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Veterans and Military Spouses are Natural Entrepreneurs

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It’s National Small Business Week and Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) just released the 2021 National Survey of Military Affiliated Entrepreneurs. The survey asked more than 2,000 veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs in the U.S. about their experiences to understand the economic, political and socio-cultural barriers to entrepreneurship for military-affiliated individuals.

The survey found that:

  • Veterans and military spouses are natural entrepreneurs: Military-connected people have characteristics that make them fantastic business owners – good decision-making in chaotic environments, confidence in ability and skills, independence, high self-efficacy, and more. Starting a business of their own is also helpful to transitioning and helping military-connected people find a purpose after service. 56% of respondents indicated that entrepreneurship was helpful in finding a purpose after military, and 47% indicated that entrepreneurship made their transition easier.
  • 2+ years into the pandemic, military-connected business owners survived – but not without challenges: 87% of veteran entrepreneurs were able to successfully adapt their business during the pandemic, with 56% saying they identified additional opportunities for their business. Still, the pandemic has been difficult on business owners, with 64% reporting that they lost business due to the pandemic. Similar to many non-veteran owned businesses, a top challenge through the pandemic has been finding good employees, likely fueled by the Great Resignation. Compared to 2020, veteran entrepreneurs reported a nearly 10% increase in finding good employees as a barrier to entrepreneurship.
  • Access to capital is everything to veteran and military spouse business owners: The top barrier in pursuing or achieving business goals is access to capital, with 49% of respondents rating it as a top challenge. More than half or respondents said that their business’ financial condition causes them some stress or a great deal of stress. While 96% of respondents required initial start-up capital for their business and 92% needed funding to expand or grow, 27% reported they were not able to secure any funding at all. Still, the past year did generate some positive results: respondents were 13.4% less likely to rank “lack of financing” as a top challenge, compared to 2020’s survey.


The survey was conducted by Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and the full data set is available here.

Veteran business owner stock image by Luis Molinero/Shutterstock

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