Veteran small business owners are on a roll. Roughly 10 percent of the 250,000+ small business professionals who use Thumbtack to find new customers are also U.S. veterans, a figure that’s consistent at the national level. According to the most recent data from the U.S Census Bureau, more than one in four veterans in the civilian labor force owns a small business. For comparison, at the national level that number is less than one in five.
So who are these veteran business owners and what do they have in common?
- They’re mature. Roughly 28% of veterans are over the age of 55, compared to 18% of professionals nationally.
- They’re overwhelmingly male. Some 86% of veteran business owners on Thumbtack are men, compared to 61% overall.
- They have vocational training. While only 33% of business owners on Thumbtack went to technical school, this number is higher among veterans, 39% of whom have earned vocational degrees.
- They’re blue collar. The top 5 professions for veterans on Thumbtack are handyman, general contractor, painter, plumber, and electrician—what might be considered traditional “trade jobs.”
- They’re conservative. Around 46% of veterans self-identify as conservative and roughly 17% as liberal, compared to 32% and 34% of non-veteran Thumbtack pros.
- They’re happy. Roughly 71% of veterans report that they’re happy in their job, compared to 68% non-veterans on Thumbtack.
No Time To Waste
When it comes to beginning life outside the military, veterans on Thumbtack aren’t losing any time. According to our data, 64 percent of veteran small business owners start their business within a year of completing military duty. Why the rush? For one, opportunities for vets can be difficult to find. Our data shows that 14 percent of veterans on Thumbtack started their business as a means of escaping economic hardship.
Secondly, and perhaps counterintuitively, veterans are generally more optimistic about the larger economy than non-veterans, making them more bullish when weighing the risks of starting a small business. Again, we see this in the numbers: while 63 percent of veteran small business owners have a positive view of the economy, this number is lower among pros nationally, at roughly 54 percent.
In some cases, the skills veterans gain in the military provides a direct segue into their chosen career path. As Adam J., a bed bug exterminator and army vet from Germantown, Maryland explains, “I liked my time in the military because it blended so many different fields and I was able to learn a wide range of skills. Everything I learned in the military, from the technical work I did to managing an office, set me up for owning my small business today.”
The Long Haul
Roughly 39 percent of veteran small business owners on Thumbtack have been in business for over five years. Scott K., who started his pressure washing business in 2006 after struggling to make ends meet, explains how his Marine Corps experience bolstered his company’s long-term success. “The physical strength I built in the Marine Corps certainly helps in the day-to-day, but even more, being in the Marines I learned the drive and determination to make sure jobs get done well no matter what. I do a lot of research to stay on top of my industry and EPA standards, and that keeps me moving onto bigger and better jobs.”
This commitment to excellence might also be why around 71 percent of veteran small business owners report they’e happy in their occupation (compared to 68 percent overall) and 81 percent say they’re proud of their small business.
The Trump Question
Veteran small business owners tend to look more favorably upon the Trump administration’s economic policies than the general population. At around 57 percent, a robust majority of veterans on Thumbtack approve of the president’s handling of the economy today. That’s compared to the 37 percent on non-veterans on Thumbtack who approve of the administration’s economic policies and the 49 percent of Americans overall, according to a recent poll by CNN and ORC.
This gap in sentiment between veteran and non-veterans on Thumbtack isn’t altogether surprising considering the share of veterans on Thumbtack who self-identify as politically conservative (46 percent or almost half). But party allegiance isn’t the only factor at play. According to our data, veterans are overwhelmingly supportive of the new administration’s top policy priorities, including passage of the American Health Care Act (41 percent of vets approve, 27 percent overall), major tax reform (27 percent of vets approve, 24 percent overall), increased infrastructure spending (18 percent of vets approve, 13 percent overall), and repealing EPA regulations (5 percent of vets approve, 3 percent overall).
When ranking the top challenges facing their small business, non-veterans on Thumbtack are more concerned about healthcare costs and uncertain economic conditions than their veteran counterparts—and with good reason. According to our data, the uninsured rate among veteran small business owners (19 percent) is five points lower non-veterans (24 percent), a significant gap when it comes to something as integral as personal health.
Access to affordable health insurance is often cited as a stumbling block for small business owners looking to expand on Thumbtack. As Merl J., a floor coating specialist in St. Paul, Minnesota, and mother to a U.S. military veteran explains, “Healthcare costs are a huge reason why we don’t hire more full-time employees. In Minnesota the state taxes are horrible and then it’s mandatory to pay for insurance for your full-time employees. The cost of insurance is too high—we can’t afford to offer wages that will keep workers around.”
So while the rest of the country wrestles with the future of affordable healthcare, veterans’ policy concerns lie elsewhere: tax reform. Over a quarter of veteran small business owners say that tax reform should be the government’s top priority in the coming months. And while small business owners on Thumbtack generally favor tax policies that are traditionally conservative and business-friendly, the gap between veteran and non-veteran sentiment on the Trump administration’s proposed tax plans is considerable. Here’s the breakdown:
- Reducing the number of tax brackets from seven to three: 39% if veterans support, 26% of non-veterans
- Reducing the corporate tax rate to 15 percent: 47% of veterans support, 33% of non-veterans
- Increasing tax benefits available to families paying for child care costs, such as day care: 67% of veterans support, 56% of non-veterans
- Eliminating the estate tax (i.e., the “the death tax”), which taxes inherited wealth: 58% of veterans support, 44% of non-veterans
- Eliminating itemized tax deductions (also known as write offs): 33% of veterans support, 20% of non-veterans
- Doubling the standard deduction Americans can claim on tax returns: 67% of veterans support, 51% of non-veterans
- Allowing small business owners to pay a tax rate of 15 percent instead of the personal income rate of up to 40 percent: 74% of veterans support, 62% of non-veterans
About this Data
Every month, thousands of pros across the country participate in our Thumbtack Economic Sentiment Survey, helping us to learn more about who they are (pro demographics), the characteristics of their business, and their perspectives on the economy at the national and local levels. For this post, we leveraged that data to learn more about the 28,000 veteran-owned business who use Thumbtack to grow their business and the unique challenges facing these business owners.