I’m one of the 2.5 million veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. I’m also an entrepreneur. And I’m not alone.
The men and women of today’s armed services are uniquely positioned to become successful entrepreneurs.
To my fellow veterans:
You have what it takes. By nature of your military service, you possess the skills that are required to run your own business. As a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine, you learned the importance of communication, focus, and drive to accomplish the mission at hand. You’ve encountered problems that need to be solved on the fly and you’ve done so instinctively. Recall one of the earliest reports from Operation Enduring Freedom: U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan coordinated precision airstrikes from laptops on horseback—21st Century technology met old-fashioned creativity to get the job done. That’s called entrepreneurship.
You are a leader. You’ve already acted with more poise under pressure than most people do in a lifetime. You’ve shown bravery in the most daunting situations one can face. These experiences will naturally yield positive results in a position of leadership; people around you will seek your guidance and direction, knowing they can trust your judgment. Use this to confidently build a team and lead them to success.
You have support. Programs like Techstar’s Patriot Bootcamp, The Institute for Veterans and Military Families’ Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, VETtoCEO, and VetsinTech provide valuable training. Incubators and accelerators like Bunker Labs provide a nurturing environment. Traditional, stalwart veterans groups, like the American Legion, deploy their substantial resources to support young veteran entrepreneurs. Congress has helped with the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2015. We veterans now have our own networks of angel investors and venture capitalists for sources of funding. These resources exist because they believe in your ability to succeed as an entrepreneur.
This isn’t a new concept. There is a rich history of military veterans finding success in business. A Syracuse University study found that nearly 49.7% of WWII veterans went on to own or run a business. Now it’s time for our generation to do the same. We have the opportunity to define our legacy through a collective act of “second service” to our country. By starting and running successful businesses, we become a catalyst for the real, sustained economic growth that our country desperately needs.
In closing, realize that your potential as a leader in the business world is unbounded. I hope you accept the challenge of entrepreneurship head on. I know you’ll win.
Mark Rockefeller is an entrepreneur, recovering attorney, and military veteran. He is the Co-Founder & CEO of Streetshares. His mission is to fund the next great generation of American business owners.
Follow him @MarkRockefeller.