Though Illinois ranks as the least friendly state to start or operate a small business, it ranks in the top 10 for most veteran entrepreneur-friendly states. According to the State of Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs, the state has 89,110 veteran-owned businesses, earning the seventh spot on the top 10 list. There are several reasons for this, which the IDVA outlines in depth. 

According to the IDVA, the administration partnered with the Illinois Department of Central Management Services to bring together relevant government agencies, trade associations, educational institutions, employers and business professionals to educate veterans and returning servicemembers on the many advancement opportunities and resources available to aspiring veteran entrepreneurs. The two administrations also strive to help existing veteran-owned operations expand their reach.

The organizations involved in the veteran entrepreneurship campaign host a variety of educational sessions, seminars and other similar events that educate veterans on what they need to do to start a lucrative business. These programs often have to do with marketing and branding, managing finances, writing a business plan, gaining access to capital, application procedures, business certifications and procurement opportunities.  

Speaking of procurement opportunities, the Illinois Veterans Business Program developed a procurement system to help veteran business owners gain access to large jobs. The program encourages universities and state agencies to spend a minimum of three percent of their procurement budgets with verified veteran-owned businesses. That means that over $300 million in state contracts are reserved for veteran-owned operations each year. The IVBP designed the program to help smaller operations that make less than $75 million a year. Businesses must be at least 51 percent owned by one or more qualified veterans. Veterans must be residents of Illinois to qualify for these benefits.