Entrepreneurship is a natural career option for veterans. The skills they receive through years of service help make them effective leaders who have huge potential for success. They are disciplined enough to become their own boss and the boss of their staff. They also know the value of hard work and focus on reaching their goals. More importantly, they can perform under pressure which entrepreneurs commonly experience when running a business.
Declining Number of Veteran Entrepreneurs
A lot of veterans go into entrepreneurship. Half of all American veterans from World War II eventually started their own businesses. At present, about 9 percent of all businesses (or 2.5 million) are owned by veterans in the U.S. and generate about $1 trillion per year. They also provide employment for millions of American workers across the nation.
However, in recent years, the rate at which veterans start their own business is falling. From 12.5 percent of new entrepreneurs in 1996, the number of veteran entrepreneurs fell to just 4.2 percent in 2016. It is a huge decline.
Veterans who go into entrepreneurship have huge potential for success. The government provides opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses to thrive. Every year, the government awards at least three percent of federal contracts to service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses. Getting a government contract is a lucrative deal that assures stable pay.
However, running a business is not easy, even if you are a veteran. There are unique challenges that veteran entrepreneurs face. Here are a few.
Finding Financial Support
Many aspiring entrepreneurs struggle to find funding for a business venture unless, of course, one already has money saved for it from years of working or has affluent family members. However, even with pensions, those who have children to support will hesitate to risk their savings toward funding a business.
Moreover, a recent report stated that applicants of veteran-owned small businesses are more likely to face financial shortfalls than non-veteran small business applicants. They receive less than what they asked for. They also have lower rates for approval.
In addition, because of COVID-19, aspiring entrepreneurs will face even more challenges in finding willing investors.
There are a handful of options for veteran entrepreneurs who want to start their own businesses. The Small Business Administration offers loan programs that can aid veterans in accessing loans. There are also loan programs that specifically cater to veterans who want to become entrepreneurs.
It is going to be tougher to procure funding for your business venture, especially in 2021. The world has gone through not only a pandemic but an economic recession — one of the worst in years. However, help is available to those who reach out.
Navigating the World of E-Commerce
Businesses nowadays have to be online. The consumers are online and, therefore, businesses have to follow. However, e-commerce is a completely different landscape from traditional retail.
In the past, veteran entrepreneurs relied on offline sales. However, nowadays, they have to be online, too.
Even if they do not end up selling on an e-commerce platform, they still have to promote their products and services online. They have to establish their own website to market and add legitimacy to the business venture. They also have to incorporate the best practices of search engine optimization (SEO) to enable their target customers to find their website. Moreover, they need to create content for their social media followers to increase their clients and boost brand loyalty.
Entrepreneurs can hire professionals to oversee digital marketing or the online expansion of their businesses. If money is a cost, third-party services and off-shore freelancers can do the job efficiently for less.
The Consequence of Disappearing Veteran-owned Small Businesses
Unfortunately, the decreasing number of veteran-owned small businesses creates a domino effect that impacts other veterans. Fewer veteran entrepreneurs mean fewer jobs for veterans. There is still a stigma surrounding hiring veterans as employees. As veteran entrepreneurs dwindle in numbers, veterans who want to work have fewer opportunities for employment.
Moreover, it also means there will be fewer bosses who will understand the lasting effects of war. The experience leaves PTSD and other psychological wounds that will not heal for a long time. They have specific needs that other workers do not. Despite the soft skills they gained from service that they can apply to work, they are at a disadvantage. However, veteran entrepreneurs know their struggles, can empathize, and hire fellow veterans.
Veteran entrepreneurs should receive the support they need to start their own businesses. They contribute so much to the country. They deserve to get the aid they need to follow their dreams and reach their goals.