According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, veterans are 45% more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans, and veteran-owned businesses account for nearly $1 trillion dollars generated for the U.S. economy every year. The tremendous success demonstrated by veteran business owners nationwide is especially noteworthy because there are considerable obstacles that veterans face not only to employment, but to entrepreneurial opportunity. 

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the unemployment rate for veterans in 2011 was 3.4% higher for veterans than non-veterans, and 55% of transitioning veterans report struggling to find a job. For veteran entrepreneurs in particular, there are added difficulties of societal transition, finding entrepreneurial and business training, and accessing capital. 

Although the challenges of launching a business are significant, talented veteran entrepreneurs are conquering these odds every single day. 

This Veteran’s Day, we wanted to share insight from six veteran-owned businesses across the country, and encourage YOU to #SpendLikeItMatters in support of veteran-owned businesses in your community. 

Compass Coffee, Washington D.C., owned by Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez

“Really, the whole military runs on coffee.” – Harrison Suarez, co-owner of Compass Coffee

“We had [relevant] experience, albeit it was in the middle of a war zone,” Suarez said in an interview with Tasting Table. “The way that we went about achieving our mission [there] was a lot about building rapport, sitting down, drinking tea with other people in the village or tribal elders,” Suarez says. “[We were] sitting down and discussing what we want the town or village to look like.”

Simply Pure Dispensary, Denver, Colorado, owned by Wanda James

“When you tell people you’re a military vet, they feel better about what it is that you’re doing.” – Wanda James, owner of Simply Pure Dispensary. 

“We knew he (Obama) was going to do his best to end cannabis prohibition and we decided at that point to open up a dispensary and put a black face on a dispensary,” James said in an interview with Connecting Vets. “We had been speaking publicly about social justice surrounding cannabis … we had been fighting for vets to have access to cannabis for PTSD and now we are fighting for TBI and CTE to be able to use CBD with THC.”

Stars & Stripes Brewing Co., Freeport, Maine, owned by Nancy and Brad Nadeau

“When you sacrifice your life for the military, it’s always in the back of your head that you want to find something else that is meaningful.” – Nancy Nadeau, military spouse and co-owner of Stars & Stripes Brewing Co. 

“The taproom has really become a source of pride for veterans,” said Nancy in an interview with the Boston Globe. “Customers come back with different family members or friends, and you can see the sense of pride they have in showing them around. It gets them talking about their military experience with loved ones, and it’s a really powerful thing to observe.”

Pizza di Joey, Baltimore, Maryland, owned by Joey Vanoni 

On fighting the 300-feet ban on food trucks and hiring a veteran staff, Joey Vanoni said: “Not having access to foot traffic during high volume times, it’s extremely limiting. It hurts my bottom line.” He continued in an interview with The Daily Signal. “If I had more business, I could give [veterans] more hours in terms of logistical stuff. It limits my sales and my ability to give veterans more opportunities to make money.”

Tin Hut BBQ, Aiea, Hawaii, owned by Frank Diaz

“Tin Hut BBQ is a disabled Veteran Owned business specializing in bringing mainland style BBQ to Hawaii. The goal is to hire veterans and active duty military spouses.” – Frank Diaz, owner of Tin Hut BBQ

Talking about his beginnings in BBQ with Small Business Trends, Diaz said: “After doing some research I decided to develop a mobile food trailer. Soon after the government moved me to Hawaii to prepare for deployment in Afghanistan. During that time, I decided to buy a smoker. It was during this time that I developed many of my recipes and the soldiers gladly became test subjects to try the smoked meat.”

Pioneer Square D&E, Seattle, Washington, owned by Jonathan Fleming and Libby Aker

“To come back into the community and essentially start over can be really tough. These are people who committed to put their life on the line, if necessary, for our country.” – Jonathan Fleming, co-owner of Pioneer Square D&E

“You meet so many people from so many walks of life, from all around the country,” Fleming said. “It helped me. I don’t feel like there’s any person or conversation that I can’t be apart of.” Read more about Pioneer Square D&E on the Intentionalist blog here.

Ready to support veteran-owned small businesses in your community? Check out our full list here. Are we missing your favorite brick + mortar veteran-owned business? Suggest it here, and we’ll get it added to our site.

Thanks for all you do to #SpendLikeItMatters – shop small, buy local, and #BeIntentional! Discover awesome brick + mortar small businesses in your community, suggest your favorites, and be sure that you’re following us on social media (InstagramFacebookTwitter).

Intentionalist is your local guide to small businesses and the diverse people behind them. We believe that where you spend your money matters, and we’re sure glad you do too! Whether you identify as a localist, activist, or just a good neighbor, we make it easy for you to connect with, learn about, and support small businesses in your community through everyday decisions about where you eat, drink, and shop.

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