Featured Image: Daunya Byrd and Michael Alton are the co-founders of Alton's Old School Barbershop in Dallas.
There are more than 2.5 million veteran-owned small businesses in the United States, employing more than 5 million workers and adding roughly $1 trillion to the economy. These triumphs are in spite of the unique barriers faced by the military community, including their spouses and family members.
"Military spouses encounter more obstacles than their average civilian counterparts," explain Moni Jefferson and Flossie Hall, co-founders of the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs. "The continuum of multiple relocations and work outside of their field sets them hundreds of steps behind the average citizen to build generational wealth. Requiring them to continuously pivot to create financial support, emotional stability, and military readiness, they need to remain resilient to whatever lies ahead."
A new Hello Alice report, titled "The Impact of COVID-19 on Military-Connected Business Owners," outlines the unique challenges the military-connected community — including all branches of the U.S. military, active and reserve component members, military spouses, and veterans — has faced throughout 2020.
This document is part of a series built on a growing dataset gathered from more than 100,000 applications to our Business for All grant program. To date, 13,103 of those are from military-connected owners primarily spread across the healthcare and wellness, arts and entertainment, and professional services sectors (with a handful of others represented). Roughly 62% of this sample identifies as women.
Key data points from the report include:
- 67% of military-connected entrepreneurs said they were most impacted by reduced sales due to social distancing
- 91% requested emergency grants from the government; 58% said that they needed funding immediately
- 39% of veteran-owned businesses have closed in some capacity due to COVID-19; 83% believe their business will survive, whereas the remaining 17% are uncertain whether or not they will open again
The Impact Report supplements these numbers with stories from owners who describe how this year's events have impacted their lives and businesses, including Daunya Byrd and Michael Alton of the Dallas-based Alton's Old School Barbershop.
The husband-wife duo opened the business in January 2020 and looked forward to offering living wages to its staff and a great customer experience. Byrd, who joined the U.S. Army as a homeless college student, hoped to launch homeless outreach targeted at high schoolers.
Instead, COVID-19 has slashed the shop's revenue to about 15% of normal levels, and every employee has felt the crunch. But that hasn't stopped Alton from using the temporary lockdown to rebrand the business and plan for the future. Bolstered by a COVID-19 Business for All Emergency Grant from Hello Alice and a healthy dose of optimism, the co-founders are forging ahead.
"With more knowledge of the virus and safe practices, we are picking up and will be busy again," Alton says with confidence.
Action Plan: How We're Using This Report
Since our launch in 2017, Hello Alice has hosted resources and opportunities for military connected business owners. We are and always will be committed to equal access for these business owners. Our data shows that there needs to be a specific concentrated or conscious effort to support military-connected business owners to overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have responded with the most up-to-date opportunities, resources, and step-by-step guides to help military-connected business owners reopen safely and successfully. Together we will emerge from this crisis stronger than before.
Finally, Hello Alice recommends the following actions based on our data:
- More loans and grants. More than half of military-connected entrepreneurs have struggled with finding loans and grants
- Shop local. 67% of military-connected entrepreneurs have seen a reduction in sales due to social distancing
- Extend government support. 91% of military-connected entrepreneurs are looking to the government to step up and provide grants
- Engage with the following organizations: Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs, Business Beyond the Battlefield, Bunker Labs, United States Veterans Chamber of Commerce, and Veteran Women’s Enterprise Center
If your company or organization is interested in supporting this important work or gaining insights into your community of business owners, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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