Opinion: Veteran-owned businesses are an economic powerhouse
By Dawn Golik
Along the coast and across the country, businesses owned by former military members are an economic powerhouse. There are more than 1.76 million veteran-owned businesses in the United States. They employ nearly 5.3 million workers, with an annual payroll exceeding $232 million. Their approximately $1 trillion dollars in annual sales & receipts has a huge impact on our nation’s economy.
Like all successful missions, small business ownership starts with preparation and readiness. That’s why during this year’s National Veteran Small Business Week (Oct. 31–Nov. 4) the Small Business Administration offices serving the Pacific Coast, and our partners are working to help this region’s heroes including veterans, service members, National Guard and reserve members and military spouses become entrepreneurs and small business owners.
After years of service to their country, transitioning military members may wonder what’s next for them as they settle back into civilian life. The SBA’s District Offices, Veteran Business Outreach Centers, and the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program work at military installations around the region providing the Boots to Business Program, an intensive two-day training for transitioning service members.
Since the program’s inception in 2013, Boots to Business has trained and graduated more than 165,000 service members, veterans, National Guard and reserve members, and military spouses. Around California, the SBA hosts B2B sessions at numerous military installations. Using an interactive curriculum, Boots to Business introduces service members to the fundamentals of business ownership and connects them with local resource partners such as Veteran Business Outreach Centers, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and SCORE for additional support as they get their businesses started.
Veterans can face barriers to accessing entrepreneurial assistance with frequent relocations or while working to adapt their military skills to civilian life. Through the SBA’s national network of resource partner agencies, free counseling, training, mentoring, and technical assistance with getting a small business started up or scaling it up is always available. Military members can visit the SBA webpage at sba.gov and click the “Local Assistance” tab to connected with the SBA partner agencies closest to them.
Acquiring capital is a key skill that successful veteran business owners need. Through a network of SBA lenders around the Central Coast, veteran and military owned small businesses can find a variety of loans to help get their small business going and keep it growing. For businesses that may not yet have a banking relationship for their company, the SBA’s Lender Match tool can connect them with lenders who may be able to provide capital.
In addition to counseling and capital, contracting is another area where the SBA can assist Veteran entrepreneurs. Companies owned by service-disabled veterans can get a significant advantage over their competition when bidding on government work. The federal government’s goal is to annually award 3 percent of all federal contracts to service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. In 2021, these businesses received 4.41 percent of all federal contracting dollars. Studies show that 40% of veteran-owned firms are in construction, professional, scientific or technical services which are industries in high demand for government work.
Building a successful small business requires hard work and dedication – traits that are in no short supply among the Pacific Coast region’s thousands of service members, veterans, and military spouses. Focus, effort, and grit – combined with support from the many organizations which serve veterans, including the SBA, Veteran Business Outreach Centers, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and SCORE– helps military members launch and maintain profitable companies. Successful business ownership is lifechanging – for veterans, their families, customers and the community.
During National Veteran Small Business Week and every day of the year, the SBA – along with our network of lenders and resource partner agencies – are here to support military members and their families as they start up, scale up, and succeed as small business owners, helping heroes become entrepreneurs.
• Dawn Golik is director of the Fresno SBA District, serving the 15 counties of California’s San Joaquin Valley and Central Coast, including San Luis Obispo.