Following a year-long tour at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida, that included riding out Hurricane Michael in 2018, Army National Guardsman, Lt. Col. Chris Dillon (Retired), was planning the next chapter for himself and his wife, Holly. Dillon had served on active duty in the U.S. Air Force for nearly 10 years and in the Florida Army National Guard for 22 years, and he wanted to leverage his insights, insurance sales experience and passion for helping others into a business he could call his own. Growing up in Florida, Dillon saw his fair share of powerful storms and the damage ensued, and the destruction he witnessed from Michael as well as in his work in the National Guard solidified his decision to use his skills and follow his dreams to open his own business.
Some veterans prefer to go to work for a company or organization, so getting a so-called traditional job may be a good fit. But for others, like Dillon, getting out of the service is an opportunity to start over, follow your passions and do what you’ve always wanted to do. Owning your own business is an opportunity to truly take command—of your very own unit and more importantly, to take command of your life.
If you’re in the military and are starting to ponder on what you may want to do when you exit the service or are a veteran who is ready to make a change right now, owning your own business may be a next step worth considering, and you wouldn’t be alone. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, veterans are more likely to be self-employed and there is about one veteran-owned firm for every 10 veterans. That's around 2.4 million businesses.
Why do veterans make good business owners?
While qualities like grit may be difficult to pinpoint, most veterans have successfully overcome difficult circumstances and many are even battle-tested. As a result of their training and experiences, they carry certain skills from their time in service that transcend well to the civilian sector and specifically to business ownership. Veterans are:
- Able to think/react quickly and under pressure
Resources to help veterans start a business
Many resources and programs exist to assist veterans with launching their own business.
- The Small Business Administration is a great resource for veterans across the U.S. The SBA offers training programs, funding opportunities and more.
- Veterans Business Outreach Centers are located throughout the country to provide local assistance to veterans who want to open a small business. The program offers business plan workshops, concept assessments, mentorship and training for eligible veterans.
- SBA’s Lender Match tool connects veterans with lenders. SBA makes special consideration for veterans through several programs. The Veterans Advantage Guaranteed Loan provides fee-relief on small-dollar SBA guaranteed loans to help veterans access capital to start businesses.
- SBA offers several training programs such as Boots to Business, and programs for specific populations, such as women and service-disabled veterans.
- SBA also offers programs that help veteran-owned small businesses access federal contract awards and to help military spouses.
- Project Transition USA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping transitioning U.S. military service members and their dependents find meaningful and rewarding new careers in the civilian world by leveraging LinkedIn and the power of networking.
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) sets aside a sizable portion of its contracts for veteran-owned small businesses. Visit VA.gov to learn how to register a business as a veteran-owned small business and more.
- SCORE is a nonprofit organization that helps small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Dillon shared that his SCORE mentor connected him with a lender that provides VA SBA loans.
- Some states offer programs to connect veterans with programs to help them start a business. For example, Veterans Florida has a team dedicated to helping veterans connect with resources and get the training they need to fulfill their dreams of entrepreneurship.
“The state of Florida created Veterans Florida in 2015 to help veterans gain post-service opportunities and to attract veterans to Florida,” said Veterans Florida Executive Director, Joe Marino, who is a U.S. Army veteran. “From the beginning, one of the key areas of our focus has been to empower veterans who want to become business owners by connecting them with resources to help them succeed in their business venture. We’ve served more than 1,800 veterans through our entrepreneurship programs and helped 277 veterans open their own business. If you’re a Florida veteran and are thinking about opening your own business, visit VeteransFlorida.org to learn more about how we can help you.”
Why franchising makes sense for veterans
Franchisors deem veterans as excellent franchisees and many offer discounts and benefits specifically for veterans, and franchising is a great way for veterans to go into business for themselves with the assistance and camaraderie from experts. Some benefits of opening a franchise are:
- Established franchisors have best practices, processes and procedures to follow (similar to field manuals), so franchisees don’t have to figure it out on their own
- Franchisees enjoy brand recognition by being a part of the franchise brand
- Franchisees benefit from networking with other franchisees in the company for best practices, tips and solutions
- Franchisees benefit from support, such as training, offered by franchisors
- Some franchisors offer options for franchising, some of which allow you to start your own business at a low cost. For example, Brightway Insurance introduced a lower-cost franchise model in 2020 wherein franchisees can open a business and have it up and running with a total investment of less than $30,000
Franchising resources for veterans
- Small Business Administration - SBA.gov
- SCORE – SCORE.org
- VetFran - VetFran.org
- Project Transition USA - ProjectTransitionUSA.com
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – VA.gov
National Veterans Small Business Week celebrated Nov. 1 – 5, this year, is a great opportunity to recognize and patron veterans-owned businesses and to learn more about opening a veteran-owned business.
Why Veterans Make Great Entrepreneurs
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