On Veterans Day 2017: Veterans and Entrepreneurship

By at 8 November, 2017, 5:32 pm

by Raymond J. Keating-

Veterans Day arrives on November 11. It’s a day for Americans to show their appreciation for the men and women who have served in the armed forces, and by doing so, put everything on the line in terms of protecting our nation and our freedoms.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are some 18.5 million veterans in the U.S. Breaking the service down by eras, 6.7 million served during the Vietnam War era; and “there were 7.1 million who served during the Gulf War (representing service from August 1990 to present); 768,000 who served in World War II; 1.6 million who served in the Korean War; and 2.4 million who served in peacetime only.”

Taking a look at their economic achievements, the annual median income of male veterans (2016) registered $40,076, which was 13.3 percent higher than the $35,365 for male nonveterans. The disparity in terms of the annual median income for female veterans versus female nonveterans was even larger – a striking 45.8 percent ($34,178 compared to $23,445).

What about entrepreneurship among veterans?

It is significant, as noted by the following:

• An SBA-sponsored study in 2011 found, “that military service is highly correlated with self-employment probability. This confirms the findings of earlier studies that show significant positive effects for military service on the probability of self-employment, and the new study is able to quantify those marginal effects in the range of 45 percent to as high as 88 percent, depending on the data source used in the analysis.”

• As reported by the SBA’s Office of Advocacy, “In 2012, veterans owned 2.5 million businesses, or 9.3% of U.S. firms. About one-fifth of these firms, or 440,000, had paid employees.”

• Among U.S. exporting employer firms in 2014, 16,641 were either fully owned or partially owned by veterans.

• And according to a 2012 SBA Office of Advocacy report, “Overall, 9.0 percent of all businesses of the United States were veteran-owned, but this percentage varied by industry, ranging from a high of 13.2 percent in finance and insurance to a low of 5.2 percent in the accommodation and food services industry. Other industries in which veteran-owned firms had higher than average participation rates included: transportation and warehousing at 12.7 percent; mining, quarrying, oil and gas at 12.4 percent; construction at 11.1 percent; professional, scientific, and technical services at 10.9 percent; and manufacturing at 10.5 percent.”

As for where in the nation are the largest shares of veteran-owned firms, “South Carolina had the largest percentage at 12.9 percent, followed by West Virginia at 12.6 percent, Virginia at 12.4 percent, Tennessee at 11.9 percent, and Alabama at 11.8 percent.”

For good measure, it was noted that veteran business owners tend to be more highly educated: “In 2007, veteran firm owners were about as likely as all owners of respondent firms to have either a bachelor’s or postgraduate degree (44.0 percent of veteran owners compared to 44.9 percent of all owners). But veteran owners were more likely to have post-graduate degrees (20.2 percent vs. 18.5 percent for all owners) and less likely not to have graduated from high school (3.3 percent vs. 5.2 percent for all owners).”

In the end, veterans-turned-entrepreneurs understand service in varying forms. They served the entire nation during their time in the armed forces, and as entrepreneurs, they are serving customers in their respective markets.

Resources for Veteran-Owned Businesses:

SBA’s Veteran-Owned Business Web Portal: Boots to Business Training Program and more.

Vet-Fran: A Strategic Initiative of the International Franchise Association

The Bunker: An Incubator for Veteran-Owned Technology Startups

SCORE: Veteran Fast-Launch Initiative

Veteran Business Resource Center: Transitioning military skills into business success


Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

Keating’s latest book published by SBE Council is titled Unleashing Small Business Through IP:  The Role of Intellectual Property in Driving Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Investment and it is available free on SBE Council’s website here.

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