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Article Contributed by Noah Rue

Women have been steadily breaking glass ceilings for the past century. From the right to vote, to the right to serve in the US armed military, women are increasingly showing their prowess and ability to make change happen. Women have skills and talents, and they are ready to show the world everything they’ve got.

Luckily — although progress has been slow — many women are finding their future lies within the armed forces. The potential to not only receive an education but also develop essential career skills while serving the nation is a worthy trajectory for many women. However, just as it is for men, rejoining civilian life after serving in the military can be extremely difficult.

In the States, an interesting phenomenon is happening. Women-owned businesses — predominantly created by women of color — are steadily becoming dominant in the startup field. More interesting than that is the massive boom that women veteran owned business have seen: a 296 percent increase from 2007-2012.

How are women veterans making their presence known on the military front as well as in the small business sector? By becoming small business owners, women are able to put their skills to the test in the civilian world. Let’s look at the details behind this promising trend.

By the Numbers

According to the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), as of 2012 there were 383,302 women veteran-owned businesses in the United States. Since then, there hasn’t been any more recent studies on the numbers, as it is dependent on the Economic Census (performed every five years. This year they will be the next Economic Census, but resulted won’t be ready until early 2018. However, considering the continual rise of women in the startup world, it would be safe to assume that this number has since increased. It is estimated that in 2016, 11.3 million businesses were owned by women, contributing $1.3 trillion dollars in revenue and employing over 9 million people; according to an American Express “State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.”

Many of the businesses owned by women veterans only consist of the owner (96.7 percent according to the 2012 numbers), but the remaining 3.3 percent employ approximately 102,662 people. Overall, women veteran owned businesses make an average revenue of about $18 billion dollars annually.

Comparatively, male veteran-owned businesses actually decreased from 2007 to 2012 by 7 percent. Women veterans are really beginning to take over the small business front, but what sector are they settling into? According to the 2012 NWBC report, the majority of these businesses are in the healthcare and social assistance, administrative support, scientific and technical fields, retail, and in other services. Most businesses are situated in the states of California, Texas, and Florida.

But why are so many women, especially veteran women, taking the entrepreneurial plunge? Much of this could be due to the increasing presence of women in the military. One study found that 2.2 million veterans were women in 2013, compared to 1.5 million in 2009. Is the transition into civilian life proving more difficult for them, or easier?

Why Own a Business?

For many veterans, finding a job that meets their needs after serving in the military can be a difficult task. This is even more difficult for single parents, disabled veterans, or veterans who suffer from PTSD. There are simply too many factors that can disrupt the success of a veteran’s career post-deployment.

Although the unemployment rate for veterans is low — 5.1 percent in 2016 — women of the 20-24 year age range have had a particular difficult run in transitioning to the public sector. According to a Syracuse University study highlighted in Inc., “In 2011, female veterans who were 20 to 24 years old had an unemployment rate of 35.4 percent.” Luckily, that number has since decreased to about 5.6 percent in 2016, but it could account for the dramatic rise in women veteran owned businesses.

Veteran women have found a way to work around some of the more challenging roadblocks when transitioning by taking the entrepreneurial plunge. For some women, they may be busy starting a family or caring for their children while their husbands are still deployed. Having the ability to choose their own schedule, as well as what they can do, is certainly an alluring aspect to entrepreneurship.

Additionally, many women may find that their dream jobs aren’t in existence yet or are hard to find, so they start their own business instead. Serving in the military opens up many doors and opportunities, but sometimes it can fuel the very innovation that leads to a new product, business, or industry. Especially after working on the front lines and seeing where certain gaps exist, many military veterans may find that their future lies in contracted work that can help the military make better equipment or technology for future generations on the ground.

There are many industries that are not only looking for qualified and experienced professionals, but are also eager for innovative thinkers. For example, with many women veteran’s working within the healthcare field (62.4k firms according to the NWBC data from 2012), they’ve found that their job is not only rewarding but secure. The constant growth of the population is leading to a national nursing and doctor shortage, and those working within healthcare in any capacity will find that entrepreneurship is encouraged among nurses and other qualified individuals. Having a secure job post-serving — and one where you can choose your own hours and location, even — is essential for many veterans to remain successful in their career path.

Lastly, as welcoming as the job market may be for entrepreneurship, it isn’t the only reason why women veterans are seeking out their own startups. There are also plenty of safety nets created within the past decade just for women who run their own business, and there are additional resources for veterans. This includes government grants, small business loans that are catered just for women and just for veterans, and a plethora of online (and free) resources for small business owners.

The business world is eager to accept entrepreneurs, and is willing to give everyone a chance to pave their way to success. Luckily many women veterans are doing just that.

Women Veterans Making an Impact

As more and more women enter the military, we may see an even greater increase of women veterans opening business once they’ve finished their service. The disciplined training and experience they have gained while serving in the armed forces is no doubt a coveted trait to have in your career. Additionally, our current economy in the United States is fully embracing the startup world.

Many women veterans may find that their future lies in joining the small business world. Luckily for them, the business world is ready and willing to give them a hand in making their dream become a reality.



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