2020 National Survey of Military-Affiliated Entrepreneurs Research Report

Authors: Rosalinda V. Maury | Mirza Tihic | Kicia Sears | Alexander McKelvie | Najla Almissalati

Highlights from the National Survey of Military-Affiliated Entrepreneurship Research Report

This report is the result of the first year of data collection from our National Survey of Military-Affiliated Entrepreneurs Рa multi-year, annual and longitudinal study of veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs. Overall, the findings from this report corroborate previous research asserting there is a noteworthy relationship between military service and entrepreneurship. Veteran entrepreneurs are motivated to be independent, creative, innovative, and to serve society and support their communities. On the other hand, they experience an array of barriers to include access to capital, difficulty navigating resources, certification process hurdles, and lack  assistance from medical and disability service providers. This study reveals success or failure does not depend on one, but rather on multiple factors related to barriers and challenges veteran entrepreneurs experience.

This study’s results provide insights into economic, political, and socio-cultural factors that affect veteran entrepreneurship and offer a foundation for recommendations in advancing veteran entrepreneurial outcomes. The recommendations are located at the end of this report and provide recommendations and guidance to stakeholders and practitioners in veteran and entrepreneurship programs and services, policy and public sector, and veteran entrepreneurs.

High-level findings from our 2020 National Survey of Military-Affiliated Entrepreneurs

  • Approximately 2,554 of the respondents were current veteran business owners.
  • Top Motivations to Entrepreneurship:
      • Make own decisions (44%);
      • The chance to implement ideas/creating something (43%);
      • The opportunity to be financially independent/increase personal income (43%)
  • More than 93% indicated that military skills helped them in their business/venture
  • 94% of veteran business owners do not give up easily even in the face of difficulties and 83% use creativity to overcome difficulty
  • Top Problems or Barriers in Pursuing or Achieving Business Goals:
      • Lack of initial capital (42%);
      • Problems finding good employees/contracted personnel (29%);
      • Irregular income (24%)
  • 47% reported difficulty finding local business incubator/ nonprofit that helps business owners
  • 55% reported that the certification process is difficult
  • 53% reported difficulty with applying for loans. Of those that applied for credit, 34% were turned down by lender or creditor when applying for financing
  • 46% of veteran entrepreneurs indicated that navigating the resources in their local community was not easy
  • 65% of veteran entrepreneurs indicate that their military experience has moderately or extremely prepared them for their business challenges associated with COVID-19 pandemic
  • 76% of veteran entrepreneurs indicate that they lost business due to the pandemic

Read the Full Report  View the Infographic


National Survey of Military-Affiliated Entrepreneurship (NSMAE)

The NSMAE is a multi-year, annual and longitudinal study of veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs. This effort is one of the first national initiatives to develop data-driven research focused on military-affiliated entrepreneurship. It seeks to gain better insights and understanding of military-affiliated entrepreneurs and identify economic, political, and socio-cultural factors that serve as barriers to entrepreneurship for military-affiliated individuals. The goal of the survey and consequently public dataset is to inform public, private, and nonprofit practitioners (SBA, VOBS, Financial Institutions, PTACs, corporations interested in collaborating with veteran-owned businesses, etc.), policy makers, and the academic community about the unique characteristics and needs of military-affiliated entrepreneurs. The NSMAE is made possible through the support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Key Highlights about the NSMAE

  • This effort is one of the first national initiatives to develop data-driven research focused on military-affiliated entrepreneurship.
  • The survey is unique in that its specific to the military-affiliated entrepreneur community (i.e., veterans, transitioning service members, guard, reservist, military spouses, and military family members at various stages through their entrepreneur venture.
  • The survey is a multi-year, annual and longitudinal, study of veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs.
  • The survey is extremely comprehensive, includes topics such as military service, transition experience, business venture, financial readiness, resources, and entrepreneurial ecosystem
  • The results are used to identify trends, persistent issues, new challenges and solutions, as well as assess policies.
  • Informs national leaders, community partners, philanthropic organizations, policymakers, and private sector on the unique experiences and challenges of the military-affiliated population as they seek to start and grow businesses in their communities and the on systemic barriers to and drivers of entrepreneurial success among veterans and their family members.
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