There are around 16.5 million veterans in the United States, and about 200,000 US service members return home to enter civilian life every year. These men and women have honorably served to help keep America safe, and many return home ready to set out on a new adventure – entrepreneurship.
There are around 2.52 million businesses in the US that are veteran-majority-owned, and 99.9% of them are small businesses. According to the Small Business Administration, those veteran-owned businesses have a combined 5 million employees, generate revenue of $1.14 trillion, and represent over 9% of all US businesses.
It’s easy to see why military veteran entrepreneurs have a significant impact on the overall economy in the US and an even greater impact on their local communities. These small businesses operate in a wide variety of industries, with nearly one-third existing in construction and professional, scientific, and technical services.
Veterans have a long list of valuable traits and characteristics that lend themselves to business ownership; discipline, leadership skills, attention to detail, and perseverance – to name a few.
In honor of those military service members looking to find new ways to use those skills to better their own lives, their families, and their communities, we offer a list of 15 business ideas for veteran entrepreneurs! We will also examine some of the resources and assistance programs in place that can help veterans learn the skills they need to be successful business owners, access funding and mentorships, and more.
15 Business Ideas for Veterans
The biggest part about choosing which small business to open for any entrepreneur is deciding which dream to pursue. It’s like they always say, “Do something you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” Choosing a business idea that will best use your current skills while giving you something to be excited about every day is paramount to creating a successful venture.
1. Get into private security
Private security services align perfectly with many veterans’ skills, like the ability to work under pressure and independently, knowledge of self-defense and combat training, and the drive to protect those around you. You can hire yourself out as personal security for individuals or events or even start a security firm.
2. Become a government contractor
Government contracting jobs can be very lucrative and usually come with great benefits. The government hires private contractors for a wide range of services, including logistics management, technology and IT, network security, and more. And because the government is required to contract at least 3% of those services to veterans, you’ve already got a head start.
3. Start a construction or contracting company
Construction and contracting are industries that include a wide range of services. If you’re good with your hands and have the skills to oversee a team of workers, then construction could be an excellent choice for a small business. The key is to find a niche market that is the most lucrative in your area and find a way to use your skills to your advantage.
4. Open a retail business
Retail is always a great way to get into entrepreneurship, and business owners can tailor their business model based on what they are passionate about. Retail businesses need an owner who is dedicated, driven, and able to multitask – things veterans can do easily.
5. Open a restaurant or bar
Opening a bar or restaurant is a great way to capitalize on your skills in working under pressure and overseeing a fast-paced environment. Plus, choosing the right location and marketing your establishment as veteran-owned can bring in a loyal customer base that other business owners might not have.
6. Automotive sales or repair
The automotive industry includes a variety of opportunities for entrepreneurs. Opening a service garage can be an easy way to start small and build your way bigger. Even automotive sales can be a business that begins with just a few vehicles and then scales up after the profits start rolling in.
7. Become a personal trainer
Service members are accustomed to exercising and personal fitness because they are required to be physically fit and strong. Understanding the basics of physical fitness is a skill that will easily translate into personal training or even gym ownership. Plus, veterans can inspire others and drive them to greatness.
8. Try logistics
Multitasking, overseeing complicated operations, attention to detail, and leadership are all skills needed to get into the logistics industry. And there is a wide range of applications for those skills in logistics. Transportation, warehousing, event management, and planning – the definition of logistics is broad, and it’s something many veterans have already encountered during their time in the military.
9. Use those technical skills
The armed services have become a leader in the IT and technology sectors, using some of the most advanced and high-tech solutions the industry has to offer. If this sounds familiar, then a career in IT consulting could be a perfect fit.
10 Become a firearms trainer
Firearms training and safety are skills that go hand in hand with the armed services, and they are skills that most civilians don’t have. Become a private firearms trainer or even open a shooting range. You can teach others how to protect themselves and do it safely – and make a fair bit of revenue in the process.
11. Become a leadership consultant
Working as a team, leading that team, and driving team members to be better are all things veterans do well. Businesses are always in need of leadership and training consultants who have the skills to step in and help them improve their processes and structure. Start a consulting firm to assist managers, executives, and business leaders develop lasting leadership skills.
12. Start a business to support other veterans
Veterans returning home need, and deserve, a wide range of support services. Many veterans decide to open businesses that directly support those veterans’ needs, whether it’s rehabilitation, mental health counseling, support for entrepreneurs like yourself, or services designed to help veterans transition to civilian life – like access to housing.
13. Open an adventure-based business
Veterans have experiences that many of us will never get to encounter – like skydiving and paragliding. Opening an extreme adventure experience business can be both lucrative and fun! Bungee jumping, white water rafting, horseback riding, and skydiving are just a few examples.
14. Focus on outdoor skills
Veterans have survival and outdoor skills that many individuals wish they knew. These skills could be the foundation of a small business that teaches civilians how to survive in the wilderness or simply enjoy the outdoors. Get creative and use your knowledge and skills to find a niche market, like hunting, fishing, or trail hiking.
15. Start a home-based business
It takes very little startup capital to operate a business from your home, and you can create a business around a skill that ignites your passion. Home-based businesses can be anything you can think of, including selling home-baked goods, digital content creation, graphic design, drop-shipping, affiliate marketing, handyman-for-hire, and so much more. Take your passion and run with it!
Resources for Veteran-Owned Businesses
The Small Business Administration has resources specifically dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship among veterans, active-duty service members, and dependents or survivors of veterans. This includes providing access to capital and business preparation support, building connections with supply chains, mentorships, and more. Check out the veteran-owned business page on SBA.gov for more information.
You can also access the SBA’s Lender Match tool to connect with lenders and utilize loan programs designed for veterans.
The Veterans Business Outreach Center Program operates a network of support centers across the country, offering business plan workshops, concept assessment, mentorship, and training for veterans.
SCORE is a nonprofit organization funded in part by the SBA that provides free, confidential business mentoring, online learning courses and workshops, and more. Read more at www.score.org.
Veterans in the state of Georgia can access resources and information from the Georgia Department of Economic Development. According to their website, there are almost 700,000 veterans and 97,000 veteran-owned businesses in the state of Georgia. Head here for more information.
Veterans and their family members have already given so much in support to this nation and its people. And many of them return home looking for ways to keep giving back while simultaneously supporting themselves and their own families.
Veteran-owned businesses make up a significant percentage of small businesses in the US and are found in every state and probably every community across the country. Our veterans deserve support in finding ways to transition from military life to civilian life successfully, and that includes resources and funding for veteran entrepreneurs and support from their local community members.
The Atlanta Small Business Network, from start-up to success, we are your go-to resource for small business news, expert advice, information, and event coverage.
While you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe to our email newsletter for all the latest business news know-how from Atlanta Small Business Network.