Every year, 250,000 military members leave the service and enter the civilian workforce. Making the transition to civilian life is one of the greatest challenges they face in their careers. Through their military training, tested leadership and professional skill sets, veterans are often uniquely suited to work in industries outside the military.
Veterans have a history of entrepreneurship. Traditionally, many veterans start their own businesses after leaving the service. Half of all American World War II Veterans and 40 percent of Korean War Veterans became entrepreneurs. Today, of the 5.5 million businesses in the United States, 7 percent are veteran-owned.
VETERAN-OWNED BUSINESSES DOWN
But that number is declining. Only 4.5 percent of the 3.6 million people who have served in the U.S. military since September 11, 2001 have launched a company. Why the decline? Pressure to settle for a financially secure position and a lack of networking opportunities contribute to the problem.
Perhaps most importantly, many veterans today simply cannot get financing without a business history --which most veterans don't have. More than half of businesses today require up to $25,000 to start. That's a lot of money for the average service member just coming out of the military.
This is one reason why the PenFed Foundation launched the Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program (VEIP). VEIP helps veteran-owned businesses succeed by providing seed money and a support network of more than 1,700 business partners. Since we announced the program last year, we've raised more than $1.4 million from businesses that support veteran entrepreneurs.
TRUE MADE SUCCESS
Our first investment, True Made Foods, was founded by Navy helicopter pilot Abe Kamarck in 2015. A father of four, Abe was concerned about the unhealthiness of some of the foods his kids were eating. He decided to rethink how ketchup and other popular sauces are made. True Made Foods adds real vegetables to the recipes, turning empty calories from sugar into nutrient-rich flavors. This company is already seeing remarkable success, selling its products in more than 1,400 stores across the country, including major grocery chains like Safeway, Wegmans and ShopRite.
Veterans like Abe already possess a critical skill for successful entrepreneurship: grit. They persevere when others give up. This is because their military training has uniquely taught them how to perform at a high level under the most stressful...