What does the Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) do?

The VBOC’s mission is to provide business training and counselling services to active duty personnel, veterans from any era, and military spouses who want to learn more about, then start and grow a small business of their own. The VBOC network has 28 centers spread across the US to serve veterans and military spouses in all 50 states and US territories. Our office serves the entire state of Florida from its office in Panama City with counselling in person, by phone and online. To locate a VBOC other than Florida, go to https://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/vboc

Is the Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) a part of the Veterans Administration (VA)?

No. The VBOC is an U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Resource Partner, operating under the SBA Office of Veteran Business Development. For questions regarding benefits or disability claims, please go to http://www.va.gov to find the VA office nearest you.

How do I qualify for VBOC services?

All U.S. military veterans, including Active Duty personnel and those with any prior military service, as well as military spouses, and surviving military spouses qualify for VBOC services. This VBOC serves the entire State of Florida. If you are in another state or U.S. Territory, please consult the list of https://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/vboc to determine which regional office to contact.

How much does it cost?

NOTHING! You have earned access to the VBOC’s services through your military service or your personal relationship to a military member. VBOC’s business counseling, training and resources are provided at no cost to you. All you have to do is register here: www.VBOC.org

Why do I have to register?

First, the VBOC is legally required to get your written consent to receive counseling, training, and advice. Consequently, we can only give you general information until you have submitted the Electronic Request For Counseling (ERFC). The EFRC also serves as our Confidentiality and Conflict of Interest Agreements provided for your security.

Does the VBOC share my information with or sell it to anyone?

No. The Electronic Request For Counseling (EFRC) form is a non-disclosure statement that assures that we will not share or sell your personal or business information with any outside commercial entities.

Where can I get training to help me start and run a small business?

Check out our BASIC TRAINING page where we cover many of the topics entrepreneurs need to know. On our BUSINESS RESOURCES page, you will learn more about the federal Small Business Administration’s many training programs and business counseling partners, like the VBOC, SBDC, SCORE and Women’s Business Centers.

If you are still active duty and eligible for the DoD’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) or a military spouse, we encourage you to register for the “Boots to Business” Intro to Entrepreneurship track. Check with the TAP manager at your base for a schedule of classes. The TAP schedule for bases in Florida is posted on our HOME page.

Are there any grants to start a for-profit business?

No. Currently, the VBOC is unaware of specific grants for veterans, or anyone for that matter, to open a for-profit business. Typically, grants go to non-profit social services, research and educational institutions. However, the VBOC advises anyone interested in grants to search www.grants.gov and other financial publications for information. There might be state or local funding for small businesses where you intend to operate but be aware of and research thoroughly the legitimacy of any organizations stating they can “get you a grant” – these are usually scams! If the VBOC becomes aware of legitimate grants for veterans to start a business, this information will certainly be posted.

Does the VBOC lend money to businesses?

No. The VBOC is not a lending institution and does not lend money to small businesses. A veteran will have to obtain financing through a bank or credit union, other lenders, or by other means. The VBOC can help you understand the lending process, become familiar with SBA loan guarantee programs and traditional business financing, then help you prepare the documents you will need to take to a lender.

What is the SBA? Do they give loans for individuals to start businesses?

The US Small Business Administration (SBA), established in 1953, provides technical, financial, and management assistance to help Americans start, run, and expand their businesses. With a portfolio of business loan guarantees, surety bond loans and business disaster recovery loans, the SBA is the nation’s largest single financial backer of small businesses. However, the SBA does not give direct loans to start businesses. Much like the VA guarantees home loans for veterans, the SBA guarantees a portion of the loan to the lender, if you qualify. Learn more about the SBA business loan programs at https://www.sba.gov/loans-grants

Does the Veterans Administration (VA) provide loans for veterans to start businesses?

No. However, the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) services may be provided to assist Veterans in starting their own businesses or independent living services for those who are severely disabled and unable to work in traditional employment, due to a service related injury. For more information, go to http://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/index.asp

I am interested in government contracting. How can the VBOC help?

The Florida VBOC is uniquely qualified to guide you through the process of doing business with the government at any level (federal, state and local). We have easy-to-understand and field-tested training tools on our Basic Training page on this website. First, review this information, and then watch our “Introduction to Government Contracting narrated presentation” and review the other resources there. For personal assistance, register for counseling or call 800-542-7232.

Can the VBOC assist or intervene with Government Contracting issues?

No. We have no direct standing or authority in the contracting process (see Federal Acquisition Register, Part 33). You must seek the guidance of a trained Government Procurement Agent or qualified attorney.