VA Self-Employment Program

Ok. Biz time!

My husband and I started an independent game development studio officially a few months ago, though we have been working on a few products these last two years or so.

As we are both veterans of the military, we decided to look into the VA to see if we could qualify for retraining under CH31 benefits – i.e. Vocational Rehabilitation (now called VetSuccess I believe).

Just like applying to use your GI Bill, you have to apply for CH31 and meet with a VA counselor who will determine if there is a need and what level of need is to be given.

In our case, her official recommendation was “self-employment as a means to employment”, and she referred us to a self-employment counselor in our area.

Before going further, keep these 4 things in mind when it comes to the VA:

1. VA has a self-employment program (surprised? So was I)

2. Nothing with the VA is a guarantee – if you have been found to qualify for any type of benefit or assistance, remember the “hurry up and wait” motto.

3. VA counselors aren’t always forthcoming about what you can and can’t do – research like mad, ask questions,have a good attitude (I know sometimes that one can be tough) and be extremely persistent.

4. If the VA says a document must be no more than 10 pages, single-spaced, Arial font – they will absolutely throw it out/reject it if your doc is 11 pages, 9.5 font, Times New Roman – you get the idea.

That said, I met with a self-employment counselor a few days ago, and today – finally got a hold of the template that the VA uses for business plans – the general requirements are similar to any business plan, but the format is a bit different from the one I used for my original business plan.

(If I can find a link to the template, I’ll post it here later)

This isn’t the only way to write a good business plan of course – SBA has a good outline, as well as any Small Business Development Center (non-profit agency that helps small businesses get started – free service!):  http://www.sba.gov/content/templates-writing-business-plan

Anywho – back on track->

Here’s the short list on what the VA asks for, in the order is was given to me:

1. Cover Page

Company name, contact info, owner’s name, mailing address, phone, email addy, webpage/site addy, privacy statement

2. Executive Summary  (written last)

3. Marketing Section

Company mission statement: include competitive environment, source of competitive advantage, and competitive analysis

Marketing ‘Mix’: includes product or service, price, promotion, and channels of distribution

4. Organizational Section

Legal form of business, license and permits, human resource management, record keeping and tax preparation, insurance needs

5. Financial Section

Customer Investment: include equipment and supplies, and capital

Funding Needs: include a description of purchases, ‘break even’ analysis, and revenue projection

6. Appendix

Attach supporting documents – reference appendix docs throughout the text.

I’ve been told to pay strict attention to financial projections – VA wants to see a 5 year projection that must show growth beyond the initial investment. These projections must include at least 3 quotes for resources/services we intend to purchase (in our case – we have to get at least 3 quotes for art, music, and marketing/advertising so far).

After typing this, I’m getting the urge to get back to grind on updating my business plan, as it is taking a lot more research and editing than I had originally thought.

If there is anyone else thinking about applying for this program, here are some websites to check out first:

http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/vre/   (general voc rehab/vetsuccess info)

http://vabenefitblog.com/self-employment-tips-with-voc-rehab/   (details of self-emp program)

http://www.disabledveterans.org/2011/12/29/rehabilitation-program-blocks-many-entrepreneurial-veterans/   (good/bad perspective – found this pretty helpful)

TL/DR:

What’s the point of doing all this?

If approved, VA will give my business a grant for up to $25K – it’s going to be a long process, and one that doesn’t promise anything – but at this stage, I have nothing to lose by doing the work anyway! 😉

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