Veterans are an essential part of the U.S. economy. The most recent U.S. Census data shows veterans own 2.4 million businesses that generated $1.2 trillion in receipts and employed 5.8 million people, proving that veterans make their mark on America long after their military service has ended. In fact, veterans are 45 percent more likely to become entrepreneurs than people with no active-duty military experience according 2011 study from the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy.
So what helps these veteran-owned small businesses thrive and where are they doing it?
Best Cities for Veteran-Owned Businesses
On Thumbtack, 250,000 skilled professionals offer more than 1,100 types of services, and 10 percent of these business owners are veterans. We wanted to know which cities were the best for entrepreneurial veterans exiting the military. To do this, we looked at where Thumbtack Pros with military experience are feeling best about the operating a small business, according to our monthly Economic Sentiment Survey. Interestingly, four of the top ten cities were in the South, and several were in areas with major military bases.
Veterans told us that the three most important things they wanted to see from their local governments were training and networking opportunities, great websites to make learning about the rules for businesses easier, and licensing rules that were easy to understand and comply with. The cities on this list tend to be seen by veterans as satisfactorily addressing these policy priorities.
Best States for Veteran-Owned Businesses
We also looked at which states were friendliest to veterans operating a small business. Regions that offered great opportunities for business training tended to do better overall, and that was especially true for veterans.
Nationwide, training and networking opportunities were important for small business owners regardless of their background – while many of the professionals we survey are skilled at their trade, they don’t always necessarily feel as comfortable with how to best run a business or how to meet and learn from other entrepreneurs in their field. This especially goes for recent veterans who may not have a personal or professional network in their area when they are starting out. So, states not on this top ten list should address these areas in order to improve their business climates for entrepreneurs with military experience.
Top Professions for Veterans
Military veterans are disciplined, often highly skilled, and ready to take smart risks at the right times – and Thumbtack has helped thousands of these veterans start a side business or go into business for themselves. The transition from military to civilian life can be a difficult one, and taking the skills and work ethic learned in the military to start a small service business can be a great outlet for a motivated ex-servicemember.
Overall, nine percent of businesses nationwide are owned by veterans and most of them are concentrated in construction and professional services.
Each month, Thumbtack’s Economic Sentiment Survey asks thousands of small business owners what makes their state or local governments friendly for them. This year for Veterans Day we looked in particular at the views of veteran-owned small businesses. To better understand their views and needs, our analysts studied our proprietary marketplace data to identify the cities and states where veterans are most optimistic about their prospects (i.e., where they’re happiest running a business). In all we polled 1,124 veteran small business owners across the country between January and September 2016 which allowed us to rank the top cities and states for them across the country.