How this epic military startup supports veteran entrepreneurs
In 1922, when 25 Army officers met in San Antonio and decided to insure each other's vehicles, they couldn't have imagined that their tiny company would one day serve millions of members and become a fully-integrated financial services organization. In the 100 years since, USAA has remained at the forefront of military community support, from banking to loans to insurance and beyond.
It’s also clear for any USAA member who has had to call customer service how committed the company is to truly providing support to the military community—and nowhere is that truer than with USAA Small Business Insurance. USAA is the military startup of all startups, giving the company firsthand knowledge of the particular needs and innovative spirit of military veterans and their spouses.
Today, there are over 2 million small businesses owned by veterans, employing over 5.5 million Americans. Their companies are a thriving part of the American economy with over $1.3 trillion in sales. They accomplish this while overcoming obstacles that other business owners never know about. Between military service members transitioning to their civilian careers or their spouses building businesses through deployments, PCSing, remote living locations, and more, the military community faces certain challenges that average Americans don’t.
But if you ask Larry Williams, the Head of P&C New Business Ventures & Innovation for USAA, military entrepreneurs are not defined by the challenges they overcome, instead, they boast crucial traits such as discipline, resilience and adaptability that contribute to business success.
In Williams’ experience, military spouses themselves are often the most passionate business owners. “For folks currently serving or PCSing across the country, it becomes very difficult for their spouse to hold down a job due to moving every couple of months or years," Williams said. "Many of them end up starting a small business because it’s transferable to new cities, states and countries.” Oftentimes, the passion of the military spouses even motivates the veterans themselves toward launching their own businesses.
This kind of scenario is exactly why a company like USAA is such a great advocate for service members and their families. They understand the nuances of military life. In addition to providing services and products for the military community, USAA also employs veterans at a high rate, literally inviting them to join the company and continue to help give back to the community they’re a part of.
“I have been so impressed the past few years with how close the military entrepreneur community is—both veterans and spouses,” Williams shared. “We’ve had opportunities to partner with organizations and attend events, and even connect with other veterans and spouse entrepreneurs on LinkedIn, and it’s been incredible to see how tight that community is and the willingness they have to see each other succeed.”
USAA advocates for military business owners as a way of honoring their service and sacrifices but it’s never been a hard sell for the company. It’s clear from talking with Williams how impressed he is with veterans and military spouses, as well as how proud he is to support their small businesses.
“I’ve seen so much passion and drive from veterans and their spouses, as well as a commitment to each other,” Williams observed. “I think it’s similar to their time in service, which was all about supporting each other to protect a bigger cause. They protected the American Dream during service and now they get to become part of it.”