A veteran is (according to the Oxford Dictionary) someone who has a lot of experience in a particular area or activity. For many, and for the purpose of this article, it means someone who has served within the armed forces of their nation. Here, we will also include emergency services in that pool. So, are there too many UK veteran-owned businesses?
Short answer? Yes… and no, definitely not. We want to be specific here; we aim this article at the vet-owned businesses that are catering to the veteran market. Specifically, the coffee, fitness, and merchandise type brands. We are not really looking at the lads & lasses that leave and set up a trade or open a security firm, for example. This is more aimed at the general thought process shared by some from the community; that the market is saturated and that there are loads of companies selling T-shirts, coffee, or caps… us included.
The concept of a veteran-owned brand didn’t really hit the UK until around 2015/2016. Not really on a large scale, anyway. However, the US is no doubt the powerhouse in this field, and we wouldn’t be accurate if we didn’t at least mention the influence that our big cousin has made on the UK market. The most obvious example was started in 2014 by former Green Beret Evan Haffer, later joined by Matt best and Jared JT Taylor. Black Rifle Coffee Company is probably the best example to draw a comparison from for the simple fact that they are probably the biggest of this type of brand in the world. They even listed on the New York Stock Exchange in early 2022. It’s also valued at approximately 1.8 million USD. Now, I’m not an expert on their structure or history and this isn’t about the United States of Freedom, but their success is probably the pinnacle of veteran-owned brands, so it’s good to draw comparisons to give our answer to this question some perspective. Here in the UK, we don’t really have a business on BRCC’s level. We do have some OG’s though.
2016 was the year of birth for the UK veteran-owned market. That year saw Contact Coffee, HR4k, and Sin Eaters Guild all start. From their success, arguably, the floodgates opened. Now, from personal experience starting in 2020, it has by no means been easy to get to this point. It’s been an uphill battle to get what we have and to get to the position where I’m actually writing this crap for someone in the community like you to read. So, to say the floodgates opened is probably not true in terms of success. It is definitely true in the number of companies that have started up in the wake of the hard work and success of those UK-based firms that went first and almost built a blueprint. Or at least they showed it was possible over here. Depending on whom you talk to, their influence was great or small. They had a definite impact though, and we at Gibraltar Trading Company will always acknowledge and respect what the forerunners did and continue to do.
The question remains, though; now, at the time of writing on the cusp of 2023, are there too many UK veteran-owned companies? There’s no doubt more than before 2015, yet still less than in the US. We are much smaller, but try this, take a moment and list in your head all the companies that fall into this bracket. We are in that world, so it might come to us a bit quicker, but we can think of over 15 off the top of our heads. In 2021, there were 14,160 people who left the UK armed forces. That’s over 14k more veterans to hit civvy street. This was a slight increase from the year before (11.5% more) but that’s a lot of people. Our point is if we can only name 15 brands out of almost 8 years of trading from 2015 to 2023, but 14k more veterans were created in one year alone, are there really too many brands out there?
Now, this isn’t us trying to tell you what you should or shouldn’t think, you can take from this article whatever you want. Our opinion is ‘no’. There aren’t too many UK-owned veteran/service brands out there. There is plenty of space for us all! There are over 68 million people in the UK. Don’t get us wrong, you need to bring something different or unique to the table. You can’t just copy Contact Coffee, Fight or Perish or even us, but if you have an idea and spot a gap in the market, then go for it. Shoot your shot. Who knows, could be that little brand with 1k Instagram followers that’s the next veteran-owned brand listed on a stock exchange.