional bank, credit union or online lender. Unlike a business credit card, a small business loan comes with a lump-sum payment you repay over time in fixed installments.
  • Borrow money from a family member or friend. A family member or friend might be willing to give you a loan with little or no interest. Discuss repayment terms first if you find someone willing to let you borrow money. And then pay it back as promised to avoid causing harm to your relationship.

The bottom line

Whether you’re a veteran looking to grow your business or start a new one, searching for grants can be a good solution. Grants can provide the funding you need — and a major benefit is that they don’t have to be repaid. 

You can use grant search engines like GrantWatch to find additional grants. Check out our lists of small business grants for minorities and small business grants for women, too.