Former Navy Petty Officer Ronnie Reum knows how to safely jump out of a helicopter into the ocean but is having a hard time finding clients for his small commercial-cleaning company.
The 36-year-old veteran, who has little business experience, is now being mentored in marketing with the help of an eight-month-old "business accelerator." Veteran Entrepreneurial Transfer Inc. of Milwaukee is one of a handful of free programs that have sprung up in recent years to assist veterans attempting to become entrepreneurs after struggling to join the civilian work force.
At VETransfer, Mr. Reum has access to expert advisers as well as cubicle space with Internet service and a phone line to run his business. He hopes the program's advisers will help him figure out how to turn his Milwaukee start-up, Healthy Spaces Cleaning, into a profitable enterprise. The veteran, who left the military in 2002 following an injury, started his business in late 2009. Mr. Reum says the business, which had revenue of about $25,000 this year, is his main source of income.
Overall demand is soaring for enrollment in programs designed to help veterans start businesses.
Mr. Reum says he had to wait five months just to get a slot in VETransfer, for instance.
Ted Lasser, executive director of VETransfer, says there are about 40 veterans who currently want to get in. The program, based out of a 15,000-square foot facility, is funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs and led by a team of six entrepreneurs. He initially expected it to provide free mentoring and resources to only about a dozen veteran-owned start-ups. But to date the program has managed to make room for about 160, serving about 60 on-site and the rest via the Web.
Most VETransfer participants are expected to stay in the program for six months to a year.
Wait lists for some other programs are as long as one year. The typical wait may grow even longer in 2012, with tens of thousands of service members set to return from Iraq by the end of this year.
The unemployment rate for veterans who served in the military at any time since September 2001—so-called Gulf War-era II veterans—is 11.1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national unemployment rate currently stands at 8.6%.
Due to structural shifts in the economy, there is "decreasing demand for the kind of blue-collar jobs that many veterans were trained for as part of their duties in the military," says Richard Burkhauser, a professor of economics at Cornell
University in Ithaca, N.Y.
More than 400 franchisers—ranging from household names like 7-Eleven Inc. andDunkin' Brands Group Inc. DNKN -0.06% to lesser-known chains such as U.S. Lawns Inc. and Caring Transitions—have pledged in recent years to provide financial incentives to veterans through a partnership with the International Franchise Association, the industry's largest trade group.
Mail Boxes Etc. Inc., a San Diego-based retail shipping and business-services franchise that operates under the brand name UPS Store, offers veterans a $10,000 discount on the $29,950 franchise fee for a UPS Store. And starting in January, the company will waive the entire fee for the first 10 qualifying veterans who apply before June 30, 2012, says Stuart Mathis, president of Mail Boxes.
But many veterans including Mr. Reum say they'd prefer to build their own businesses from scratch.
Securing proper financing, however, is a common challenge.
"Many of them don't have a lot of formal training around how to go out and pursue traditional sources of capital," says Mike Haynie, a professor of entrepreneurship at Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management. For fiscal 2011, which ended in September, the Small Business Administration guaranteed 4,311 loans for veterans, down from 4,907 in 2010, though the total amount backed rose to $1.49 billion this year from $1.3 billion last year.
Mr. Haynie, a former Air Force officer, has helped to develop four entrepreneurship-training programs for veterans nationwide, which vary in length and frequency. One program, started in 2007, is open only to disabled veterans. It received 500 applications this year—twice as many as last year—for only 175 slots.
The programs have been funded mostly by corporations such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.,WMT -0.31% Humana Inc. HUM +0.13% and PepsiCo Inc. PEP -0.06% Meagan Smith, director of a recycling program at PepsiCo, says the beverage maker is providing $500,000 a year for three years to one of the Syracuse programs, and that PepsiCo is benefiting by touting its support for veterans in promotional materials for the recycling initiative.
There is no way to measure what, if any, added value the "accelerator" programs provide to those who participate. Some cite intangible benefits of coaching and mentoring. Others point to entrepreneurship basics.
"It really laid the groundwork on how to properly start a business," says Shannon Meehan, who participated in a boot camp for veterans with disabilities at Syracuse University in July after waiting seven months to get in.
The 28-year-old former Army captain says he is now applying the knowledge he gained from the program—such as how to incorporate a business and develop a customer base—toward a start-up, called Designing Freedom LLC, that specializes in embroidering logos that use a military-style camouflage-pattern onto T-shirts, thermals and other apparel.
"I was really searching for something to do in my life," says Mr. Meehan, who left the military in 2009 due to an injury.
"There's a comfort level with being surrounded by other veterans," he adds. "A lot of them were like me. They had an idea but didn't know what to do with it."
Mr. Meehan's business is now up and running with four employees. He says he's in the process of developing a company website and licensing deals so he can embroider sports-team and other trademarked logos.
Applicants for the programs don't have to be fresh out of the military. Navy veteran Kevin Jones, 50, is still waiting to get into VETransfer. He launched a real-estate investment firm in 2009 and says he needs help growing it because it isn't generating sufficient income. "My expertise has only gotten me so far," says Mr. Jones, who left the Navy in 1989. In the meantime he is working as an electrical technician, one of several low-paying jobs he has juggled in recent years to make ends meet. "I was able to get it started but I can't it get to that next level."
