The U.S. Small Business Administration has expanded its pilot “Boots to Business” Program. The program is designed to help active duty veterans and retiring military members pursue entrepreneurship as they transfer to civilian life.
The program is seen as one way to combat the high unemployment rate seen among returning veterans as compared to the rest of the population. Last year, the veteran unemployment rate was at 9 percent. That was down from the previous year by nearly a full percent, according  to Reuters. Still, that 9 percent is 1.6 percent higher than 2013’s unemployment rate among civilians.
SBA ran a pilot “Boots to Business” program in 2012 through the U.S. Marine Corps. The program was limited to three Marine bases located in Quantico, Va., Cherry Point, N.C. and Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif. Watch the video to learn more:
With the success of that program, the SBA recently announced a $3 million contract with Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families. That money will allow the school to expand “Boots to Business” on a nationwide scale. The deal is for three years with the option of two additional years after that.
The Institute for Veterans and Military Families and the SBA believe that military veterans are ideal candidates for small business ownership. In fact, veterans already have a track record of small business success, says J. Michael Haynie, the Institute’s executive director. In a release announcing the new contract, Haynie explained :
“Veteran-owned businesses represent nearly 2.5 million of all U.S. small businesses, employ more than 5.7 million Americans and contribute close to $1.7 trillion to the nation’s GDP.”
Every year, about a quarter-million members of the military transition to civilian life, according to the SBA. An estimated $1 million will be transitioning from military life over the next few years, the White House claimed in a recent announcement. During this time these veterans will need to decide whether to enter the workforce or start a business.
According to the SBA, the “Boots to Business ” program begins with a video introducing the program. It’s shown to all active duty military members as they begin their transition back to civilian life.
Those with more interest will then take a 2-day, classroom-based course. The course is an introduction to small business ownership. The classes are followed up with an eight week online course teaching the basics of the business plan and tips for starting a business.
In a statement announcing the agreement with Syracuse University, New York Sen. Charles Schumer explained:
“Veterans are leaders, innovators and doers, and the ‘Boots-to-Business’ program provides the guidance to tap into those attributes.”
According to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, military veterans are twice as likely to want to start a small business and have it succeed as a civilian.