March 1 through 7 marks the annual observation of National Invest in Veterans Week. During this time, everyone is encouraged to invest in U.S. military vets by purchasing from their companies and supporting educational development and mental health empowerment after their service.
The week was founded in 2019 by National Football League player and veteran Drayton Florence and Jeff Shuford, an Iraq War veteran. At its heart, it is designed to bring attention to veteran business owners.
“Marketing is a significant obstacle for aspiring veteran business owners in addition to mentorship,” said Shuford. “As veterans exit the military, we are conditioned to tackle business obstacles as an Army of one as opposed to finding resources within the community.”
“Our multi-faceted approach to National Invest in Veterans Week is to utilize the power of advocacy, branding, and impact to support and promote veteran business owners nationwide,” said Shuford.
According to the Small Business Association, veteran-owned small businesses employ more than 5 million people with a payroll of $195 billion. Over 52 million are majority-owned by veterans; of those, 99.9% are small firms. They are as varied as their owners’ passions; digital market ventures, gyms, restaurants, and construction companies are just the tip of the iceberg.
Those businesses contribute massively to the American economy, with more than $1 trillion in gross receipts.
Most veterans are between 45 and 64, and many leave the service with significant training in specialty areas. In fact, one in 10 start their own firm.
A veteran population in a city can be significant: the city of Jacksonville, FL, alone has 34,000 veterans. With the combined Armed Services expected to release more than a quarter million service men and women in the coming years, each community will have the opportunity to embrace, encourage, and celebrate them.
The observance’s organizers suggest many ways to support vets this week and beyond. One could buy from a veteran-owned business in their community or nurture a veteran start-up through fundraising or grants. Additionally, people are encouraged to mentor former soldier entrepreneurs or partner with a veteran company in a meaningful way.
There are also easy ways to get involved online, whether by promoting the week via social media or petitioning local, state, and federal legislators to honor former service people.
Organizers encourage participants to engage veterans in a conversation about their service experience. It can garner a greater understanding of the sacrifices and hardships, joys and triumphs, and skills and knowledge they learned in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, or Reserves.
Recently, Tech from Vets launched an Invest in Veterans Week app. “Vet 22” is designed to connect veteran business owners nationwide, offering development tips and military news. The app’s name is also significant as it was based on an estimation by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on the average number of veterans who die by suicide in the U.S. daily. The hope is to call attention to that sobering fact and to help them build successful and fulfilling lives when they return home.
National Invest in Veterans Week is an important way to honor former soldiers’ work and contributions to the country. During March 1 through 7, consider finding veteran-owned businesses in your community to reach out to and support.