November 30, 2012
By Hanah Cho
On any given day, Andrew Nguyen juggles clients of his online marketing company while encouraging military veterans to start a business.
Developing vets into entrepreneurs is such a passion that last year Nguyen founded a Dallas nonprofit called Honor Courage Commitment, a name based on the core values of the Marines. Those attributes also make veterans ideal entrepreneurs, the 32-year-old former Marine said.
“I asked myself, ‘Why am I able to be successful?’ I saw that there was a direct correlation between military leadership and entrepreneurship,” said Nguyen, who became a franchise owner of WSI Search in 2008 and turned it into a profitable business. “The discipline instilled in veterans helps position them into becoming successful business owners.”
Nationwide, there are renewed efforts to promote startup activity among veterans who recently left the military and who face a higher unemployment rate as they adjust to civilian life.
Next year, the U.S. Small Business Administration, in partnership with the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Department of Defense, plans to start a national entrepreneurship training program for the 250,000 service members who leave active duty for civilian life each year.
Historically, veterans have started companies at higher rates than the general population, but veteran entrepreneurship has been declining over the last two decades, according to a study released this month by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Veterans made up just 6 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2011, compared with 12.3 percent in 1996.
The biggest reason for the decline, researchers found, was aging veterans leaving the workforce, not a lack of interest among younger veterans.
What remains worrisome is that young veterans could have less access to mentorship and support from the older generation of veterans who own businesses...
One of its core programs pays for veterans to attend the Starting a Business certificate program at Southern Methodist University’s Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship.
Each veteran is matched with a mentor from a pool of community and business leaders that Nguyen has recruited.
Jordan Jeffcott is one of seven veterans scheduled to finish the eight-week program this month. Last year, HCC helped three veterans participate in the program.
Jeffcott, 25, whose four years of active duty took him to Iraq and Korea, is studying finance and economics at SMU while pursuing a business idea called Mobile Military, a security escort service for students on campus.
Jeffcott said he sees firsthand the connection between his military service and starting a business.
“There are things that you go through in the military that push you to the limits and then some,” he said. “I think an entrepreneur has to have a no-quit attitude.”...