COVID-19 spared no one. Even the super-rich had to make abrupt changes in their businesses to keep them running. But of course, lower-income groups were hit harder, including the veterans.
At the beginning of 2020, the veteran unemployment rate was 3.5%. Then came COVID-19 and the rate shot up to 6.4%. A closer inspection revealed that the pandemic is affecting veterans differently. Unemployment was found to be more prevalent among post-9/11 veterans as well as younger veterans (aged 25 to 34). In addition, more black veterans than white veterans are unemployed.
Veteran unemployment has been a problem even before the pandemic. Pre-COVID-19, research found that aside from being unemployed, many veterans were also in occupations below their qualifications because they were forced to take jobs in low-wage sectors to reduce their financial challenges. Spousal unemployment and underemployment is another persistent problem; preliminary research data suggest that COVID-19 exacerbated it.
Thankfully, VA services were adjusted during the pandemic to address veterans’ problems in their well-being. We all know that many veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other health conditions related to their work and/or age. And of course, favorable VA loans are always available for them, should they need to buy, build, or repair their homes. Veterans may also refinance their loans if they’ve already built up enough equity.
As to how they can sustain themselves, with the unemployment crisis and all, they can start home-based businesses. Small Business Administration loans (SBA) loans are also available to veterans. In fact, the U.S. SBA has implemented a new measure to make small business loans accessible to veterans. It will allow them to borrow up to $350,000 without paying an upfront fee.
With that amount of cash on hand, they can start any of these brilliant small businesses:
1. Fitness and Wellness Programs
Veterans who have successfully overcome mental health difficulties can help others who are still struggling. In these tough times, mental health problems are more prevalent due to the sudden change the pandemic has caused in our lives. Many people have disrupted their own routines due to anxiety. Some have replaced working out with drinking, and a lot has stopped taking care of themselves.
But on the brighter side, fitness and wellness programs boomed during the pandemic. And veterans don’t need to be fitness and wellness professionals to extend a helping hand. Just by starting a blog or uploading uplifting videos on YouTube, they can change lives. They can start by sharing their own experiences on social media. Once their post has garnered significant attention, they can use that momentum to share more inspiring content, until they can get paid for it.
2. Digital Marketing Services
Veterans can enroll in an online course on digital marketing strategies, including search engine optimization. That’s how Sage Mauk was able to create his digital marketing company, SERP Co. He took the course and started the business to supplement his Coast Guard income.
According to Mauk, his whole world opened up to the possibility of making money using his laptop. Sure enough, all that’s needed to start a digital marketing services business is a working laptop and a broad knowledge of the field. But to succeed in this kind of business, veterans should expand their network. They should find mentors, sponsors, and a like-minded social circle. Thankfully, expanding one’s network can be done online, too; LinkedIn can connect veterans to many potential clients.
3. Art and School Supplies
Nneka Brown-Massey left the Army in 2016 and started Innovative Supplies Worldwide, Inc. The company sells stationery and school supplies and showcases artwork by black artists.
Brown-Massey got the inspiration for her business when she was scrolling through Instagram. She saw many amazing artworks and thought that she could help artists gain exposure by putting their art on her notebooks.
Veterans, especially the Blacks, may follow Brown-Massey’s example. Many artists might be struggling due to the pandemic, so starting a business that can benefit them will be immensely appreciated. Helping artists gain exposure can be a business’s selling point. Considering that the market for art and school supplies is already saturated, a new one needs a unique characteristic to generate sales.
4. Pet Services
Many veterans have worked with canines, and canines also played an important role in their trauma recovery. That was the case for former Army Captain Theresa Piasta. Canine therapy was powerful against her PTSD, inspiring her to launch a tech startup and lifestyle brand for dog moms around the world. The company is called Puppy Mama.
Veterans who turned to pet care to ease their mental struggles can make money out of this experience. They can offer dog-walking services for starters. If they have more resources, they can sell pet-care products, or write a book about pets and trauma recovery like Theresa Piasta.
Operating a business may not always be easy, but it’s a good tool against economic crises like a pandemic. To develop entrepreneurial skills, veterans can enroll in online courses, or participate in virtual seminars. Getting a mentor is a great tool as well.