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Britain’s military veterans need better backing to become entrepreneurs

Britain’s military veterans need better backing to become entrepreneurs


31 Jul, 2019

The entrepreneurial and workplace talent of Britain’s military veterans isn’t being fully realised, according to a new report from the Federation of Small Businesses, which calls for a better connection between Service leavers and the small business community …

More could be done to harness the skills and work ethic of military leavers, according to a new report from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). The report, ‘A Force for Business’, which was published ahead of Armed Forces Day 2019, recommends an enhanced support package for those transitioning out of the Armed Forces, including a greater focus on the option of self-employment and the key skills needed to succeed in enterprise.


  • Around 340,000 (6%) of small businesses are run by ex-military personnel, and the vast majority (78%) have grown to take on employees: 50% have between one and ten employees, while 7% have in excess of 50 employees and 22% are sole traders.
  • More than one in ten (12%) small businesses have employed a Service leaver in the past three years, with manufacturing the most common sector (20%), followed by wholesale, retail and repair (15%), and professional, scientific and technical (11%).
  • Among those small businesses employing veterans, the benefits they have found include resolving skills shortages (35%), improving team performance (27%), and providing fresh perspectives and creative ideas (26%).

Says FSB national chairman, Mike Cherry, ‘Setting up and running your own business requires courage, determination and a strong work ethic. These are attributes that Service leavers have in spades, and why self-employment is a route well worth considering by those coming towards the end of their time in the Armed Forces. For those seeking employment, small businesses can often be better than bigger ones at spotting and nurturing talent, rather than discard a Service leaver’s job application because some of their skills and qualifications aren’t necessarily from a traditional academic route.

The full report, ‘A Force for Business’, includes more recommendations and statistics, as well as the methodology. For a copy, please contact Kerry Curtis at FSB by calling 07815 537657 or emailing

‘However, there is room for greater support and advice to Service leavers on the options of self-employment or finding work within an existing smaller business, and there should be more of a focus on the key skills needed to succeed in enterprise. At the same time, employers would benefit from a simplified way of understanding and recognising the equivalence between military skills and civilian qualifications.’

The report also recommends more financial support for those Service leavers in need of further training and qualifications to achieve their post-military ambitions. While, for small businesses that employ Service leavers, it calls for a one-year holiday from employer National Insurance contributions.

Lt. Col. Ren Kapur, founder and CEO of X-Forces Enterprise, and FSB’s Armed Forces Champion for Small Business, adds: ‘Military service – the education, the knowledge and the experiences this provides individuals – is a wonderful foundation on which they can build their own career in self-employment or business ownership – they just don’t always know it when they are transitioning from their military institution to the commercial world. This is where X-Forces Enterprise (XFE) has been leading the way since our launch in 2013, and the spotlight that the FSB is placing on this community is really welcomed. 

According to MoD figures, there are around 925,000 Armed Forces veterans of working age in households across Great Britain.

‘Many skills developed within the Armed Forces community are in high demand in the commercial world of employed work: cyber security, drone technology, telecommunications, logistics, prosthetics and artificial intelligence, to name just a few. These extremely valuable skills must not be lost to the commercial world, either employed or self-employed. It is likely that these individuals can experience and flourish in both after serving their country so well.’

We did it!

The report highlights a number of case studies, including those listed below.

  • John Geden, who after an Army career and second career as a police detective, turned his ‘mindfulness’ activity of beekeeping into a business in Hayling Island, Hampshire, which includes making and selling honey, supplying wedding favours and training amateur beekeepers. John turned to beekeeping to help him relax after he was diagnosed with PTSD.
  • James Wilthew, a former Flight Lieutenant who served in Afghanistan, who after leaving military service set up a business in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, selling handmade Afghan rugs.
  • Debbie Strang, who left the RAF to start a family, then went on to start a business that took over a disused RAF base on Unst, Shetland, and turned it into the UK’s most northerly resort and award-winning gin distillery.
  • PJ Farr, who set up a telecoms business after leaving the Army, having been inspired by military communications technology. Based in Surrey, he specialises in providing superfast broadband services to construction sites across the UK.
  • Catherine Bunn, an RAF veteran from Inverness, who set up a successful camper van rental business in the Highlands.

John Geden 

James Wilthew

Debbie Strang

PJ Farr

Catherine Bunn



As experts in business, the FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services, including advice, financial expertise, support and a powerful voice in government. Its aim is to help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions.

More information is available at and  you can follow the FSB on Twitter: @fsb_policy

For regional FSB contacts, please go to