By Todd Connor and Rosalinda V. Maury
Every day we are forced to tolerate the conflicting fact that while veterans are the most successful group of small business owners in America, the number of veteran entrepreneurs is drastically on the decline.
In 1945, 49% of all returning World War II veterans went on to own or operate a business. This period of prosperity is often called the Golden Age in America.
Today, we find our nation again emerging from a prolonged period of conflict and at a key juncture to work for the future. Currently, 25% of all veterans want to start a business but only 5.6% of them will do so. This number is down from 12.3% of veterans in 1996.
A new, first-of-its-kind study aims to gain insight into the newest generation of veteran entrepreneurs. The data collected will foster policies and programs that better support their success, enable more veterans to follow their entrepreneurial goals and fuel the country's prosperity.
The study is a unique collaboration between the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF), the leading national research center for military veterans, and Bunker Labs, the leading incubator for veteran-owned businesses in America. This joint research effort by a leading research institute and a leading-veteran entrepreneurship support organization provides unique insights that bridge from research to practice in support of increasing rates of entrepreneurship and success of existing entrepreneurs from the military-veteran community.
The IVMF research team will fan out to Bunker Labs locations across America to conduct qualitative and quantitative research with groups of veteran entrepreneurs. The qualitative component is one of the largest undertaken to date. The fact is that much of the available research on veteran entrepreneurship experiences is over 20 years old. Moreover, these new focus groups and surveys will also shine a light on female veterans, a group of veteran entrepreneurs actually on the increase.
The research is designed to more deeply understand the full spectrum of veteran entrepreneurship from the initial inception through the new business process and what obstacles and challenges are faced along the way. In fact, some of the early research at Bunker Labs locations has exposed a paradoxical lack of confidence in new veteran entrepreneurs. This shifts as their military leadership and skills take hold in their new entrepreneurial setting.
The study design will allow the IVMF research team to unearth unique insights that can be scaled into larger solutions to support the next generation of veteran entrepreneurs in America. The IVMF’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship, which is funding the research, will directly apply its findings. It will also create benchmarks that will lay the groundwork to inform the design of future national studies on veteran entrepreneurs. The research this spring will culminate in findings being reported out nationally in summer 2017.
For more information on the research or to sign up for updates when it is released please visit this website. Veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs wanting to participate in the research can learn more here.
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About the Authors: Todd Connor is the CEO of The Bunker Labs, and Co-Founder of Flank 5 Academy. A Navy veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom aboard the USS BUNKER HILL (CG-52), Todd has held senior leadership roles in the public and private sector. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago.
Rosalinda V. Maury is the director of applied research and analytics at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University. Previously managing research for the US Coast Guard and the US Air Force, Rosalinda manages all research conducted at the institute and coordinates the IVMF research agenda with senior leadership to ensures it is accomplished on time and within budget. She holds a master’s and bachelor’s degrees in psychology from the University of Texas at San Antonio.