According to Forbes, there are more than 3 million veteran-owned business in the United States, employing more than 5.7 million people and representing more than $1.2 trillion in sales. And although veterans make up only 8% of the American population, they represent 30% of all American business owners.
The connection between service and the entrepreneurial spirit is clear; the hard work, discipline, dedication, and integrity prioritized in the branches of service offer invaluable core values for business. The term “vetrepreneur” seems perfectly coined, as veterans are twice as likely to start their own businesses compared to the general population.
CNN Money recently published a list of top veteran owned businesses (VOBs), highlighting the fact that VOBs fills needs in a wide spectrum of businesses.
- 24 Hour Fitness, led by Carl Liebert III (Navy)
- 7-Eleven, led by Joe DePinto, (Army)
- Casey’s General Stores, led by Robert Myers (Army)
- FedEx, founded and led by Frederick Smith (Marines)
- General Motors, led by Daniel Akerson, (Navy)
- Johnson & Johnson, led by Alex Gorsky (Army)
- Lockheed Martin, led by Robert Stevens (Marines)
- Procter & Gamble, led by Robert McDonald (Army)
- USAA, led by Josue Robles (Army)
- Verizon Communications, led by Lowell McAdam (Navy)
How Veteran Businesses are Started
As more veterans return to civilian life, sites like veteranownedbusiness.com help support smaller local businesses by hosting a free database of more than 23,000 VOBs. Many of these companies offer discounts or employment opportunities for veterans, and the site can be searched by state or by service. The site also contains numerous resource sections for veterans, including state-specific VA locations, help for topics like PTSD, veteran-owned business “badges” for company websites, and branch-specific tributes.
The National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA) similarly has an extensive database of companies housed under a marketplace called “Buy Veteran.” NaVOBA states that 70% of Americans would indeed prefer to buy from a veteran, feeling a debt of gratitude to veterans and looking for ways to support them after their service. Its online collection of VOBs with profiles and reviews helps meet this need, making it easy for the general public and other veterans to find local VOBs to support with their purchasing power. NaVOBA also spends a significant amount of time and energy holding the U.S. federal government accountable for attaining the mandated 3% of federal contract dollars to be awarded to service-disabled, veteran-owned businesses.
Investors are also noticing the connection between veterans and successful businesses, even sparking specific events in cities like Boston and D.C. geared at connecting veterans with angel investors. Other events, hosted by companies like Vets in Tech, focus on connecting not only investors, but other business owners who can offer mentoring, networking, and employment opportunities to vets. Many financial institutions also offer special funding and rates to help veterans get their businesses up and running as easily as possible, recognizing the connection between military service and successful businesses.
How you can Support Veteran Owned Businesses
An additional way to support VOBs is to do business with companies that use them as key suppliers. NaVOBA annually releases lists of these businesses, noting that since 2007, the number of Fortune 1000 companies seeking veteran-owned suppliers has grown by more than 60%. This year’s list of non-defense companies best utilizing veteran-owned suppliers included:
- ConAgra Foods
- General Motors
- Johnson & Johnson,
- JPMorgan Chase
- Pacific Gas & Electric
- Sanofi US
Supporting VOBs with your purchases is a win-win situation for all involved. Veterans benefit from the sales and revenue, while consumers can feel that they are, in a small way, helping say thank you to U.S. veterans. Giving a VOB your business also increases the likelihood of you receiving high-quality service and results, while also helping set the stage for more vetreprenuers looking for ways to bring their business ideas to fruition.
Written by: Casey Kelly-Barton