Written by: Mirza Tihic, Director of Program Support services and Rosy Maury, Director of Research at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families
IVMF analysis of employment data which examined demographics (e.g. age, gender and race) and their relationship to unemployment has identified that minority, female and young members of the workforce face the greatest unemployment challenges. When we look at unemployment data of veterans and non-veterans by minorities, gender, age and the intersection of these classifications, certain cohorts experience extremely high unemployment rates compared to their non-veteran counterparts.
The above chart showcases this inequality in unemployment rates, illustrating that younger (post-9/11) female veterans have higher unemployment rates than their non-veteran counterparts. The differences are even larger when we look at younger female minority veterans as compared to their non-veteran peers; female Hispanic and African American veterans experience nearly double the unemployment rates of their female minority non-veteran peers.
As a consequence, the path of self-employment through entrepreneurship would be an optimal solution for female minority veterans to overcome the challenges they face. In fact, recent data released by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) estimates that 20% of veterans are currently looking to start, purchase, or partner in a small business start-up. This should not come as a surprise, considering the long history of veteran entrepreneurship in America. Indeed, nearly half (49.7%) of all World War II veterans, 40% of Korean War veterans, and 33% of Vietnam veterans have owned and operated a business. These historic roots of veteran entrepreneurship confirm that military experience provides veterans with unique qualities, attitudes and attributes which are well-suited to the entrepreneurial process.
In order to combat the unemployment challenges faced by veterans and to build upon America’s strong history of veteran entrepreneurship, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families has developed a suite of entrepreneurship training programs, all offered at nearly zero cost to the veterans. One such program, Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE), was developed in cooperation with Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management and the SBA office of Veteran Business Development, and is specifically designed to combat the employment challenges of women veterans.
V-WISE trains aspiring female veterans and female military spouses/partners to start and grow a business. This program consists of three phases:
- Phase 1 includes a 15-day, online introduction to entrepreneurship class taught by entrepreneurship professors from the Whitman School.
- Phase 2 is a 3-day conference held 4 times per year in major cities across the U.S. Participants are exposed to accomplished entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship educators from a variety of backgrounds. The program includes two tracks of training; a startup track, focused on potential future entrepreneurs, and a growth track tailored to those participants already in business. Courses include business planning, marketing, accounting/finance, operations/production, human resources and work/life balance.
- Phase 3 begins after the conference, where V-WISE graduates continue working with SBA resources in their communities such as Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), Women’s Business Development Centers (WBDC), Veteran Business Outreach Centers (VBOC), Women’s Business Centers and S.C.O.R.E offices.
One great thing about V-WISE is that it costs only $75 (registration). All other costs are covered, including text books, conference food and lodging, and each attendee has a room of their own. Even more exciting is the conference itself and the level of energy that takes places there, which motivates and inspires female veterans to pursue their dreams. This amazing program takes place every 3-4 months in another major U.S. city, with the next iteration happening in Denver, Nov.14-16.
Jane Gardner (V-WISE San Diego, 2012) has the following to say about her experience at V-WISE:
“V-WISE played in integral part in the pursuit and success of my business, Life Choice Meals. It was during this conference that I received additional instruction on business ownership, spoke with mentors and was given tremendous support from all who attended, staff, fellow veterans, as well as instructors and speakers. It was at this time that I realized I could not stop my desire to take my business idea, Life Choice Meals, to market. Since that time, Life Choice Meals is moving forward.”
Like Jane, many veterans and transitioning service members have dreams that are backed by military skills and experiences that are easily transferable into entrepreneurship. At a time when our economy is struggling, and veteran unemployment remains high, particularly for female minority veterans, we can not only focus on getting jobs for our veterans, but help them in creating their jobs (and jobs for others). In the words of General Ann E. Dunwoody, the first American female four-star general, “Programs like V-WISE turn hope and opportunity into realty.”
Help us expand access to programs such as V-WISE for our female and minority veterans to help them overcome the employment barriers they face. If we serve them, they will continue to serve in the public, starting their own businesses, hiring employees of their own, stimulating economic growth and reducing unemployment. Help us empower this generation of veterans to be as entrepreneurial and influential as those who have gone before.
V-WISE will be in Denver on November 14.