By Jeremy Field, regional administrator, Pacific Northwest, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
As the nation experiences unprecedented economic growth and nearly the lowest unemployment rates in history, President Trump and the U.S. Small Business Administration are working to ensure military spouses are part of the prosperity.
While the unemployment rate in Washington state is 4.6 percent, the unemployment rate among military spouses is 24 percent, a whopping five times the state rate. This is an alarming number in itself, but it’s even more discouraging when you consider that the majority of military spouses report they want or need to work.
Frequent moves between duty stations cost military spouses job options, time and money. According to a recent survey, on average, military families report difficulty making ends meet at twice the rate of most civilian families. In the same survey, half of military families report the source of financial worries is their spouse’s difficulty finding employment. This lack of income creates additional pressure on already stressful situations for military families.
That is why the U.S. Small Business Administration believes entrepreneurship is a strong alternative to employment for military spouses.
Entrepreneurship offers a more flexible and sustainable source of income for our nation’s more than one million military spouses. It allows spouses to be their own boss, set their own schedules, and use their unique perspectives to solve consumer problems.
Technology provides the tools for military families to create a virtual office from almost anywhere. Plus, growth in industries like e-commerce remotely expand opportunities to grow a customer base. Entrepreneurship can provide a flexible means for additional revenue that traditional employment cannot.
Entrepreneurs taking the leap into small business ownership don’t have to do it alone. In addition to the SBA’s core programs related to technical assistance, access to financing and business expansion through exporting and government contracts, the SBA has programs specifically designed for veterans and military spouses.
The most recent addition to SBA resources for military spouses is the announced partnership with the Veteran Entrepreneurial Training and Resource Network (VETRN), which features a pilot training program for military veterans, military spouses and immediate family members.
Funded through an award of $100,000 from President Donald Trump’s second-quarter salary in 2018, this 26-week program will feature 13 weeks of classroom sessions as well as 13 weeks of peer-to-peer mentoring sessions.
Another resource is the Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) that provides training and financing opportunities to entrepreneurs from the U.S. military community. In partnership with the SBA, the VBOC equips veterans, military spouses, active-duty service members and their families with no-cost, one-on-one advising, low-cost technical training, and a variety of business resources.
Third is the Boots to Business Reboot program. An extension of Boots to Business, an installation-based training for active military members, this one- or two-day in-person course is offered off installations for veterans and military spouses. The curriculum helps those interested in exploring business ownership or other self-employment opportunities by leading participants through the key steps for evaluating business concepts. It also provides the foundational knowledge required to develop a business plan.
Supporting entrepreneurial paths for military spouses is the least we can do for our military men and women. We can power their American dream of small business ownership while their families sacrifice to protect our rights to pursue that dream.
Jeremy Field is the regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Pacific Northwest Region which serves Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. The SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small businesses with resources to start, grow, expand or recover.