With Veteran’s Day approaching, it’s time to look at how much our veterans have done for our country. Their contributions include not only military service but economic development, too. In 2013, veterans owned roughly 9% of the country’s businesses and generated more than $1.2 trillion in sales.
Among the 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses in the US, some trends stand out. Women with military service outpace every other group in terms of business ownership, according to the National Women’s Business Council, which found the number of businesses owned by female veterans increased by nearly 300% from 2007 to 2015.
And though age discrimination is still a problem for many seniors in the workforce, seniors dominate the veteran-owned business landscape. According to a 2013 survey by CreditDonkey, three-quarters of all vets who own businesses are 55 or older. More than a third are 65 or older.
Outstanding veteran business owners
Many of these businesses have been recognized for their outstanding achievements. Each year, the National Veteran-Owned Business Association and USAA name the Vetrepreneur of the Year. Among past winners are:
- Army veteran and San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt, whose Holt Cat is the leading Caterpillar heavy equipment distributor in South Texas
- Army Reserve veteran Louisa Long Jaffe, CEO of systems-engineering contractor TAPE
- Marine Corps veteran Roger Reyes, owner of SDV Recon, a military aircraft and maritime parts and equipment contractor
Silicon Valley is betting on tech-related startups run by veterans. Non-profit California startup accelerator Vet-Tech has helped more than 50 veteran-owned businesses raise startup capital and get training in startup management. Its portfolio includes online commodities trading platform BidHarvest, LivGro vegetarian meal delivery, and CleanWafer, which makes silicon wafers using an inexpensive eco-friendly process.
How to find veteran-owned small businesses
Smaller businesses run by vets strengthen and enrich our communities, too. Next time you’re at the local coffee shop or take your car to the garage, ask if the owner is a veteran. You may be surprised by how many local businesses are run by vets.
If you’re searching for veteran-owned businesses to patronize, there are several ways to find them. Veteran Owned Business offers a directory of more than 23,000 businesses nationwide. It’s searchable by state and by business type. Of course, that’s just a fraction of the VOBs out there. The National Veteran-Owned Business Association is currently revamping its national database.
You can use Yelp or another local business directory site to search for veteran-owned establishments in your area. Running searches such as “veteran-owned,” “veteran-owned restaurant,” and “veteran-owned salon” for my town, I turned up vet-owned businesses including brake repair shops, a mobile spray-tan service, a popular gourmet kosher hot-dog stand, a VIP security and bodyguard service, and a solar-electric energy contractor.
For veterans who want to start or grow their own business
The Small Business Administration has free resources for veterans and military spouses who want to launch or grow a business. Along with the basics on writing a business plan, finding funding, and handling taxes, the SBA tells vets how to apply for special designations such as Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business that can lead to more opportunities to win government contracts.
Another resource is the National Veteran-Owned Business Association, which advocates for veteran-owned businesses and conducts outreach to all levels of government and the private sector. Free resources include a checklist for prospective franchise owners and a how-to guide on government contract bidding.