The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans
Contributed by Alan Rohlfing
Small business ownership. Entrepreneurship. Being self-employed or a sole proprietor. Call it what you will, but research indicates that veterans and their families are a bit more inclined to start a small business venture – and more apt to succeed at it – than our peers outside the military community. And although government-backed research shows that we’re slightly more successful at keeping our doors open than our colleagues without military experience, that fact doesn’t mean that small business isn’t risky. Just the opposite…small business is still a very risky proposition, and businesses in certain industries are riskier than others.
Why are we more successful at small business ownership? Perhaps it’s due in part to the same things that we in the military community have in our hip pocket that make us attractive members of an employer’s workforce…things like leadership training, attention to detail, and a conscious consideration of second- and third-order effects of the decisions we make. Perhaps it’s also because we’re good at finding ways to mitigate or minimize the risk that is inherent in small business…and some of those ways include recognizing and taking advantage of resources that exist to help us succeed, like the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV).
The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) is operated by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University. The EBV is a novel, one-of-a-kind initiative designed to leverage the skills, resources and infrastructure of higher education in order to offer cutting-edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management. The targeted audience is post-9/11 veterans and their family members who are in early growth mode for their new business.
The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans opens the door to economic opportunity for veterans by developing their competencies in the many steps and activities associated with creating and sustaining an entrepreneurial venture. The program’s curriculum is designed to take participants through the steps and stages of venture creation, with a tailored emphasis on the unique challenges and opportunities associated with being a veteran business owner.
The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans program was founded at Syracuse University in 2007 and has since expanded to additional universities across the U.S. Those EBV-partnering schools include Texas A&M, Purdue University, UCLA, the University of Connecticut, Louisiana State University, The Florida State University, Cornell University, Saint Joseph’s University and the University of Missouri – with Syracuse University serving as national host of the consortium of schools. Most of the 2019 dates at these schools have yet to be announced, so check back at the IVMF website on a regular basis to find those upcoming dates at a school near you.
The entire Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans training program is offered without any cost to participating veterans, but participation is limited to those post-9/11. The program is delivered through a three-phased approach, providing premier training and support along the way:
Phase 1 is a 30-day instructor-led, online course focused on the basic skills of entrepreneurship and the language of small business. The curriculum is moderated by entrepreneurship faculty and graduate students from one of the partnering EBV Universities; during this phase, delegates work on the development of their own business concepts.
Phase 2 is a nine-day residency at an EBV university where students are exposed to over 30 accomplished entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship educators from across the U.S. The residency includes more than 80 hours of instruction in the “nuts and bolts” of business ownership. This particular phase is intense, and designed to both educate and motivate.
Phase 3 involves 12 months of support and mentorship delivered through the EBV Post Program Support, a robust, comprehensive network of mentors, resources and national partnerships.
The EBV is designed to open the door to business ownership for veterans by 1) developing them skills in the many steps and activities associated with launching and growing a small business, and by 2) helping them leverage programs and services for veterans and people with disabilities in a way that furthers their entrepreneurial dreams.
Other programs offered by IVMF in the same vein as EBV include Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families and EBV Accelerate. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families (EBV-F) is an education and self-employment training program founded in 2010 and expanded to Florida State University in 2012. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families program offers small business training for military spouses and family members, or a surviving spouse of a military member who gave his or her life in service to our country. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families offers training tailored to military family members with caregiving responsibilities to launch and grow small businesses from home.
The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families program is designed to take advantage of the skills, resources and infrastructure of higher education to offer cutting-edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management. The program leverages the flexibility inherent in small business ownership to provide a vocational path forward for military family members. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families integrates training in entrepreneurship with caregiver and family issues, positioning participants to launch and grow a small business in a way that is complementary or enhancing to other family responsibilities. The EBV-F program operates on a rolling admissions process, so they are always accepting applications and will process them in the order they are received.
