For some starting a new business or pursuing an entrepreneurial dream can be a
daunting task. Imagine if you're returning from the ravages of war and service
to your country?
Well according to the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy (SBA) 45 percent of veterans are more likely to take the plunge into entrepreneurship than people with no active-duty military experience. (SBA May 2011 study).
More than two dozen veterans with disabilities from around the country (including
five from Connecticut) have brought their business plans and product ideas to
Hartford as part of a 10-day program with the UConn Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities.
Michael Zacchea, a retired and decorated Marine Lieutenant Colonel and executive
director of Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, said the program was started for Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans because the unemployment rate for those particular veterans is more than 30 percent.
“Veterans who want to own or operate their own businesses realize there’s a lot of risk and responsibility involved but they don’t quit,” Zacchea said. “They didn’t
quit on their missions and they won’t quit in their entrepreneurial pursuits.”
The bootcamp training consists of three stages: an online curriculum for 4 weeks;
resident training on campus for 10 days; and mentoring and continued support
for 12+ months.
Just how buttoned up the veterans’ business plans are will be put to the test by
peer evaluation as well as business school professors and business leaders who will teach courses and mentor the future business owners.
The future entrepreneurs’ business pursuits and ideas run the gamut. One Navy veteran who served on security detail for two U.S. Presidents is launching a security and protective services business. A general practice physician in the United States Air Force is advocating a holistic approach to combat PTSD. The D.C. based doctor is exploring funding for a community-based holistic center. On the lighter side, a U.S. Marine has turned heads with his concept of cereal flavored milk while another veteran is launching an apparel line for female motorcyclists.
The $15,000 price tag for each disabled veteran to participate at UConn’s EBV comes from private donations. The Bank of America Foundation and
TicketNetwork have financially supported the continued development and
expansion of the EBV program while Brooks Brothers outfitted veterans with custom fitted business attire and Working Vessels for Veterans (Niantic, CT) donated laptop computers to bootcamp participants.
Zacchea said the tuition costs are a small price to pay considering the $1 million cost for each veteran with a disability to receive benefits and healthcare from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Connecticut is the eighth worst state for veteran employment. More than 40,000 veterans out of over 250,000 in the state are currently unemployed, according to the CT Department of Veterans Affairs and Joint Economic Report from Congress.
Besides the University of Connecticut, this entrepreneurship program is offered at
Syracuse, UCLA, Purdue, Florida State University, Louisiana State University,
Texas A&M University and Cornell University School of Hospitality
Collectively, more than 500 service-disabled veterans have graduated from the program since its start in 2007 and are responsible for the start of more than 300 new, small businesses. To donate, volunteer or learn more about UConn's EBV program visit: http://www.business.uconn.edu/ebv
Lynn Luczkowski is president of L2 Communications in West Hartford, CT.