According to the Small Business Association, over 99% of America's businesses are small businesses and employ nearly half of U.S. employees. Nearly 10% of all U.S. businesses are majority-owned by veterans.
In normal economic times, only half of small businesses survive their first five years. In fragile economic times, that number is much higher.
There has been a lot of attention on small businesses lately, but those of us in the military community need to take extra steps to support veteran-owned businesses specifically. We can't let out veteran entrepreneurs fail during these months. It is not only about supporting one or two businesses, but the entire cycle of veteran employment – veteran-owned businesses are 30% more likely to employ other veterans.
Here are five ways to support veteran entrepreneurs right now:
1. Shop veteran.
Call your local USO and ask if they know any veteran-owned businesses in the area. Veteranownedbusiness.com has a database of businesses by category and state. The American Veteran Owned Business Association also has a list. Consider these businesses not just for your personal needs, but for your business's needs as well. A lot of these businesses are B2B (business to business) instead of B2C (business to consumer).
2. Don’t forget about military spouses.
A lot of active-duty servicemembers have spouses who are business owners, and they count on that money to make ends meet. Use your military network (Facebook groups, email list, etc.) to ask around about spouse businesses that might be struggling. This includes artists and creators who have lost their source of income. You can find them through the Military Spouse Fine Artists Network.
3. Spread the word.
Use your social media to spread the word about supporting small veteran-owned businesses. I have had great success getting the word out about businesses I like using Nextdoor, a local neighborhood app where neighbors can recommend services and businesses. If you find a business you like, mention them by name specifically.
4. Buy gift cards.
A lot of restaurants and gyms are owned by veterans or military spouses, and they're among the businesses struggling the most right now. Do an online search or ask around to see if any of them are selling gift cards for future use. What they need most of all is a cash influx to sustain them right now.
5. Identify nonprofits that are investing in veteran entrepreneurs.
The PenFed Foundation, for example, has a Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program that invests in veteran-owned businesses. VetFran support veterans in franchising. Warrior Rising was founded by combat vets and provides grants and mentorship to veteran entrepreneurs. All of these nonprofits count on the support of donors to help the veteran community.
6. Offer your mentorship.
If you are a business owner or have experience in business consulting, volunteer your time. You can become a mentor to a veteran-owned business through Warrior Rising, ementorprogram.org, or SCORE.
While active-duty military are fortunate to have a steady paycheck and healthcare right now, many reservists, veterans and spouses don't. The military and veteran communities have to support each other. Do what you can to find someone you can help during this time. Even if you can only give $20 or 20 minutes of your time, it's worth it.