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Supporting our military community

Note: This blog originally published on the Commerce blog.

USPTO staff Alford Kindred and Harry Kim share entrepreneurship resources with military personnel and spouses at Hanscom Air Force Base (Photo courtesy of Todd Maki, Hanscom Air Force Base)

Last week, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo joined Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Kathi Vidal at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, for an Entrepreneurship Essentials Workshop and Resource Fair.

Over 100 military personnel, military spouses, and veterans attended in-person, with hundreds more online, as they heard from experts in business development and intellectual property (IP). Successful military spouses and veteran entrepreneurs discussed how they started businesses, and the resources and tools that helped them. From honing a business plan to protecting a brand and ideas, to market analysis and financing, the event included tips and resources on every angle of entrepreneurship. 

“We want to figure out how to get the resources that we have within the Commerce Department, including at the USPTO, to assist veterans and their families,” Secretary Raimondo said.

Just a few weeks ago, President Biden signed an executive order to boost the economic and career prospects for military spouses and veterans, including service members approaching retirement.

Secretary Raimondo greets Kim Howell, master of ceremonies for the Entrepreneurship Essentials Workshop and Resource Fair, and U.S. Coast Guard spouse (Photo courtesy of Todd Maki, Hanscom Air Force Base)

“President Biden is incredibly serious about supporting our service veterans and their loved ones,” Secretary Raimondo said in her remarks at Hanscom. “He has tasked each of us in his Cabinet about being proactive.”

Along these lines, the Secretary added, “the question is, what can we do at the Commerce Department?”

The answer, according to Secretary Raimondo, is for the Department to help veterans and their loved ones start businesses. She pointed out that the unemployment rate among military spouses is approximately 22% — much higher than the national unemployment rate. Starting small businesses can help to reduce that spousal unemployment rate, while giving veterans and their families flexibility.

Also during the half-day event, Director Vidal pointed to the success that Hanscom has had with its Pitch It program. The program consolidates a wide range of technology market research functions, eliminating duplication and easing the pathway to public-private innovation.

“I was thrilled to learn about the work of the Hanscom Innovation Team, and the success you’ve had with your new Pitch It program,” Director Vidal told the Hanscom event on July 28. “We’d love to see it replicated throughout the country.”

“Entrepreneurship can be a game-changer for military spouses and for veterans,” said Director Vidal.

“For service members who are on the brink of making a leap into the civilian world, starting a business can be a viable second career.”

Director of the USPTO Kathi Vidal (left) speaks with Air Force veteran and entrepreneur Liseth Velez during a panel on business development resources (Photo courtesy of Todd Maki, Hanscom Air Force Base)

These efforts align with First Lady Jill Biden and the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative, which centers on employment and entrepreneurship; military child education; and health and well-being. The USPTO is working to support transitioning service members, military family members, and veterans to bring their innovations to life, build businesses, and protect their creations’ IP.

Across multiple agencies, including at the Commerce Department, the federal government under President Biden’s June 2023 executive order has been working to “increase the economic security of military and veteran spouses, caregivers, and survivors.”

The “bottom line is, we want to help you, we want to help you start a business, we want to help you grow your IP,” Secretary Raimondo told the military audience. “All the resources at the Commerce Department are available to you.”

Throughout the U.S., veterans own nearly two million businesses, which employ more than 5.2 million Americans, according to U.S. Census figures. At the USPTO, almost 10% of its 13,000-strong workforce is comprised of veterans, noted Director Vidal, whose father was both a veteran and an entrepreneur. 

If you are affiliated with the military and interested in starting your own businesses, visit the USPTO’s entrepreneurship resources for the military community page or contact