How to Successfully Transition from Military Active Duty to Entrepreneurship
Jenny Hale, The Military Social Media Guru
Some of the best and brightest business owners I have met are military veterans. I learned this first-hand as a consultant. And I continue to see the pattern of success repeat again and again the more I meet military community entrepreneurs.
After active duty, military service members have several choices.
They can pursue a career, education, technical training, entrepreneurship, or retirement. The first one is spoken about heavily during the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), the next three are optional career tracks available during TAP, and the final one is for those who don’t plan to have another career after active duty.
All are great options. But it’s up to the individual service member, and their family, to decide which option is the best fit for them. What combination of options is the right choice for their situation?
Option 1 – A Career
I have a heavy background in transition advocacy, as well as military marketing and entrepreneurship. Many service members I’ve met opt for the first choice – a career. However, many veterans end up becoming entrepreneurs along the way, either as a side-hustle alongside their career or full-time.
I was in my early 20s when I started working with veteran entrepreneurs. Already an entrepreneur and marketing consultant, my college job was actually how I got my start working with the military community. I worked for an organization that specialized in military entrepreneurship. I ended up doing social media and PR work, building content stories with the veterans and military spouses the organization served.
It changed my life and became my biggest passion, especially when I found out I wasn’t medically qualified to enlist. The organization focused on transition too, especially when it led to entrepreneurship. I took all these skills as a civilian advocate and dedicated my career to helping military community members become successful civilian employees and entrepreneurs.
Option 2 – Entrepreneurship
It is no surprise that as service members leave active duty and venture into entrepreneurship, they learn and experience a lot of new things about themselves and their goals. Their leadership, time management, and decision-making skills make veterans incredible entrepreneurs. Mixed with a can-do attitude, veterans can be very successful in the civilian sector, especially as entrepreneurs.
What should you do?
After working with so many military entrepreneurs in the corporate world, and now as a military marketing consultant, I recommend finding a job first after the transition, depending on your financial situation, and working on your business as a side-hustle as a general first step. It’s much easier to invest in your business when you have a steady stream of income coming in, rather than worrying about where your next client will come from in order to pay your rent or mortgage. Having a job will also allow you to take bigger chances on your business knowing you have something to financially fall back on.
However, don’t let having a full-time or part-time job keep you complacent in your business. Use the financial freedom to grow, invest in your knowledge, market your business to build your brand.
There are so many free programs out there to help veterans learn entrepreneurship skills, including those you can take during the transition, like Boots to Business. Gain all the knowledge you can through your local resources as well, like the Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, and others.
Mentors can help you through the transition from military life
Gain a mentor during your transition no matter what, but also look for entrepreneur mentors. They will be able to guide you through your questions, concerns, and business efforts during your start-up stage. Sometimes you need a village and it’s okay to ask for help!
Embrace social media and modern marketing techniques. Buyers want to see authenticity, real stories, and the face of the brand. They want to feel understood and relate to the pain points being addressed. Businesses can do this through innovative marketing strategies on social media and content creation. To build your business’ reputation and awareness online, check out my list of 25 social media post ideas to spark conversation.
Entrepreneurship after the transition from the military isn’t always easy. Having a business is hard work! However, I’ve never seen more dedication to making a business successful than when I work with my military community clients. It’s possible if you put your mind to it and find the right opportunity that allows you to grow!
If you’re looking for a community of military spouse and veteran entrepreneurs, you can check out my Facebook group. Ask your questions and get input from a community of military spouse and veteran entrepreneurs building each other up. This group is perfect for military community entrepreneurs marketing military-themed products and services!
Jenny Hale is a military marketing and social media consultant and coach for military spouse and veteran business owners with military-themed businesses. Nicknamed “The Military Social Media Guru,” she uses her background working with military non-profits, military corporate companies, the Army, and as an entrepreneur to help military-focused entrepreneurs struggling to meet their online social media goals. You can follow her on Facebook Groups, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.