Washington D.C.— Today, the House Small Business Committee held a hearing examining the challenges facing veteran entrepreneurs and the state of federal programs designed to support them. During the hearing, Ranking Member Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) focused on ways that Congress can bolster access to capital and entrepreneurial development resources available to the 200,000 servicemembers that transition from military to civilian life annually.
“Just as new business applications have surged by over ten million in the past two years, the share of businesses started by veterans nearly doubled to 10.7 percent. Additionally, veteran unemployment is now at a historic low of 2.2 percent,” said Ranking Member Velázquez. “This is a tremendous achievement, but it does not mean the job is done. Congress must advance policies to make it as easy as possible for veterans to transition to entrepreneurship.”
Veterans own approximately 1.8 million businesses, nearly all of which are small businesses. Research shows that veterans are especially qualified to start and run their own businesses, as they, throughout their service, learned how to make good decisions in chaotic environments and are natural leaders, confident, and driven. Unfortunately, former service members often face larger barriers to accessing capital, navigating the resources available to them, and finding adequate mentors.
During the hearing, members discussed the ways that Congress can increase support for veteran entrepreneurs. Veteran business owners also testified on their own challenges and policies that will help their businesses thrive.
“Like so many other veterans, my journey has been very complex and full of challenges. While I’m very fortunate to share my story, many other veterans still struggle with a lack of support, resources, and funding,” said Petty Officer Second Class Michael Hyacinthe, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Wimage in Grand Rapids, MI. “Over the last century, our vets have helped to rebuild towns and communities through entrepreneurship to help make America the most successful economy in the world. But many veterans are still left unsupported or their ideas remain unheard.”
The hearing follows a committee markup on Tuesday, which advanced bills to authorize the Small Business Administration’s Boots to Business program for five years and help agencies meet their goals for contracting with Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses.