At a recent event that I attended for women-business owners, one the speakers asked the veterans in the audience to please stand up. The audience began to clap as these women and men rose from their seats. As I looked around the room, I was astonished and humbled by the number of women-veteran entrepreneurs. Not only do I respect these women for their commitment to protecting our country, but my admiration was intensified by the fact that they continue to serve the United States by reinvesting and devoting themselves to the future, not through military service but through entrepreneurship.
Let’s start with the numbers: As of 2013, according to Department of Veterans Affairs, 9 percent of all veterans are women. Additionally, 18 percent of all National Guard and Reserve military are women. In regards to active duty military, 15 percent are women.As of 2014, women veterans totaled 2,035,213.What’s more, their presence is only growing. Although it is projected that from 2013 to 2043, the veteran population will decrease from over 21 million to less than 15 million, the projected percentage of women veterans is said to increase from 9 percent to over 16 percent for the same time period.
As the presence of women in the military has rose steadily so has their presence as entrepreneurs. According to the Survey of Business Owners (SBO), as of 2012, there 384,548 veteran women-owned businesses in the U.S. this reflects an astonishing growth of 296.0 percent since 2007. Additionally, in 2007, 2.0 percent of veteran businesses were owned by women while 96.0 percent were owned by men. This grew to 15.2 percent and 84.8 percent respectively. They were also responsible for nearly 20 billion in receipts in 2012 – an increase of 26.3 percent since 2007.
These numbers are exciting, but it is important to note that gendered data on veteran entrepreneurs is still lacking. Without in-depth data into the characteristics of businesses, it will be difficult to ascertain their true economic impact.
This drastic growth in women-veteran entrepreneurs could be a result of many factors. First, the increased enrollment of women in the military post-9/11 has resulted in more women veterans, many of whom have the desire and talents to start new enterprises. Second, there are improved access to resources that support veteran entrepreneurs such as SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD), the Syracuse’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE), veteran-owned businesses is the Women Veteran Entrepreneur Corps (WVEC), and Veteran Women Business Centers (WVBC) across the country. Third, the increased rate of businesses could be a result of necessity entrepreneurship, or entrepreneurship as a means out of poverty. Many women veterans face hardships such as high levels of unemployment, homelessness, trauma or mental illness, and difficulty transitioning back into civilian life. These women may see entrepreneurship as a means to prosper on their own terms by being their own boss.
Veteran women entrepreneurs possess traits that make them ideal business owners. Due to military training and knowledge, veterans are dependable, conditioned to make hard decisions, have integrity, take initiative and can adapt easily to challenging and evolving situations. All characteristics of a successful business owner. In order to sustain this momentum – we need increased data and supports. It is essential that stakeholders strengthen their efforts to collect data and develop sound research on veteran business owners. Gendered veteran business owner data should be collected on the reasons for starting a business, the nascent stage of business development and additional characteristics that may help us further understand this specific ecosystem. Finally, we must increase the number of and awareness of programs that are geared towards veteran entrepreneurs, specifically women. This will provide veteran women-business owners with the necessary tools and resources to establish and grow their business. As a nation, it is our duty to empower women-veterans, who have sound and original business ideas, with the means to develop and expand their business.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. (2011). Veteran Population.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. “Women Veterans Population.” 2015.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. “Projected Veteran Population 2013 to 2043” Prepared by the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. 2014.
NWBC analysis of the 2012 Survey of Business Owners
Article originally posted on NWBC website https://www.nwbc.gov/2015/11/