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REPORT: Veteran-Owned Businesses in the U.S. By State

How does your state rank when it comes to small businesses owned by American military service members?

Statistics, challenges and resources for entrepreneurs

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After serving their country, many U.S. military veterans embark on a dream to start their own business and serve their communities in a different way. Under certain state and federal programs, veteran-owned small businesses receive special benefits including tax breaks, priority bidding on government contracts, easier access to capital, special loan programs as well as vital educational, training and support resources.

Historically, veteran-owned businesses have played a vital role in economic development in the United States. Major companies like RE/MAX, FedEx, Walmart, Anytime Fitness, Sports Clips, Nike, Amway, Enterprise and GoDaddy were all founded by military veterans who built a thriving business based in part on the qualities and characteristics they developed during their military service—not to mention the hundreds of thousands of other small businesses and startups founded by American veterans.

However, despite the valuable "soft skills" that service members develop in the military which often have beneficial implications in the business world—including leadership, teamwork, crisis management, self-discipline and perseverance under pressure—recent data shows that business ownership by veterans is lagging behind in many states.

In this report, we aimed to highlight statistics on veteran-owned small businesses in the U.S.—particularly where veterans are and are not starting small businesses.

What is a veteran-owned business?

A veteran is anyone who served on active duty with the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Space Force or Coast Guard for any length of time and didn't receive a dishonorable discharge. Reservists and members of the National Guard may also be considered veterans if they were called to federal service or disabled from a disease or injury that started or worsened while in the line of duty or during training.

In order to be certified as a veteran-owned small business (VOSB) and eligible for benefits under the Vets First Verification Program, the following requirements must be met:

  • The company must be at least 51 percent owned by 1 or more veterans
  • The veteran business owner must have full control over the day-to-day management, decision-making, and strategic policy of the business
  • The veteran business owner must have the managerial experience needed to manage the business
  • The veteran business owner must be the highest-paid person in the company (or can provide a written statement explaining why you're taking lower pay helps the business)
  • The veteran business owner must work full-time for the business
  • The veteran business owner must hold the highest officer position in the company

Veteran entrepreneurs can also get certified by the Small Business Administration under the 8a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) program. However, the eligibility requirements for this program are more restrictive as only veterans with a service-connected disability can apply.

National Veteran Entrepreneurship Statistics

Here are some general statistics about VOSBs in the U.S.:

How many veteran-owned businesses are there?


The number of veteran-owned businesses in the United States. (source)

What percentage of businesses in the U.S. are veteran-owned?

5.9 percent

The approximate percentage of business owners who were military veterans in 2018. As a whole, veterans represent less than 10% of the total U.S. adult population. (source)

How much do veteran-owned businesses contribute to the national economy?

$947.7 billion

The total annual revenues of veteran-owned businesses. (source)

How many people are employed by veteran-owned businesses?

3.9 million

The approximate number of employees who work for veteran-owned businesses. (source)

How big is the average veteran-owned business?

1-4 employees

The majority (54.5 percent) of veteran-owned employer firms have just 1 to 4 employees. Only 9 percent of firms have 20+ employees and 3.2 percent have more than 50 workers on their payroll.

Who is the average veteran-owned business owner?

Men over 55

The vast majority (about 74 percent) of veteran-owned businesses are owned by people over the age of 55. What's more, 84.3 percent of veteran-owned business owners are male.

What industries have the MOST veteran-owned businesses?

Some of the industries with the largest share of veteran-owned firms include:

  • Professional, scientific and technical services
  • Construction
  • Real estate
  • Retail trade
  • Administrative and support services


What industries have the LEAST veteran-owned businesses?

Some sectors with the smallest shares of veteran owners in 2015 include:

  • Healthcare and social assistance
  • Educational services
  • Accommodation and food services


Veteran-Owned Businesses by State

(ranked by the percentage of veteran employers in each state)

Veteran-Owned Businesses by State map

TOP 10     BOTTOM 10

The map above indicates which states have the highest and lowest rates of veteran-owned employers. States in green have the highest percentages of veteran-owned employers compared to the total number of employers in the state (as reported by 2018 Census data), whereas states in orange have among the lowest percentages of veteran-owned employers in the U.S.

