Washington, D.C.— Today, the House Small Business Committee under Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) held a hearing highlighting the role of veteran-owned businesses in the American economy and the challenges aspiring veteran entrepreneurs face when transitioning to civilian life.
“As members of this committee know, starting a small business isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes courage, wits, and leadership to achieve the American dream of owning a successful enterprise. And that is precisely why the men and women that serve our country in the military are naturally suited to become entrepreneurs,” said Chairwoman Velázquez. “These veteran-owned businesses play a key role in supporting the American economy and communities across the country. Our country stands to benefit immensely by making it as easy as possible for veterans to start and run their businesses.”
Former service members own approximately 1.8 million businesses across the United States, employ millions of workers, and are responsible for over $1 trillion in revenue. Despite the success of these businesses, veteran self-employment rates declined from 16 percent in 1998 to 11 percent in 2018. Veterans routinely cite issues such as inability to access to capital, lack of technical assistance opportunities, and trouble finding mentors as obstacles to starting a business.
During the hearing, veterans and entrepreneurship experts testified on the challenges present in transitioning from the military to life as a small business owner. Members also discussed policies to strengthen Small Business Administration programs that assist veterans.
“As we emerge from the COVID health emergency – the first, best use of our resources should be to ensure that those making the transition from military to civilian life are prepared, supported, and proactively connected to the communities where they will live, work, and raise their families,” said Dr. Michael Haynie, Executive Director of the Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families in Syracuse, NY. “Based on research and practical experience, I have suggested here that expanded support for military-connected business ownership resources and training programs is positioned to advance that objective.”
“The Florida VBOC has a unique strength in assisting veterans and military spouses by being competitive in government contracting at the Federal, State, and local level as well as bidding on and winning subcontracts to prime contractors,” said Mr. Brenton Peacock, Director of Florida Veterans Business Outreach Center at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, FL. “During the current performance period, veterans who were assisted by the Florida VBOC office have been awarded three-hundred-twenty-two prime contracts totaling three-hundred and twenty-nine million -five-hundred thousand dollars.”
“One area of particular concern as a black woman that is a service-disabled veteran is the fight to access capital. Women account for only 16% of conventional small business loans and receive only 4% of all commercial loan dollars,” said Laurie Sayles, President & Chief Executive Officer of Civility Management Solutions in Greenbelt, MD. “While I initially tried to work with large banks, I have given up. Despite meeting all of their extensive document requests and criteria, after over 2 months of waiting, they decided to not offer me a loan. As many women, veterans and entrepreneurs of color do, I have sought alternative lenders for capital.”