By Dan Frank
CEO, Three Wire Systems, LLC
America spoke, Trump is our next president. Where does he go from here on one of his key campaign issues of veteran support? Let me guide the way.
A recent Small Business Administration (SBA) study found that military service exhibits one of the largest marginal effects on self-employment, and veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans. Historically, 50 percent of World War II vets went on to own or operate a business and that 40 percent of Korean War vets did the same thing creating millions of jobs for of their fellow citizens.
In stark contrast to these statistics, consider that since 9/11, only 162,000 veteran businesses have been creating 324,000 jobs. Hypothetically, using Korean War rate discussed above, our most recent veteran generation should have started 1.4 million companies employing in excess of 2.5 million jobs. Veteran entrepreneurship is on the decline. Why?
It’s complicated, but here is an anecdotal account: Last week I attended the Department of Veterans Affairs National Veterans Small Business Engagement conference in Minneapolis. As an old, bald guy, I noticed lots of other old people in attendance. Essentially zero millennials or Gen X in attendance.
Are the young vet guys/gals developing the next ride haling app and chasing venture dollars in Silicon Valley? Most certainly are not doing this. It simply appears that more vets now “get a job and settle” according to Joseph Kopser an Army veteran and co-founder the Ride-Scout app. He blames a lack of in-service mentorship opportunities for current military members. But is it DoD’s job to prepare transitioning service members for entrepreneurship?
So here is the Big Idea for a scalable veteran entrepreneurship program for President-elect Trump.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the Cadillac of all GI Bills and already encompasses rich benefits. Entrepreneurship training is covered, but only thru Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) run by the SBA.
First, let’s eliminate this rule and expand the options from government run facilities and programs. There are plenty of co-work spaces, non-profits, contractors and volunteers to create an eco-system of options for the budding vet entrepreneur. One option run by the government is ridiculous. Entrepreneurship is not a government core competency.
Secondly, for veterans not interested in a college education track, let them take the equivalent tuition and stipend funding they would have received for their college education and let them use it either fund their business or offset living expenses during their business start-up phase. This will require oversight to ensure that the vet is legitimately involved in their business, but program oversight is a government core competency.
Finally, let’s move upstream with entrepreneurship education within DoD as suggested by Army vet Kopser. There is a huge opportunity within the DoD/VA Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Every transitioning service member must attend TAP classes as they transition from the military to civilian life. For those soon to be vets interested in self-employment, a breakout class could be offered and designed to incorporate the details of my first two suggestions above.
With the right training and funding, I believe we can increase interest and change the downward trajectory of veteran owned businesses. President-elect Trump, Three Wire stands ready to serve.