Write to Sarah E. Needleman at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) and the Bob Woodruff Foundation announce a strategic partnership to assist post-9/11 service-disabled veterans in attending the 2012 National Veteran Small Business Conference and Expo June 26-29 in Detroit, Mich.
The partnership will allow veterans to apply for grants that will cover conference admission fees, lodging and transportation to promote entrepreneurship and small-business ownership in the veteran community. Conference grants and applications will be administered through the IVMF and its national Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV). Qualified applicants must be post-9/11 service-disabled veterans who own, or aspire to own, a small business. Grants are awarded on a first-received basis. Those interested can apply here.
“The IVMF is excited to enter into this new partnership with the Bob Woodruff Foundation to further our mission of training veteran entrepreneurs and supporting veterans and military families,” says Raymond Toenniessen, IVMF founding director of operations and development. “Given the foundation’s resources and support, this collaboration is a perfect match that will further benefit our nation’s service members as they return to civilian life.”
“This investment is the beginning of a promising partnership with the IVMF. Facilitating meaningful activity for injured service members and their families through employment, education and entrepreneurship is at the forefront of our investment priorities at the Bob Woodruff Foundation. We support the innovative leadership of the IVMF and look forward to the long-term impact of the conference,” says Anne Marie Dougherty, executive director of the Bob Woodruff Foundation.
The Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) is the national nonprofit that helps ensure our nation’s injured service members, veterans and their families return to a home front ready to support them. BWF provides resources and support to service members, veterans and their families to successfully reintegrate into their communities so they may thrive physically, psychologically, socially and economically. Through a public education movement called ReMIND.org, the Bob Woodruff Foundation helps educate the public about the needs of service members returning from war—especially the one in five service members who have sustained hidden injuries such as traumatic brain injury and combat stress, including post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety—and empowers communities nationwide to take action. Across the country, BWF collaborates with other organizations and experts to identify and solve issues related to the return of service members from combat to civilian life and invests in programs that connect our troops to the help they need—from individual needs like physical accommodations, job training, financial counseling, to larger social issues like homelessness and suicide. The Bob Woodruff Foundation has invested nearly 11 million, impacting more than 1,000,000 service members, support personnel, veterans and their families nationwide. For more information, visit http://remind.org.
EBV Veteran Brian Iglesias on Fox's National Morning Show, Fox & Friends
By Eric Nelson
When veterans from across the Midwest and Eastern United States arrived at Purdue's Krannert School this August for an intensive, seven-day bootcamp in entrepreneurship, they brought proven leadership skills and unproven business ideas. They left with the skills and training needed to enter today's combative marketplace and the confidence to achieve economic freedom.
By Andrew Butler
For new military recruits, boot camp is a rigorous regimen that transforms them from civilians to soldiers. Although valued in the long run, most recruits are happy when it's over.
So why are 19 military veterans so eager to get into one particular boot camp at Florida State University?
By Mark Tutton
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Life after the military can be tough for many war veterans who struggle to adjust to life after combat.
But a scheme at The Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University aims to provides business training for U.S. war veterans that will make that transition easier.
The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) teaches valuable skills that enable veterans to become self-employed and make their business ideas viable.
By Jane Wells
In a classroom at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, a professor is running through the calculations needed to figure out "the IRR". That's the internal rate of return. A group of 20 men and women take notes. "The cash flow I get in year one needs to be brought back by some rate of return," he tells them, scribbling on a whiteboard.
The students listening intently are not aspiring Wall Street titans. They are disabled veterans who have either started small businesses, or hope to.
Veterans-turned-entrepreneurs offer advice
By Amy S. Choi
After 13 years in the Marine Corps, Brian Iglesias was ready to embark on a dream career in filmmaking. Prepared to pay his dues, he worked the phones, sent e-mails, and paid visits. But all he ran into were dead ends. "Not too long ago I was leading over 225 Marines in landslide relief operations in the Philippines," he says. But "I had to beg people to let me intern. Only my friends were willing to give me work."
Frustrated, Iglesias decided to start his own company and turned to one of a growing number of programs that help soldiers become entrepreneurs. He enrolled in the intensive 14-month Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (Iglesias has a metal plate fused in his neck), offered for free to service-disabled veterans at Syracuse, Florida State, UCLA, Texas A&M, and Purdue. Started by James M. Haynie, an Air Force vet turned business school professor at Syracuse in 2007, the boot camp includes lessons in business plan development, marketing campaigns, financing, legal issues, and supply chains.
August 21, 2008
New York Times
By JAMES FLANIGAN
MAJ. STEPHEN THOMAS began to consider starting a business in the year after he was badly wounded in Iraq and was being treated at a succession of Army hospitals. "I was bored with nothing to do," he says.
Anderson School program for entrepreneurs provides basic training to 15 recruits.
Former Marine Sgt. Shawn James has found moving from the military world to the business world a difficult journey.
Add a disability, and potential partners shy away in droves, said the 33-year-old San Diego resident, who dreams of starting a company involving hybrid vehicles.
"There's a stigma attached, and while I could dispel a lot of that if given the opportunity, it's that first initial access that's the problem," said James, who was left with respiratory problems and lower back pain from injuries sustained during a severe storm in the Indian Ocean.