The transition from active duty to veteran or retiree family can be as confusing as it is exciting. Through the Transition Tales series, MFAN’s Advisory Board and Alumni combine personal experience with practical advice and resources to assist the whole family through this complex adjustment period.
The opinions in this column are the views of the author, Joanna Guldin-Noll.
When my husband decided to exit the Navy after six years of service, we had a dream we were chasing. We wanted to open our own business. It’s a path that many veterans and their families take after military service.
The facts speak for themselves:
- Veterans are 45% more likely to become small business owners
- Veteran-owned businesses employ nearly three million people in the U.S.
- 25% of veterans want to start a business
To outsiders, it might have looked like John left the military one day and within months stood up Swatara Coffee Co. The truth, of course, was much different. We made choices for years before our opening that helped us achieve our goal.
John spent years planning, even creating while he was deployed to Afghanistan the business plan we would later use. We saved money for years during military life so that we could bootstrap our business.
When John transitioned out of the military, my side gig as a freelance writer and owner of Jo, My Gosh!, as well as my full-time job, gave us a softer landing and made it possible for John to focus on the business. Friends and family helped us with so many aspects of building the business—truly invaluable support that we can never repay.
We also had the privilege of utilizing many free resources that are available to the military community. No matter where you are in your entrepreneurial journey—dreaming, planning, or executing—there are organizations and people who want to help you with funding, education, professional development, and advice.
Here are a few of my favorite organizations that are doing great work in the military community and offer remarkable resources for small businesses:
- The Institute for Veterans and Military Families – Run by Syracuse University and offers online and in-person programs to help military-connected entrepreneurs no matter where they are in their business journey.
- Second Service Foundation – Providing online and in-person funding and professional development opportunities for military-connected entrepreneurs.
- Veterati – Military spouses, active duty service members, and veterans can sign up for free to receive mentorship phone calls from experts in many fields.
- U.S. Small Business Administration Veterans Business Outreach Center – Has free resources available to all entrepreneurs in addition to special support for military-connected ones.
- SCORE – Offers free mentorship for business owners. Mentors are highly experienced and interested in helping small businesses flourish.
Of course, this list is just a fragment of what is available to veterans and military spouses. There is so much more online and in your own backyard. Don’t forget that civilian and industry-specific organizations can also enrich your entrepreneurial career and your small business. We had the privilege of working with many such groups like our local Chamber of Commerce, a variety of organizations in the food, beverage, and restaurant/hospitality industries, and purely online networks like Meta Boost Leaders Network.
Owning a small business can be an exciting way to transition from the military into civilian life. It is hard, hard work, but it is also immensely satisfying to see something you dreamed of come off the paper and become something real that serves the community.