Veterans in business

According to an article in slate.com fewer veterans are becoming entrepreneurs. Last century, a stunning 49.7 percent of World War II vets went on to own or operate a business, according to Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families. So far, only 4.5 percent of the more than 3.6 million people who have served in the U.S. military since September 11, 2001, have launched a company, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This has a large impact on the US economy. The average small business employs two people which means there’s a giant gap in potential job market. To give you a better idea, if this generation were creating businesses at a rate closer to those who came home after Korea, they’d have started about 1.4 million companies already, and that would have created about 2.8 million jobs.

Some have pointed to the lack of in-service mentorship for current service members, while others have said that coming home and starting a business is not as easy as getting a job and settling. Let’s not forget that there have also been drastic changes in the economy and we live in a different time altogether. A returning soldier used to be able to easily segue from running a platoon to running an assembly line and then move up through management, along the way gaining the necessary skills to start a business. Those manufacturing jobs have mostly vanished, eliminating what was once an important bridge from the military to the civilian world.

And while vets are generally more capable and entrepreneurial than your average Joe, another thing that has changed is that the current version of the GI Bill no longer provides access to low-interest loans to start a business, while the older version of the Bill did have that access.

Another major difference is that in WWII era, there was a draft, pulling from all segments of society, while today with the all-volunteer armed forces, those signing up are far more likely to be members of a military family, making it more difficult for returning vets to create new inroads and networks outside of that group.

And yet American Veterans are overcoming the difficult situations and starting businesses of their own, even if at a lower rate than before. Especially women. Women vets are starting businesses at rates that far outstrip those of their male peers, civilian and former military alike. Between 2007 and 2012, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, the number of women veteran-owned companies almost quadrupled, to about 383,000 from just 97,000. In 2008, 2.5 percent of veteran business owners were women; by 2012, that number had climbed to 4.4 percent.

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