Veterans: Good Entrepreneurs and Employees

Veterans Day celebrates the sacrifices of those who have served in the military. These veterans need meaningful work when transitioning to society. Entrepreneurship can provide opportunities for veterans to own or work for businesses.

Veterans have specific issues finding work when they return to civilian life. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs said 95% of veterans cannot live on their military pension alone and must look for other sources of income. More than 53% of vets experience an extended period of unemployment.

Vets have difficulties finding work in part because they have not been instructed on how to search for a job in the private sector. It is not unusual for many of them to feel defeated and give up looking for a job. Also, veterans find it difficult to find employers with leadership styles and work ethics similar to what they experienced in the military.


According to the Small Business Administration (SBA) more than 250,000 service members a year transition to civilian life. Veterans are 45% more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans. The agency estimates that about 2.4 million or 9% of all U.S. small businesses are veteran-owned, representing about $1 trillion in annual sales.

The SBA provides financial assistance and training for veterans wanting to own their own businesses. In 2014 the SBA provided $766 million to over 2,300 veterans to start and operate businesses.

The SBA web site lists two financing programs and five links to sites dedicated to helping vets start and operate their own businesses. One of these assistance programs, Boots to Business, is an entrepreneurial education initiative within the Department of Defense’s revised Training Assistance Program called Transition Goals, Plans, Success.

Boots to Business offers an initial two-day entrepreneurship training program at 165 military installations worldwide. This program is followed by an eight-week online course created by the faculty at Syracuse University. Since its inception in 2013, more than 20,000 service members and their spouses have participated in Boots to Business.

Companies wanting to do business with the government may want to become certified as Veteran-Owned Businesses. Firms that have 51% or more ownership by a vet can apply for this status through VetBiz Registry or The Center for Veterans Enterprise. However, it is not enough for a vet to be an owner in name only. He or she must be in control of management and day-to-day operations of the business.


Big and small companies have initiated programs to hire vets. Starbuck’s is one of the companies that has made a concerted effort to hire vets. CEO Howard Schultz made a commitment to hire 10,000 transitioning veterans and their spouses.

The Marlin Steel Company in Baltimore, Maryland is routinely featured in business publications for having more than 14% of its work force as veterans. The company says it is good business to hire vets because of their honesty, loyalty, and excellent work ethic. Drew Greenblatt, President of Marlin said, “Hiring a veteran, however, is not just a patriotic act. It is a shrewd and profitable business strategy. Veterans contribute extraordinary talents that will grow your company and quickly add value.”

Perry Haan

Dr. Perry Haan is Professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship, and former Dean of the Business School at Tiffin University. He resides in Rocky River and can be reached at 419-618-2867 or

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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 3:43 PM, 11.05.2015