Veteran Entrepreneurship: What You Should Know

Rosalinda V. Maury,
M.S.Director of Applied Research and Analytics
Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University

Military service and small business ownership share a distinctive relationship, dating back more than a half century. Veterans remain more likely to own a business than nonveterans and often tend to out-earn nonveteran entrepreneurs. High-performing entrepreneurs tend to demonstrate good decision-making in chaotic environments, confidence, independence, and high self-efficacy and achievement —all traits commonly found in service members and veterans.

Veteran entrepreneurs derive from a diverse population with unique experiences but they also encounter challenges at all stages of their business ownership journey. Below are a few highlights about what we know about veteran entrepreneurs, reasons they pursue entrepreneurship, and the resources and ecosystems that have helped veteran entrepreneurs with their businesses.

Veteran entrepreneurs:

– Are more likely to own a business than nonveterans
– Tend to out-earn nonveteran entrepreneurs
– Are diverse in age, race/ethnicity, disability, and experiences
– Entrepreneurial activity may vary by age, gender, race/ethnicity, and length of service

Traits of high-performing entrepreneurs (These same traits are also linked to military experience):

– Good decision-making in chaotic environments
– Confidence in ability and skills
– Independence
– High self-efficacy

Motivations for Pursuing Entrepreneurship

The reasons veteran entrepreneurs are pursuing business ownership are:

  • Dissatisfaction with the Civilian Workforce
  • Creativity and Flexibility
  • Financial and Personal Independence
  • Recognize Business Opportunities
  • Family and Work-Life Balance

Challenges with Entrepreneurship

There are three central barriers/themes facing veteran entrepreneurs:

  • Access to Financial Capital
  • People and Social Capital
  • Decision Making

Veteran Resources

Below is a list of resources that veteran entrepreneurs find most helpful:

  • Education
  • Mentorship
  • Business Planning/Business Plan Write-Up
  • Networking/Peer network
  • Information on conferences and workshops
  • Social Media/Website
  • Marketing Strategies

Resources that veteran entrepreneurs believe would benefit them
and their families are

– Money Management (60%)
– Communication tactics (44%)
– Family-Life balance/Work life balance (38%)
– Stress management (36%)

Veteran Entrepreneur Ecosystems

Veteran entrepreneur challenges can include:

– Developing & utilizing social capital
– Growing, managing, & sustaining business
– Identifying and developing successful mentorships
– Accessing appropriate capital
– Business & management skills

Veteran entrepreneur ecosystem can include:

– Market
– Community-based learning & support
– VSO & ESO Collaboration
– Information
– Entrepreneur-friendly policies
– Institutions for higher education
– Cultural and Community Support 

How ecosystems can help veteran entrepreneurs:

– Community-based learning and support – Help veterans grow their informal and formal networks by connecting them with others.
– Collaboration between veteran & entrepreneurship service organizations – Increased collaboration and coordination across and between services can help veterans identify appropriate support and resources for their business.
 Entrepreneur-friendly policies – Policies that encourage entrepreneurial endeavors have been shown to positively impact entrepreneurial ecosystems
 Information on educational resources & programs – Information will help veterans better understand which programs and services are best for them considering the current state of their business (i.e., ideation, startup, and growth).

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