Whitman School, Institute for Veterans and Military Families Release First Data-Driven Research on Barriers to Entrepreneurship for Military

photo of IVMF building

Whitman School, Institute for Veterans and Military Families Release First Data-Driven Research on Barriers to Entrepreneurship for Military

Military skills like self-discipline, leadership, management skills, mental toughness and perseverance are highly transferable to entrepreneurship. However, these skills are not always enough to overcome obstacles to success. The Whitman School and Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) recently published their 2020 National Survey of Military-Affiliated Entrepreneurs, the first national initiative of its kind to develop data-driven research aimed at better insight into the economic, political and socio-cultural factors that create barriers to entrepreneurship for veterans, active military, reservists and their families.

Some critical information from the survey data includes:

  • Forty-two percent of veteran entrepreneurs cited a lack of initial capital as the top barrier in pursuing business goals.
  • Of those with capital, 63% used personal or family savings, while 35% accessed a personal credit card.
  • Seventy percent had support from family and friends to start their businesses, but 46% said that navigating the resources of their communities was difficult.
  • While 65% of veteran entrepreneurs said their military experience prepared them for the challenges of COVID-19, 76% still lost their businesses due to the pandemic.

The survey was funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation with support from the Center of Excellence (CoE) for Veteran Entrepreneurship. Completed in July 2020, the 211-question survey had nearly 3,000 veteran entrepreneur respondents. Principal authors of the report are Rosalinda V. Maury, IVMF director of applied research and analytics; Mirza Tihic, post-doctoral researcher with the EEE department and a member of the IVMF research and analytics team; Kicia Sear, program evaluation manager for IVMF; Associate Dean for Undergraduate and Master’s Education and Professor of Entrepreneurship Alexander McKelvie; and Najla Almissalati, a student researcher at the IVMF.

“The survey is exceptionally comprehensive and includes topics such as military service, transition experience, financial readiness and entrepreneurial ecosystems,” says McKelvie. “The information is filling a huge gap because we now have such a large, up-to-date data set that can be used to inform important decisions in current time. Prior to this, all existing studies related to veteran entrepreneurship were done before the COVID-19 outbreak. This data also includes information on additional barriers that surfaced during the pandemic.”

“This effort is extremely comprehensive; the data will be used to monitor and identify trends, persistent issues, and new challenges and solutions. It can also help us assess policies that stem from the impact of COVID-19, racial and ethnic inequities, and opportunities for women,” adds Maury. “By filling these critical data gaps, we can begin to have more robust discussions about the support mechanisms in place to help veterans and military families succeed on theirentrepreneurial journeys.”

In March, the Whitman School and IVMF published two related data briefs: the “Women Veteran Entrepreneurs Report” and “Black and African American Veteran Entrepreneurs,” both authored by Maury, Tihic and Almissalati. These provide in-depth highlights from the national survey, specifically focusing on data from 432 female (27% of total respondents) and 333 Black and African American (21% of total respondents) veteran entrepreneurs, including:

  • Only 27% of female veteran entrepreneurs were approved and received funding from the CARES Act Payroll Protection Program (PPP) compared to 47% of males.
  • Forty-eight percent of female veteran entrepreneurs started a business because they wanted to help society and support their communities.
  • Fifty-one percent of Black and African American veteran entrepreneurs were motivated by the desire to be financially independent and increase personal income.
  • Forty-nine percent of Black and African American veteran entrepreneurs were turned down when they applied for credit—versus 36% of other minorities and 30% of whites—and 66% of those who were turned down did not apply elsewhere.

“This data is the first of more information to come to inform national leaders, community partners, philanthropic organizations, policymakers and the private sector on the unique experiences and challenges of the military-affiliated population as they seek to pursue entrepreneurial success,” says Tihic. “The data will also be communicated to other academics who can share and educate those who understand veteran entrepreneurship and can influence better programming, training and decisions with military-connected individuals in mind.”

The Whitman School and IVMF will continue to drill down into the 2020 national survey data to pull out additional data sets. And,with the support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and theCoE, a second round of data collection for the 2021 national survey launched in May 2021; it included more detailed information onthe impact of the pandemic and a follow-up with those who tookthe 2020 national survey.

The 2020 survey results and reports are available at the IVMF website: ivmf.syracuse.edu/nsmae-series.