THE BLOG
07/22/2015 09:44 am ET | Updated Jul 22, 2016

Business Resources for Veterans and Active Duty Military Entrepreneurs

I believe strongly that when you have prepared for and experienced combat, you are more than prepared with the guts, determination and resourcefulness to launch your own business initiative. Veterans seem to agree. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), veterans are 45% more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans. Additionally nearly 1 in 10 small businesses are veteran owned, employing 5.8 million people and generating more than $1 trillion in revenue.

However, while these brave men and women who have served their countries may possess many of the qualities to become great entrepreneurs, there are still resources and expertise they need to make a new business work. With more than 1 million men and women on active duty expected to return to civilian life in the next five years and a higher unemployment rate amongst younger veterans than nationally, it is more critical than ever to help them succeed.

Companies like Microsoft are leading the charge. "It's evident that America's veterans are strong contributors to our economy. Microsoft is proud to help veterans build and grow thriving businesses as they transition from military service," said Cindy Bates, Vice President Microsoft U.S. SMB. "It's part of our corporate responsibility to assist in job creation by providing access to training, counseling and mentoring to help veterans embrace their entrepreneurial spirit and grow a small business."

The SBA Boots to Business and ReBoot Programs

According to Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), "Each year, more than 250,000 service members transition out of the armed forces. Our Boots to Business program allows them to continue to serve their country as job creators. In fact, on my very first day at the SBA...I met with a group of these heroes who've started their own businesses. And we've expanded Boots To Business by creating ReBoot, for veterans who already made the transition to civilian life but later decide to pursue entrepreneurship."

More on Boots to Business can be found here.

The Tech Connection

Some Active Duty military members may not know entirely what they want to do once they transition out of the military, but they know that technology skills will likely come in handy. To garner these distinct skills and related careers in technology, many are now exploring the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA). The 16-week full-time education training course readies active duty service members transitioning out of the military for STEM careers in the IT industry.

Coursework includes technical training, certification testing, practical exercises, class project and mentoring which is covered under the DOD's Tuition Assistance (TA) benefit and/or Veterans Affairs GI Bill. Each cohort's Applied Skills Learning Paths - from security administrator, software developer, database and BI Administer to cloud administrator - produce in-demand skills that could be put to use in a large company or one that is just starting out.

"We already know that Veterans possess many of the hard work, strategic, problem solving skills to be successful," said Chris Cortez, Vice President of Microsoft Military Affairs. "Whether they choose to start their own business or work for a large company, we want to support their desire to add new technology skills that they can turn into a long-lasting civilian career."

Business Incubators

From location based incubators like 1776 and 1871 and incubator programs like TechStars, there are a number of organizations dedicated to helping entrepreneurs succeed.

For example, 1776- a global incubator and seed fund helping startups transform industries that impact millions of lives every day--education, energy & sustainability, health, transportation and cities - helps entrepreneurs broadly, but also understands the importance of veteran entrepreneurs.

"Veteran-owned business are among the most successful group of SMBs," says Donna Harris, Founder of 1776. The group has put their money where their mouth is, helping fund veteran-owned companies like Ridescout and ID.me."

Traditional Investors

In a recent discussion with Kevin O'Leary, also known as The Shark Tank's "Mr. Wonderful", he has noted that he has invested in a number of veteran-owned businesses because military training emphasizes many of the same traits that make great entrepreneurs. "Specifically, military veterans have the three Ds: desire, drive, and determination", says O'Leary, who likens business to being- in its own way- a battlefield. "In my experience," he says, "entrepreneurs who are in the military or have been in the past are able to problem solve their way through the business battle field with much more ease than most."

O'Leary's portfolio includes Bottle Breacher founded by a former SEAL and Ruck Pack founded by a former marine. This means that veterans should emphasize their training and skills when pitching to investors, especially those who have supported veteran and active-military- owned businesses in the past.