Robert S. Morrison of Quaker Oats®. George Schaefer of Fifth Third Bank. Sumner Redstone of Viacom. Alex Gorsky of Johnson & Johnson. Robert A. McDonald of Procter and Gamble. Ken Hicks of Foot Locker®. Daniel Akerson of General Motors. Lowell McAdam of Verizon®. Frederick Smith of FedEx®.
What do all these successful corporate executives, and many others, all have in common?
They’re all veterans. In fact, many business leaders around the country have military experience. As we celebrate National Veterans Small Business Week by offering our support to the local mom-and-pop shops that are the cornerstone of every community’s economy, it’s important to also recognize the vital role our veterans and service members play in starting, managing and growing small businesses. According to U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy, almost 10 percent of all small business owners are veterans.
Of course it should come as no surprise that military experience translates so naturally to entrepreneurialism. No one has more drive, discipline and dedication than our men and women in uniform. These skills don’t just matter to success in fighting to keep our country safe on the frontline, they also equip individuals with the savvy needed to grow a small company with a strong bottom line. Veteran-owned small businesses, like our veterans themselves, are a force to be reckoned with.
As with all small business, the impacts of their success are felt on the local level. According to the SBA, small businesses create two out of three new jobs in America—and it’s clear veterans are doing their part to contribute to that growth. Veteran small business owners employ 5.7 million people and pay out more than $210 billion in wages to their employees a year.
Perhaps one of the best, and certainly one of the best tasting, examples of a service member building a small business is the Pizzeria Bella Vista in Chesapeake, Virginia.
While serving in the military, Michael Signorelli was stationed in Naples, Italy where he fell in love with Neapolitan-style pizza. He learned the craft of making the dish himself, and when he returned home and realized how few restaurants in America did the dish justice, he dreamed of opening his own pizzeria.
He started out just cooking pizzas for his neighbors in an oven he built in his backyard. Then, while on Active Duty, he started a mobile catering company with a wood fire stove on trailer. When he finally wanted to make the leap to a brick-and-mortar location, he turned to Navy Federal — a trusted provider that had been with him throughout his service — for a loan that allowed him to turn his plan into a reality. “I don’t want to say it was easy,” says Signorelli, “but when you love something you’re already good at, it’s all the other stuff you have to get really good at.”
Signorelli and his wife opened Pizzeria Bella Vista last fall, showing that the same skill set required by the fine men and women serving in our armed forces can also prove a valuable asset when becoming successful small business owners serving up delicious pizza.
Signorelli’s story is merely one of many that show veterans aren’t just responsible for the strength of our security abroad, many of them are building up the strength of our economy right here at home. During this National Veterans Small Business Week, look for the veteran business owners in your community and offer some local patriots your patronage.
About the Author: Jim joined Navy Federal in July of 2003 and was tasked with overseeing the development of its business services program. Prior to joining Navy Federal, Jim worked for such companies as IBM, AOL, and Freddie Mac in various analyst and managerial positions in finance and planning. He was a volunteer Treasurer for a $170 million community credit union in Northern Virginia for more than 13 years where he developed his understanding and passion for the credit union movement. He attended the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, under a Naval R.O.T.C. scholarship where he received his undergraduate degree and commission. After serving in the Navy, he attended The Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, where he received his M.B.A. with concentrations in finance, accounting, and statistics.