Top 10: States with the highest percentage of veteran business owners

State Percentage
Maine 11.80%
South Carolina 11.25%
Alabama 10.72%
Oklahoma 10.63%
Alaska 10.10%
Virginia 10.05%
Tennessee 9.96%
Arkansas 9.88%
South Dakota 9.74%
New Hampshire 9.64%

Bottom 10: States with the lowest percentage of veteran business owners

State Percentage
New York 4.73%
Kansas 5.01%
North Dakota 5.23%
Wyoming 5.47%
Illinois 5.54%
Utah 5.83%
New Jersey 5.85%
California 5.88%
Montana 6.08%
Michigan 6.41%

Where does your state rank?

Where does your state rank? map

BEST 0 - 10   11 - 20   21 - 30   31 - 40   41 - 51 WORST

Alabama 3 5,018 46,826 10.72%
Alaska 5 946 9,366 10.10%
Arizona 20 6,127 74,101 8.27%
Arkansas 8 3,400 34,419 9.88%
California 43 31,475 535,348 5.88%
Colorado 38 7,291 104,102 7.00%
Connecticut 40 2,799 42,669 6.56%
Delaware 33 811 10,746 7.55%
Florida 30 23,203 301,301 7.70%
Georgia 12 10,625 113,844 9.33%
Hawaii 39 946 14,073 6.72%
Idaho 28 2,379 30,197 7.88%
Illinois 46 9,588 172,927 5.54%
Indiana 29 6,617 83,989 7.88%
Iowa 34 3,606 48,166 7.49%
Kansas 49 2,097 41,883 5.01%
Kentucky 24 3,986 50,132 7.95%
Louisiana 13 4,574 49,964 9.15%
Maine 1 2,558 21,687 11.80%
Maryland 19 6,048 71,886 8.41%
Massachusetts 32 6,583 86,552 7.61%
Michigan 41 7,767 121,261 6.41%
Minnesota 31 6,916 90,648 7.63%
Mississippi 14 2,291 25,201 9.09%
Missouri 22 6,697 81,504 8.22%
Montana 42 1,512 24,852 6.08%
Nebraska 25 2,825 35,553 7.95%
Nevada 35 2,235 29,995 7.45%
New Hampshire 10 1,778 18,443 9.64%
New Jersey 44 7,127 121,828 5.85%
New Mexico 18 1,908 22,226 8.58%
New York 50 12,413 262,395 4.73%
North Carolina 16 11,192 129,415 8.65%
North Dakota 48 756 14,443 5.23%
Ohio 23 10,865 134,010 8.11%
Oklahoma 4 5,041 47,419 10.63%
Oregon 21 5,920 71,711 8.26%
Pennsylvania 37 11,534 161,279 7.15%
Rhode Island 15 998 11,228 8.89%
South Carolina 2 5,838 51,906 11.25%
South Dakota 9 1,591 16,334 9.74%
Tennessee 7 6,586 66,156 9.96%
Texas 36 21,729 292,024 7.44%
Utah 45 2,789 47,872 5.83%
Vermont 27 866 10,903 7.94%
Virginia 6 10,402 103,509 10.05%
Washington 17 9,743 112,969 8.62%
West Virginia 11 1,578 16,564 9.53%
Wisconsin 26 7,201 90,551 7.95%
Wyoming 47 634 11,588 5.47%

SOURCE: The U.S. Census Bureau, 2019 Annual Business Survey (covering reference year 2018, released to the public on Jan. 28, 2021)

NOTE: It's important to note that the ABS only includes tabulations for employer businesses, which are businesses with paid employees. The survey does not include veteran-owned businesses with no paid employees.

DISCLAIMER: MaxFilings assumes no responsibility for inaccuracies or for changes in such information that may occur after publication.

Veteran Population Demographics by State

When comparing small business data, it's important to keep in mind the general population demographics since certain states have larger populations of veterans and therefore logically may have higher rates of veteran-owned businesses.

General population demographics also help expose inconsistencies where the percentage of veteran-owned businesses does not match up to the state's overall ranking of veteran residents, indicating that the state either over-performs or under-performs in supporting veteran entrepreneurs.

