As we approach Veterans Day, it’s important to honor the contributions of service members and veterans to our safety and security; and, to acknowledge the skills and perspective veteran-owned small businesses bring to the business world.
Nearly one in 10 small businesses is owned by a veteran. Collectively, they contribute more than $1 trillion to our nation’s economy. In fact, as we navigate through an unprecedented economic environment, the experience veterans bring from their military service greatly benefits our ability to weather the storm and persist.
This is due to the adaptability veteran-owned small business owners bring from their service. Similar to many situations encountered in military service, we are in a rapidly moving and changing environment. In military service, the situation can quickly change, and service members need to immediately access the situation and change course to survive. The same is true for many small business owners who find themselves in a similar unfamiliar environment.
While veterans’ ability to adapt serves them well in business, it does not mean they need to go about it alone. The same way that veterans relied on their unit to collectively problem-solve and accomplish their mission, veteran-owned small business owners have a network of organizations dedicated to the success of their business.
As a veteran [Steve] who ran businesses without SBA help, I understand the great need for the SBA and its resource partners. I was not as successful in my businesses as I could have been. So I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was four years ago when I became employed by the Region X Veterans Business Outreach Center and learned about the training and coaching available to veterans, their spouses and other eligible persons.
Moreover, I was very pleased to learn the Department of Defense upped the transition program since I separated. When I left the service, transition training for exiting service members was almost a full day. Now, it is longer to include various tracks, including the two-day introduction to entrepreneurship course we offer — called Boots to Business — that both service members and spouses can take. In fact, in Fiscal Year 2020 alone, there were more than 21,000 participants in the Boots to Business program, an all-time record.
The U.S. Small Business Administration and Veterans Business Outreach Center team up to support veterans in Oregon at every stage of their business life cycle. Whether it’s one-on-one business advising, webinars on various business topics, access to financing — like the approximately $835 million in SBA loans that went to veterans nationwide during Fiscal Year 2020 or the two-day Boots to Business program — our organizations work together to empower veterans, active duty service members and military spouses to live the American Dream of business ownership.
Take Farm Unlimited in North Bend, Oregon, for example. This 100% veteran-owned firm provides technical forestry consulting services to small and large timberland owners across Oregon. Owner Eric Farm started working with a VBOC coach in 2016 and continues to work with his coach today. He recently entered the annual Impact Pitch competition hosted by VBOC host organization Business Impact NW and won both the Early Stage and Business Model awards. These awards will allow Farm Unlimited to continue supporting its staff and provide meaningful employment opportunities for professionals in rural southwest Oregon.
This is just one example of the veteran-owned businesses we get the privilege to support. Veterans have the drive, passion and dedication needed to run businesses successfully, so long as they build a good team of business coaches and mentors who “have their six.”
Instead of trying to reverse course and go back to the way things used to be, small business owners need to be forward-thinking. Veteran-owned small businesses are a shining example of how to stay focused on the mission ahead and nimbly pivot to achieve success of that goal.
Veterans know how to adapt to changing times and circumstances and stand a strong chance of success and survival in these times based on the skills and characteristics learned and possess from serving in the military. These are lessons and attributes we can all learn from veteran-owned small businesses in these changing times.
As we look forward, the SBA and VBOC are proud to serve our state’s veteran-owned small businesses toward a successful “mission accomplished.”