In 2019, more than 6,200 veterans committed suicide. Suicides by veterans account for roughly 18 percent of all suicide deaths in the country, while veterans make up only 8.5 percent of the adult population. Hoping to address the topic of…
Ted Lachowicz ’72 Sparks Giving Back to Create Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans Reunion
Ted Lachowicz ’72 is a Whitman School alumnus specializing in real estate and venture capital. He is the founder and president of the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) Foundation, an organization that works with graduates from the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF)’s nine EBV Consortium schools to help them start and build their businesses. Now, after 15 years of helping small business grow, the IVMF recently hosted its first EBV reunion at the new National Veterans Resource Center (NVRC) at the Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello Building. The reunion brought back Syracuse University, Cornell and Purdue program alums, who make up a portion of the 2,300 veterans to date who have started a business (of which 92% are still in business today) through EBV programming.
The event was sparked by Lachowicz’s challenge to program alumni to match a $20,000 donation to host the event. “It is easy to match $20,000 when you are in touch with the alumni constantly. Some of them I have been mentoring for 10 years,” he said. Four program alumni, Kelo Makelele, JJ Stakem, JT Taylor and Bennett Tanton, quickly matched the amount to make the reunion possible. “The entrepreneurship program gave me the tools and I see value in it that, which made me want to give back,” Tanton said.
The EBV Foundation itself is constantly finding new ways to engage with graduates of the EBV program. “The reason we are standing here is these people put their lives on the line to keep freedom in America,” Lachowicz said. “I cannot think of a better way to give back than by supporting our veterans.” The efforts to improve veteran entrepreneurs’ journeys include the EBV Foundation Business Plan Competition, working with EBV graduates to develop business plans, and providing mentors to participating veterans to assist in the development of their businesses. Each of these overlapping mission areas helps EBV graduate-owned businesses grow, and through the EBV Foundation’s philanthropic efforts they can raise funds to keep the programs running at each consortium university at no cost to participants.
“Transitioning is a difficult time in the military community, so being able to provide programs at no cost to veterans takes a tremendous burden of their shoulders,” said Raymond Toenniessen, the IVMF’s associate vice president for strategic initiatives. “The EBV program is a major stepping stone for many of our veteran entrepreneurs and eliminating that cost barrier helps them focus on developing their businesses.”
Lachowicz was excited about the opportunity of hosting a reunion at the end of the 2022 EBV cohort because it allowed those participating to make crucial connections with successful alumni. His dream is to one day match each participant with an alum while the program is ongoing to provide them with immediate feedback on their ideas and help them along their journey throughout the EBV program. “I have always thought it would be great to integrate the old with the new because the new students can learn from the old students,” said Lachowicz.
The reunion itself started with alumni speaking to participants in this year’s EBV program at a panel for successful veteran-owned businesses. Once the rest of their peers arrived, alumni were welcomed and treated to dinner on the NVRC parade ground. During that time, many old friends reconnected and networking opportunities commenced as unfamiliar faces interacted for the first time. “I was excited to see old classmates and congratulate them on the successes of their companies,” Makelele said.
The next day alumni were back in class learning from world-class speakers, including Lachowicz, about leadership, building business stories, taking their business to the next level and marketing strategies. After classes ended for the day, alumni headed to a networking reception with participants in the 2022 EBV cohort. “I feel like I am at a family reunion and reconnecting with people to see where they are in their journeys now,” said Jesse Trevino, EBV-Syracuse ’18 alumnus. “It’s cool because I was able to zoom out and see where I have been in the journey, because it’s easy to forget how we got here, and it’s nice to celebrate it.” The closing ceremony recognized several alumni and awards were given out to alumni and the graduating class.
Lachowicz is looking forward to next year, and hopes that even more alumni will give back to EBV and other IVMF programming to support veteran entrepreneurs. “All the alumni are out there. Whether it is business, whether it is broadcasting, whether it is architecture, whatever it is, it is good to give back,” he said. “We have all been lucky to attend Syracuse University and to get a good education. Now it is time to give back to our programs and student veterans to carry it forward.”
If you are interested in supporting the EBV program and other IVMF programs, please reach out to Ashley Cavender, alumni services manager.