Percentage of veterans per total population

Veteran's Day: 2020

[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

Key Findings and Challenges Facing Veteran Entrepreneurs

When comparing the Census map above with our map of veteran-owned employers by state, a number of disparities come sharply into focus.

For instance, while you might think that states with higher populations of veterans would also have higher rates of veteran employers (since the state government would have more incentive to support veteran-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs), the data shows that this isn't necessarily the case.

  • While Montana has among the highest percentage of veterans by population (above 10 percent), the state ranks in the bottom 10 when you look at the percentage of veteran employers in Big Sky Country.
  • Other states that rank towards the bottom of the pack despite having average or above-median veteran populations include North Dakota (48th), Wyoming (47th), Hawaii (39th), Colorado (38th), Nevada (35th) and Delaware (33rd).
  • Virginia and Alaska, on the other hand, both have high populations of veterans as well as high percentages of veteran employers. This suggests that there is more equity when it comes to business opportunities for veterans in these 2 states.
  • Georgia has a below-median veteran population of less than 7.9 percent, and yet it ranks toward the top (12th) when it comes to veteran employers in the state.
  • Other states that rank towards the top of the pack despite having average or below-median veteran populations include Louisiana (13th), Mississippi (14th), North Carolina (16th) and Maryland (19th).

While the underlying causes behind these disparities are complicated and beyond the scope of this report, it's clear that the many obstacles and barriers veterans face when starting a business are having a sizable impact on economic opportunity for the men and women who have served our country.

Only 4.5 percent of post-9/11 military veterans have started a business, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is a dramatic decline compared to the nearly 50 percent of WWII veterans and 40 percent of Korean War veterans who opened a business.

There are many possible explanations for this stark free-fall in veteran entrepreneurship, including:

  • Loss of domestic manufacturing and warehousing jobs (industries that historically serve as a bridge between military service and civilian life)
  • Increased stigma of military service members with PTSD or disabilities
  • Widening military-civilian divide
  • Fewer networking opportunities
  • Confusing verification processes for VOSB certification
  • Fewer financial resources for veterans
  • Difficulty finding mentors
  • Lower loan approval rates than civilian businesses

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Additional Resources for Veteran Small Business Entrepreneurs

  • U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA offers support for veterans as they enter the world of business ownership through funding programs, training, and federal contracting opportunities. For example, the Veteran-Owned Small Business Growth Training Program is a free peer-to-peer training program designed to help veteran-owned small businesses grow their professional networks.
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. If you have a veteran-owned small business, you may qualify for advantages when bidding on government contracts—along with access to other resources and support through the Vets First Verification Program.
  • Syracuse University's Boots to Business. This free program sponsored by the SBA provides a curriculum to veterans at no cost that leads participants through the key steps for evaluating business concepts and provides the foundational knowledge required to develop a business plan.
  • Syracuse University's Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans. EBV opens the door to economic opportunity for veterans by developing their competencies in the many steps and activities associated with creating and sustaining an entrepreneurial venture. The program is offered at no cost to veterans, with travel and lodging covered.
  • Syracuse University's Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship. V-WISE is a training program aiming to help women veterans and female military spouses/partners find their passion and learn the business savvy skills necessary to turn an idea or start-up into a growing venture.
  • Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers. A nationwide network of dedicated procurement professionals working to help local businesses (including vet-owned entrepreneurs) compete successfully in the government marketplace.
  • American Corporate Partners. A nonprofit organization that pairs military veterans with corporate leaders and mentors to aid the transition back to civilian life. While geared more toward veterans who want to pursue a professional career (rather than those who are looking to start a business), the mentorship program can be incredibly useful to aspiring entrepreneurs as well.
  • Veterans and Military Business Owners Association. VAMBOA is a non-profit veteran business trade association that promotes and assists Veteran Business Owners, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOB) and Military Business Owners.
  • VETtoCEO. A nonprofit organization that supports veterans and transitioning military members to succeed in business ownership by offering free training resources and guidance to help veterans leverage their skills to start or buy a business and run it successfully.
  • National Veteran Small Business Coalition. As the largest non-profit trade association in the country representing veteran- and service-disabled, veteran-owned small business (VOSB and SDVOSB) in the federal marketplace, NVSBC provides nationally recognized training, networking, and advocacy for veteran small business entrepreneurs.

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