Each year, 250,000 service members make the transition from military service to civilian life.
Veterans over-index in entrepreneurship. In fact, nine percent of all U.S. firms are owned by veterans. More than 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses employ more than 5.8 million individuals. About one quarter of veterans say they are interested in starting or buying their own business. So, we know that providing greater access and opportunity to these veteran-owned small businesses will help them grow and create jobs.
The U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has numerous programs in place specifically designed to support our veterans. Financing opportunities exist for veterans who are establishing or expanding their small business, including microloans and Patriot Express loans. Last year, nationally, we approved more than 4,300 loans to veterans totaling $1.5 billion. And, the Seattle District office approved 110 loans to veterans totaling more than $53 million. Thousands of military reservists and veterans have also received entrepreneurship training and business counseling through SBA-affiliated partnerships. And, within the last two years, SBA worked with contracting officers to deliver the highest-ever percentage of federal contracts to service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses, totaling $10.4 billion.
But we can do more. That’s why the SBA launched Operation Boots to Business: From Service to Startup to help transitioning service members and veterans become entrepreneurs and create jobs.
Operation Boots to Business will build on SBA’s role as a leader in entrepreneurship training. SBA will help connect veterans with its resource partner network – Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), SCORE, and Veterans Business Opportunity Centers (VBOCs) – for support throughout the lifecycle of their new businesses.
Through its ongoing collaboration with Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), SBA will also provide comprehensive training materials specifically geared toward transitioning service members.
The pilot program is currently underway with the Marine Corps at four locations-- Quantico, Vir.; Cherry Point, NC; Camp Pendleton, Calif.; and Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif. By next year we plan to expand to all branches of the military. The initiative includes three phases of instruction: a short introductory video on entrepreneurship; an in-person classroom training on entrepreneurship; and an in-depth, online, 8-week entrepreneurship course that leads to the creation of a business plan.
Veterans are natural entrepreneurs, already possessing the experience and leadership skills to start businesses and create jobs. Boots to Business is an opportunity to assist our local veterans channel these skills and ultimately help them to create an economy built to last. For more information on the Boots to Business training program, and how to take part as a transitioning service member, please visit www.sba.gov/bootstobusiness.
Calvin Goings is assistant associate administrator for the United States Small Business Administration (SBA).