Bunker Labs Washington D.C. City Leader, Seda Goff discusses why women Veteran startups are the next big thing in entrepreneurship, and how we support them.
Women represent 10 percent of the veteran population in the U.S. but own one in six veteran-owned businesses. Their businesses generate over $17 billion a year, and the growth of women veterans’ startups has been “higher than any other segment of the entrepreneurship economy,” according to Carla Harris, chair of the National Women’s Business Council.
But only two of the companies on Forbes’ Top 25 Veteran Startups have women veteran founders (both co-founded with male business partners). What’s more, women entrepreneurs receive a staggeringly low 2 percent of all capital investment and only 4.4 percent of total dollars in small business loans. Many women veterans are starting their own businesses with just their personal savings.
Women veteran-owned startups are not just underrated and underfunded – they’re actually among the best investments.
U.S. military service members get some of the best entrepreneurial training in the world. Military men and women learn resilience, grit and an unwavering work ethic.
First-class training facilities and high-stakes combat environments instill in them a mindset of quick thinking and innovative problem-solving. These are some of the reasons veteran entrepreneurs, both men and women, tend to out-earn non-veteran entrepreneurs.
As the director of veteran entrepreneurship for PenFed Credit Union and a former leader at Bunker Labs DC, I’ve seen veteran entrepreneurs employ these skills to make successful businesses.
Consider this: Companies founded by women deliver more twice as much revenue per dollar invested than those founded by men. Women entrepreneurs create more jobs and hire more workers than their male peers. And women-owned businesses that generated revenues of over $1 million increased nearly 50 percent over the past decade, compared to 12 percent of all U.S. businesses.
Women veteran entrepreneurs don’t lack the skillsets, training or ability. Many of them just lack capital. That’s why PenFed created the Women Veteran Fund as part of our Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program (VEIP) – to bridge the gap in funding and female representation in the investment process.
The recipient of our first investment, Air Force veteran Suzie Mills, started a yoga studio in her basement in 2013.
Today, Honest Soul Yoga has three studios in Virginia and is expanding to Washington, D.C., Florida and Texas. With the majority of her yoga students being service members or spouses, she’s promoting strong physical and mental health in military communities. And she’s helping combat the high unemployment rate among military spouses by hiring military or military spouses for over half her staff.
Mills is not alone in her hiring practices; in fact, veterans are 30 percent more likely to hire other veterans and spouses than their non-veteran counterparts. This is why investment in veteran businesses is so important. An investment in just one business has a ripple effect across multiple families and future generations.
Here’s what we need to support and scale women veteran startups:
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