Vice Chancellor Haynie Testifies on Capitol Hill at the Want for Pathways for Veteran Marketers

J. Michael Haynie, Syracuse University’s vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation and executive director of the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), told lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week that veterans separating from military service have a critical need for multiple and robust pathways to post-service jobs and careers.

J. Michael Haynie, vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation and executive director of the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), testified before the House Committee on Small Business on June 8 during a hearing, “Military to Main Street : Serving Veteran Entrepreneurship.”

Haynie tested before the House Committee on Small Business on June 8 during a hearing, “Military to Main Street: Serving Veteran Entrepreneurship.” The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the role of veteran entrepreneurs in the economy and how the US Small Business Administration (SBA) supports their transition to civilian life.

Haynie was among a panel of presenters who are deeply invested in the work of supporting veteran entrepreneurs, including Brenton Peacock, director of the Florida Veterans Business Outreach Center at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Florida; Laurie Sayles, president and chief executive officer of Civility Management Solutions in Greenbelt, Maryland, and Joe Shamess, founder and general partner of Flintlock Capital in Great Falls, Virginia. Once their testimonies concluded, they answered questions from committee members.

In testifying, Haynie drew on his long experience in the veteran business community to help committee members understand the unique needs of this population. “For many, the transition from military to civilian life is extremely challenging,” he said.

Haynie’s experience in leading IVMF over the past decade—and specifically the institute’s work to apply an academic and data-driven lens to understanding the opportunities and challenges associated with the transition from military to civilian life—has given him a unique perspective.

Some veterans pursue higher education and others pursue training positioned to prepare them for a meaningful trade and career, Haynie said. “At the same time, it’s also the case that a great many veterans, throughout history, have demonstrated a strong desire to create their own job—through business ownership—after they take off the uniform.”

Data from the US Small Business Administration suggests that in fiscal year 2021, more than 20,000 service members participated in small business ownership training in preparation for their transition to civilian life.

“Where the rubber meets the road, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are as entrepreneurial as they come—a fact contrary to the perception that the military is universally rigid and bureaucratic,” Haynie said. “In fact, our servicemembers are trained to make things happen, often in the face of dynamic and resource constrained environments.”

By its very nature, launching and growing a new venture is the highest form of social and economic service, Haynie said. More than 60 percent of new jobs created each year come from small business, to include those new jobs now employing the many millions of post-9/11 veterans that have transitioned to civilian life over the past 20 years.

“It is for these reasons, and many more, that the public and private sectors should continue to collaborate, on behalf of the men and women who answered the nation’s call to military service, to expand the opportunity for veterans to serve the nation yet again as America’s next generation of business owners and leaders,” Haynie said.

Haynie highlighted three findings from the just-published 2022 National Survey of Military-Affiliated Entrepreneurs (NSMAE), a study conducted by the IVMF each year. Among the findings were that access to capital is a top challenge for veteran entrepreneurs; the navigation of local resources is difficult; and the diversity of the community equates to disparate barriers and challenges.

Haynie also spoke at length on women veterans and military spouses. Women currently make up 17 percent of the US military, and their service often equips them with vocational skills in high demand across the civilian labor market. Women veterans possess tested leadership ability, are resilient and demonstrate calm and confidence in high-pressure environments. “However, despite these compelling strengths, many female veterans cite persistent barriers to educational and networking resources necessary to bridge military-learned skills and experiences to business ownership,” Haynie said.

“Small business ownership enables military-connected women to pursue a professional career, in the face of unique caregiving responsibilities and frequent relocations often typical of a military-connected lifestyle,” Haynie said. “Consequently, collective action to create inclusives to business ownership for military pathway-connected women should be a national priority.”

Haynie said public and private sector funding should be allocated for this purpose and target not only adding scale to existing business ownership programs and pipelines serving military-connected women, but also deployed to seed and scale new and innovative pathways to business ownership for military-connected women.

A first step is to create a broader awareness of the supportive resources that already exist. One example is the Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) initiative, currently offered by IVMF. This program, a partnership between Syracuse University and the US Small Business Administration, includes online coursework, a three-day, in-person training experience and ongoing mentorship for female veterans and military spouses interested in business ownership. Similarly, the IVMF also provides—through a program called Onward to Opportunity—a cost-free opportunity for military-connected women to earn vocational certificates and credentials that are in high-demand across the labor market and aligned with business ownership.

A great many of social, wellness and economic challenges that veterans face later in life have their origin in the preparedness of the veteran to successfully navigate the transition from the military to civilian life, Haynie concluded.

“Consequently, as we emerge from the COVID health emergency, the first, best use of our resources should be to ensure that those making the transition from military to civilian life are prepared, supported and proactively connected to the communities where they will live, work and raise their families. Based on research and practical experience, I have suggested here that expanded support for military-connected business ownership resources and training programs is positioned to advance that objective,” he said.

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