Why We Need to Support Veteran-Owned Small Businesses Now More than Ever.
Every year, almost 627,000 small businesses take their first steps right here in the USA. Believe it or not, almost 10% of these are started by entrepreneurial military veterans, like myself, wanting to contribute to a stronger American economy.
For years, military veterans have been the powerhouse building America’s small business sector. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened their dreams, causing small businesses across America to issue lay-off notices, reduce their productivity, or even close their doors altogether.
According to the latest reports by the National Federation of Independent Business, 76% of small businesses report being negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of these struggling businesses, 23% are experiencing supply chain disruptions, 54% are experiencing slower sales, and 9% have sick employees.
Despite these significant challenges, small businesses continue to be at the economic forefront. They’re driving innovation, job creation, and community-centered economic growth. In fact, small businesses account for 44% of all U.S. economic activity.
And that number continues to grow.
Supporting small, veteran-owned businesses positively impacts the country, by injecting cash directly into the local economy and creating stable American jobs.
Military veterans are highly trained in a plethora of sectors, from trades to medicine to technology. In fact, many veterans are world-class leaders in advanced technologies, such as AI, robotics, cyber security, and even gaming. These cutting edge skills and talents enable them to excel in business, securing America’s reputation as an innovative global leader in multiple industries.
Who better to lead successful startups in our country? Currently, veteran owned businesses employ over 5 million Americans, and contribute almost $1 trillion to our economy annually.
In case you needed more reasons to support veteran-owned small businesses, consider the fact that they’re also more likely to give back to the community. Veterans often spend years training and working together as a team – enforcing the core value of helping others succeed. These essential core values directly translate to Veteran-owned businesses being first to support community causes.
They do this by providing free labor and services to those in need, collecting donations, volunteering to consult on community projects, and more. Simply put, Veteran business owners understand the importance of supporting their community.
COVID-19 Has Changed How Americans View Veteran-Owned Businesses
The pandemic has brought forth a series of restrictions on travel, social distancing, and commerce. While it was difficult to adapt to these restrictions for many, we’ve also seen an unexpected positive phenomenon occur.
Americans are refocusing on what’s important to them. Neighbors are helping neighbors. The young are taking care of the elderly, and the community spirit is being revived. Small towns are rallying around their local small businesses, chipping in what they can to keep them alive. Veteran business owners are gaining increased respect from locals, as touchstones to fostering entrepreneurial courage.
This tells us so much about the American spirit. We have a unique opportunity to rebuild our economy with a foundation of small, family owned businesses, with veteran entrepreneurs at the forefront. In the USA there are more than 2.52 million veterans, retired from the military, air force, and navy, who are making names for themselves as motivated entrepreneurs.
You read that right; there are over two and a half million veteran-owned businesses in the USA right now.
They’re specializing in everything from personal training and fitness, to restaurant and hospitality businesses, to manufacturing innovation. Previous military experience is considered a stronger predictor of self-employment than a graduate level education.
How to Support Veteran-Owned Small Businesses
As Americans, we can band together to help small businesses build a strong foundation for sustainable long-term growth.
Start by getting to know local businesses in your community. Learn their story – you may be surprised to learn why they started their business in the first place. And, you may also be delighted to discover how many of your local businesses were started by veterans!
Mountain Mat, for example, was formed after we fell in love with similar mats during an overseas tour in Oman. In our first year of business we relied heavily on the skills honed from our military backgrounds to bring a company from the idea stage to fully profitable. Our community supported us with free business advice, physical labor (shipping out orders with no employees sometimes requires some help!), and most importantly, words of encouragement as we worked through all the kinks a new business experiences.
Because of our strong community, we were able to accomplish quite a lot that first year:
- Brought the first brand of recycled polypropylene outdoor mats to the USA market
- Launched 5 mat sizes in 11 different colors
- Partnered with our first distributor
- Launched an Amazon brand store
You can help other Veteran-owned small businesses achieve success like Mountain Mat.
5 Ways To Support a Small Business (that don’t cost anything!)
- Visit their social media pages to leave a review or recommendation.Informal reviews of businesses and their products and services can be very helpful. Google and Yelp both offer platforms for leaving reviews. Most businesses have their own Facebook Business page which offers a review/recommendation section. Anytime you can share your positive experience with others is beneficial to the small business.
- Post photos of yourself using the product or service and tag the business on social media.The most effective (and cheap!) form of advertising for a business is authentic social media posts by customers using their products. If you are happy with a past purchase or past service of a small business – you can give them a HUGE boost by simply sharing your photos and tagging the business on Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, and other social media platforms.
- Leave a review on their website or Amazon product page.Potential customers depend on honest reviews of a business’ product or service when making informed purchasing decisions. If you’ve purchased a product from a small business (whether on Amazon or directly from the business website), take a moment and leave a review for that product. Your positive review can help spread the word to others who may be considering purchasing that product.
- Write a testimonial that they can use on your website.Feel passionate about a small business in your local community? Consider drafting up a testimonial that they can post on their website. Testimonials are longer than normal product reviews and offer a more in depth recommendation of a small business’ product or service.
- Recommend their business the old fashioned way, by telling your friends. Its still the Holy Grail of business, the coveted personal recommendation. If you love a product or service from a small business – let others know! Share your experiences and encourage your friends and family to show their own support for small business.
COVID-19 Doesn’t Have to be the End of Veteran-Owned Small Business in America
This year has been incredibly rough for small businesses across America, with COVID-19 bringing unique and devastating financial burdens. This is the time for Americans to pull together and work hard to support what matters most to their communities. Get to know your local veteran-owned businesses. Choosing to shop from small businesses, choosing to leave reviews, choosing to recommend small businesses to friends and family – these are all small but immensely powerful acts that can mean everything to a small business in your community.
Mountain Mat Carries On During COVID-19
At Mountain Mat, we’ve been working to manage the business disruptions of COVID-19. We’re working through some supply chain delays and using our extra time to prep packaging and organize the warehouse! Since the kids are out of school – they get to help too! Thank you to all of our customers for your support, patience, and patronage. Together we’ll get through this year!
Jennifer Hillberg is the Founder and Creator of Mountain Mat, LLC, the USA’s first 100% recycled plastic, reversible, outdoor recreation mat. As an avid outdoor recreationalist, Jennifer has hiked and camped in some of the world’s most remote places alongside her husband and three children. Learn more about The Mountain Mat Story.