Veteran-Owned Business Support: Exploring Your Options

There’s plenty of good news in veteran employment of late and veteran-owned businesses are playing a major role.

  • The veteran unemployment rate was 2.7% in February 2019, down from 3.5% in February of 2018.
  • Veteran-owned businesses continue to grow.
  • Veterans who are looking to start their own company have plenty of support.

Part of the reason why veteran unemployment is dropping may be attributed to the number of veteran-owned businesses. Right now, there are over 2.52 million businesses in the United States that are completely or mostly owned by veterans, making up just over 9% of all American-owned businesses.

veteran business owner

Given the ever-lingering stigma of hiring veterans into the workplace, it’s clear that many veterans are taking their futures into their own hands, and they have plenty of support for the journey.

There are over 2.52 million businesses in the United States that are completely or mostly owned by veterans, making up just over 9% of all American-owned businesses. #veteranownedbusiness #veterans Click To Tweet

Veteran-Owned Businesses: By the Numbers

Veteran-owned businesses make up a valuable piece of the economy. With over 2.5 million businesses, this slice of the market generates $1.22 trillion in sales receipts, more than $210 billion in payroll, and provide jobs for over 5.79 million employees, including themselves.

Veterans are more likely than civilians to be self-employed. In addition, over 15% of veteran-owned businesses are considered “family businesses”, while almost half of all veteran-owned businesses have more than four employees.

Veterans aren’t just making a way in the world for themselves, but also providing opportunities for others.

Common Industries for Veteran-Owned Businesses

Data shows that vets own a larger share of the following firms when compared to other firms in the United States in the same industries:

  • Insurance and Finance
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining, Oil, and Gas
  • Utilities
  • Warehousing and Transportation
  • Professional, Technical, and Scientific Services

In addition, veteran-owned firms make up a larger percentage of sales in the following industries compared to other firms in the United States in the same industries:

  • Construction
  • Real Estate, Short-Term Rentals, and Leasing
  • Retail Trade
  • Warehousing and Transportation
  • Agriculture, Fishing, and Forestry
  • Other Services

Most veteran-owned businesses do not export goods, but those that do see higher gains than non-veteran businesses. They tend to have more employees that women-owned or minority-owned companies, even though they make up less of the industry.

These only represent a small portion of the industries where vets are building and growing their businesses. But the numbers provide promising inspiration if you’re not sure where to begin your entrepreneurship.

Most Popular States for Veteran-Owned Businesses

Location is key when opening any business, and veterans may want to take note of where fellow veteran business owners are thriving.

To date, the five most popular states for veteran businesses are:

  • California
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Georgia

The following five states have the highest sales numbers attributed to veteran-owned businesses:

  • Mississippi
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Maine
  • Vermont / New Hampshire

For additional insights into where veterans are finding success, you can check with individual state or federal agencies.  Check to see if they offer any guidance or additional statistics for veteran-owned businesses.

Business Training Programs for Veterans

If you’re curious (or serious) about starting your own business as a veteran, you’ll be glad to know you don’t have to hack the journey yourself like many entrepreneurs. The path to business ownership is never easy, but veterans can get a leg up by taking advantage of business training programs and counseling.

Small Business Association (SBA)

The Small Business Association is an excellent resource for budding veteran entrepreneurs. They offer online and in-person courses and customized curriculums to help veterans learn the skills they need to run a business. Programs include insight from small business experts, the SBA itself, and courses that teach the fundamentals of business ownership.

Boots to Business

Trading combat boots for dress shoes, the Boots to Business program was tailored for veteran entrepreneurs. Offered by the SBA, the program is part of the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to help military service members and their spouses re-enter the civilian workforce.

You’ll need to complete the two-day introductory course. You can then choose from additional courses that deal with market research, revenue, and B2B aspects, among other topics.

Women Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program (WVETP)

Designed for women veterans, women service members, and women spouses of servicemen or veterans, this program provides serious entrepreneurial training. Like Boots to Business, this program is funded through the SBA.

woman veteran business owner

Service Disabled Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program (SDVETP)

Similar to WVETP, this program is designed for veterans who have a service-related disability. Entrepreneurship training is provided to veterans who are thinking of starting or currently own a small business.

The VA may also be able to provide help for veteran entrepreneurs who are considering starting their own business.

Funding for Veteran Businesses

Regardless of the business you choose to start, you’ll need some money to purchase startup needs and keep some cash on hand as you grow. Some experts suggest putting away a year’s worth of living expenses before starting a business since it can be months before you start to see a profit.

This isn’t an option for many cash-strapped vets, so where can you get funding for your business?

The Small Business Association offers a variety of tools and resources, including Lender Match, to help you connect with lenders. Many of these lenders have veteran-specific programs, including SBA Veteran’s Advantage and The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (MREIDL).

The SBA Veteran’s Advantage provides guarantees on loans to approved businesses that are at least 51% owned by a veteran or their spouse.

The MREIDL program covers operating costs of up to $2 million in the event that an employee is called into Active Duty in the National Guard or Reserve. If you hire fellow servicemen or veterans, this can be a tremendous relief so your business can keep going with minimal disruption to your revenue.

Also, the programs mentioned earlier may be able to help you obtain a business loan or other funding sources.

A Worthwhile Challenge

Starting a business as a veteran comes with many of the same challenges that civilian entrepreneurs face. The good news is you have access to resources that others don’t, which can help you to move into entrepreneurship with greater ease.

For more insights on veteran careers and employment, head back to our blog.