According to Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, veterans are 45% more likely to start their own business than non-veterans. In fact, 10% of small businesses in the U.S. are veteran-owned. Attributes like attention to detail, time management and determination that helped veterans succeed in the military can also help them as business owners. But how do you go from boots to business?
Here are 4 tips to get started and, eventually, grow your veteran-owned small business:
1. Formulate your idea and identify its place in the market
Not every veteran-owned business has to be coffee and t-shirts. That said, veterans and military spouses tend to bring unique business ideas to the market that stand out. If you have an unconventional idea for a business that you and the people that you served with would have patronized, give it a shot. While such businesses might have struggled to get started with investments or insurance before, USAA is now offering small business insurance that caters specifically to the unique business ventures of veterans and military spouses. “We see other carriers truly not understanding what a military-owned or spouse-owned small business looks like or means,” noted Larry Williams who leads USAA’s Small Business Insurance Division. “That’s where USAA shows up really strong because we have an appreciation of the types of businesses and operations our members are going into.” There’s nothing wrong with opening a flower or barber shop, but veterans sometimes go into more unique businesses like coffee shops that also sell guns.
2. Use veteran-specific resources
Veterans looking to start a small business, the Office of Veterans Business Development is an excellent resource. Operating under the U.S. Small Business Administration, the OVBD promotes veteran entrepreneurship and helps veterans access special SBA programs. These programs assist both current and future veteran business owners with obtaining capital and preparing for business opportunities. They can also connect veteran-owned businesses with federal procurement and commercial supply chains. Moreover, the federal government tries to award at least 3% of annual federal contracting dollars to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.
3. Develop a network of advisors
Quality guidance and advice are crucial to success as a small business owner. Even Walt Disney turned to his older brother, Roy, to ensure the financial health of the Disney Company. However, connecting with business advisors can be difficult for veterans. “There isn’t a really good support network of advisors helping people know what they need to start a small business and to think through all the different steps that it actually takes,” Williams said. To that end, USAA provides its small business insurance customers with advice to ensure that they have the right coverage for the type and size of their business.
4. Adjust as you grow
Most small businesses start off as sole proprietorships. However, as operations expand, inventory is built up and employees are brought on, it’s important to scale the business’ insurance accordingly. “Unfortunately, we hear time and time again that small business owners are underinsured just because they didn’t realize that they didn’t have the right policy or the right policy limits and that’s one of the things that we’re trying to make easy for our members,” Williams noted. “Our small business solutions are scalable and we’ll grow with them.” USAA is working to expand its SBI product lineup to offer a full suite of solutions for members. Additionally, a policy through USAA comes with annual checkups to evaluate the company’s insurance and ensure that it’s optimized for the company’s size and operations.