After separating from military service, veterans often face challenges adjusting to civilian life. Most will need or want to find a job, but civilian jobs and the general office culture can be difficult for veterans to adjust to, especially for disabled vets. As an alternate career path, many veterans decide to start their own businesses. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, veteran-owned firms account for just less than 10 percent of the total of U.S. small businesses.
The idea of starting a business may sound overwhelming, but it’s easiest to break down the process into steps. To begin, start with the basics and then fill in the blanks as you go along. Identifying your purpose is foremost; ideally, you’d choose something that blends your skills and interests. What kind of business could you see yourself running? Once you know that, you can then choose to enter an industry that is in demand and has strong support resources at your disposal.
Here are some of the current in-demand entrepreneurial niches you could fill.
Logistics is currently a niche that desperately needs filling. With companies like Amazon setting a high bar for other retail businesses to follow in the arena of fulfillment, supply, and shipping, the logistics field is a hot opportunity. It’s an industry currently facing unprecedented change, which makes now an opportune time to enter this business space. Since military training is all about details, the logistics industry could be a perfect choice for veterans highly skilled at solving problems and following protocols.
Construction (or General Contracting)
Construction is booming, and many veterans turn their heads to this industry. According to statistics, almost 30 percent of all veteran-owned businesses were in just two industry groups, construction being one of them. Construction (or general contracting) is a good fit for many veterans, who are accustomed to working with crews to safely complete projects governed by a set of regulations. Also, many former service members have experience operating heavy equipment. While civilian equipment can be a little different, experienced veterans usually have no problems getting certified.
The great thing about independent consulting is the freedom to tailor the foundation of a business around your own skills, experiences, and interests. Top consulting firm ideas for veterans could be project management, team building, and cybersecurity or other tech-related niches. Other businesses are always on the lookout for the specialized expertise they don’t have and often outsource to experts. The sky’s the limit for custom-designing a dream business opportunity in consulting.
Personal Trainer/Fitness Boot Camp
Anyone who has served in the U.S. military well knows the high standards the five branches set for fitness. With numerous fitness tests under their belts, veterans can share their experience and knowledge with civilians who are looking to get physically fit and improve their health. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. One study found Americans are spending more on fitness than they are on college tuition. With this kind of high demand, there is a lot of room in this industry for startups.
Locksmiths and Security
A traditional industry, locksmithing, is still going strong, especially in conjunction with the current construction boom. With technology integrating itself into all industries, including home security, this is evolving to become a specialized field. As smart technology and wireless controls continue to move into the home living market, people are going to need help installing, replacing, or repairing their digitized locks. In this steadily growing industry, opening a locksmith business could literally be the key to success.
Real Estate (or Property Management)
Real estate and property management is a niche in constant high demand. Since there will always be people who prefer to rent living space instead of buying it, there will always be people needed to manage the property involved. Veterans — who often have experience scheduling, enforcing regulations, and serving people in high-pressure situations — can find great success in buying or managing rental properties, especially if they are handy at home repairs.
The opportunities for veterans are vast in the event security business niche, offering numerous ways to utilize their skills at various venues: concerts, clubs, carnivals, award shows, film festivals, sports competitions/games, air shows, or specialized festivals (i.e. music or even Renaissance fairs). Organizers of big events typically can’t provide enough security through in-house resources and turn to event security firms to ensure that their patrons are safe. Veterans are a good fit because they understand how to protect people, mobilize crowds, know how to minimize risk, and have a keen eye for safety (not to mention great organizational skills).
Disaster Planning and Response
Mother Nature can unexpectedly wreak havoc with earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, wildfires, blizzards, or tornadoes. After a disaster hits, people need help in their communities, and businesses need assistance to keep from having to shutter. Despite growing awareness over the past two decades, many businesses are still unprepared for disaster. Military experience with emergency response and protecting the public makes disaster preparation a good fit for many veterans. This is one field to which veterans can bring their planning and detail-oriented expertise, along with their ability to create proactive responses and action plans.
Transitioning to an entrepreneurial journey after leaving military service can be an exciting prospect, one full of new considerations and requirements to be addressed. Here are some additional tips for the process:
- If you decide to sell things you’ve made or designed yourself, protect your work by securing the rights to your creations.
- Regardless of the field you enter, building relationships with customers and clients is going to be a key factor for success. It’ll be important to understand how to successfully cultivate and nurture these relationships.
- Take advantage of the many resources, grants, and special business financing available to help veterans pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. Good resources include Patriot Boot Camp, Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small-Business Program, VetBiz, and the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal.
According to the Coalition for Veteran Owned Businesses, veterans who start their own businesses are motivated by dissatisfaction in the civilian workforce, perceiving business opportunities, valuing work-life balance and flexibility, and goals for financial and personal independence. If you’re a veteran who recognizes these motivators as your own, chances are good that opening your own business is the right path for you.