Eligibility for participation in the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families program is limited to a first-degree family member (spouse, parent, sibling, or adult child) of a post-9/11 veteran with a service-connected disability; a first-degree family member (spouse, parent, sibling, or adult child) of active duty military (including National Guard and Reserve); or a surviving spouse or adult child of a service member who lost their life while serving in the military post-9/11. The program is broken down in three phases: Phase I is a 30-day online, instructor-led business fundamentals and research course; Phase II is a 9-day residential training at a partnering EBV university; and Phase III is ongoing support, focused on small business creation and growth. The entire Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veteran’ Families experience, including travel and lodging, is offered without any cost to participants.
EBV Accelerate is a boot camp-style program focused on growth that tackles head-on topics such as the financial, management, marketing, and strategic planning challenges that established businesses face. EBV Accelerate is a 3-phase program that gives veterans that already have a successful business the tools and coaching to propel their business to the next phase: that of sustainable growth. Topics include acquiring growth funding, rebranding for expansion, determining a sustainable growth rate, establishing partnerships, managing cash flow, and more.
Eligibility for participation in the EBV Accelerate program: open to all veteran business owners, as long as 50% or more ownership is maintained by the veteran; in business for 3 or more years (recommended; must have financials); must employ 5 or more full-time employees; and the veteran business owner must have served active duty with honorable discharge or general discharge under honorable conditions. Graduates of other IVMF programs are eligible. This program is also offered in three phases: Phase I consists of two weeks of online instruction focused on business analysis; Phase II is a three-day residency during which participants will create a personalized action plan for their business; and Phase III involves resources to support the growth of the business. (Notes for Phase II: Monday & Friday are Travel Days, and the three-day residency is from Tuesday-Thursday; travel to the location is at the candidate’s cost; lodging and meals are provided for the participant during the three-day residency; and all program learning materials will be provided at no cost to the participant.)
If you decide that one of these programs looks enticing, check out the application process here. Take it seriously, though…these are highly competitive programs and you’ll need to have your ducks in a row. It’s in your best interest to write complete and thorough responses for the personal statement section to help the admissions committee make an informed decision on your application. Additional paperwork is required to go along with your application:
…Documents required for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) application include 2 Letters of Recommendation (must be addressed to EBV and speak specifically about your desire to join the program); an updated resume (military or civilian); and your DD214 Member 4 (showing dates of active duty, discharge status and with the SSN redacted) OR LES (Leave and Earnings Statement).
…Documents required for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families application include 2 Letters of Recommendation; an updated resume; and the family member’s DD214 Member 4 (showing dates of active duty, discharge status and with the SSN redacted) OR LES (Leave and Earnings Statement).
…Documents required for the EBV Accelerate application include 2 Letters of Recommendation (1 from a client & 1 from someone like your banker, accountant, insurance agent, or lawyer); a current resume; your DD214 Member 4 (showing dates of active duty, discharge status and with the SSN redacted); and a self- or accountant-prepared Income Statement OR Profit & Loss Statement.
The Institute for Veterans and Military Families is the first interdisciplinary national institute in higher education focused on the social, economic, educational, and policy issues impacting veterans and their families post-service. Through a focus on veteran-facing programming, research and policy, employment and employer support, and community engagement, the institute provides in-depth analysis of the challenges facing the veteran community, captures best practices and serves as a forum to facilitate new partnerships and strong relationships between the individuals and organizations committed to making a difference for veterans and military families.
The Institute for Veterans and Military Families has provided programs and services to more than 100,000 veterans, service members, and their families since 2011, and to more than 20,000 in 2017 alone. Their family of programs includes EBV, EBV-Families, EBV Accelerate, Onward to Opportunity, America Serves, Boots to Business, V-Wise, Center of Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship, CVOB (Coalition for Veteran Owned Business), VetNet – The Veterans Network, and Boots to Business – Reboot.
If you find yourself in transition – from active duty, from a deployment, or from a W-2 job – and you decide that you might like to give small business ownership a try, I encourage you to take a closer look at organizations like the IVMF and programs like the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans. While you probably won’t be eligible for all opportunities like these out there, there’ll be others for which you’re suited. And there will be other organizations that are more local to you, or that have different eligibility guidelines, for which you do qualify.
Connect with a small business counselor at your local economic development center or at your closest Small Business Administration office. Put talented people on your ‘team’ and take advantage of resources created especially for members of the military community…like you and me.