Here’s a cool statistic to consider this Veterans Day: 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. The most recent U.S. Census data also 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.
Military veterans are disciplined, organized, often highly skilled, and ready to take smart risks at the right times – and Thumbtack has helped thousands of these vets 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. Nine percent of businesses nationwide are owned by vets, concentrated in construction and professional services.
So what helps these veteran-owned small businesses thrive?
Thumbtack’s annual Small Business Friendliness Survey asks 18,000 small business owners across the country their views on what makes their state or local governments friendly for them. This year in honor of Veterans Day we looked in particular at the views of veteran-owned small businesses.
What Matters to Veterans
We heard from 1,794 current or former active duty members of the military or reserves, over 10 percent of the respondents to our survey. These vets 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.
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 necessarily know how to run a business or how to meet other entrepreneurs in their field. This especially goes for recent vets who may not have a personal or professional network in their area when they are starting out. Regions that offered great opportunities for business training tended to do better overall, and that was especially true for veterans.
The Best Cities for Veteran-Owned Businesses
We wanted to know which cities were the best for entrepreneurial veterans exiting the military, so we looked at which cities did best along our metric for Small Business Friendliness – five of our top ten cities were in Texas, which is home to 8 percent of the veteran-owned business population nationwide, and three were areas with major military bases.
Here are more details on the rankings for each city in the top 10:
Dallas was our number 2 city overall for Small Business Friendliness, and given the rave reviews Dallas-based business owners give the city it isn’t surprising to see it at the top of the list for veterans as well.
Austin was the number 4 city overall and second best as rated by veterans, who gave the city a score that was 6 percent higher than other small business owners. Texas does well generally in Thumbtack’s survey, and this year was the number one friendliest state for small business owners.
Fort Worth, Texas
Like nearby Dallas, Fort Worth has created an environment for small business owners that makes it easy for them to succeed. Home to at least 10,000 active duty service members at the area’s Naval Air Station, these vets are taking advantage of the terrific environment in Texas to go into business for themselves, in fields such as construction and landscaping.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
The Hampton Roads area has one of the largest concentrations of service members in the United States, and when many leave the military they stay on to go into business for themselves. Virginia Beach earned an A- in our overall survey this year as one of the friendliest places in the country for small business, and veterans agree.
Atlanta was an A- city overall but veterans rated it 3 percent better than their civilian peers, placing it on our list of top cities for vets. The Atlanta metro region has seen its population boom over the past decade, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is one of the biggest military hubs in the country, and as the 7th biggest city in the United States there are many opportunities for small business owners.
Like Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, Houston is one of the friendliest cities in the country for small business owners. Although Houston was 7th overall in our ratings, it is the only city on this list where veterans rated it worse than other small business owners, providing Friendliness scores that were slightly below other business owners. However, the overall great atmosphere for small businesses and enormous opportunities mean that it still makes the top ten for vets.
Home to the Pentagon and a large number of military contractors, the D.C. metro region provides a ton of opportunities for current and former service members to go into business for themselves. DC-based vets rated the city five percent better overall than other small business owners.
Phoenix is a great place for small business owners, including vets. The year-round sunshine means that doing home projects is never out of season, and for the 25 percent of vets on Thumbtack who are in home improvement, this means ample opportunity to find work and grow their businesses.
Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina is home to 8 military installations including Fort Bragg, and Raleigh’s business friendly environment could inspire departing service members to work for themselves.