The Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA) recently hosted its inaugural Veteran Career-Ready Bootcamp at the National Veterans Resource Center at the Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello Building (NVRC). This career-preparation event brought together student veterans for a daylong series…
Veterans Learn Cutting-Edge Training in Entrepreneurship, Small Business Management
The D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University recently celebrated the addition of 25 new graduates from the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) program. The program is unique in that it leverages the skills, resources and infrastructure of higher education to offer cutting-edge training in entrepreneurship and small business management at no cost to all post-9/11 veterans.
Entrepreneurship is one of the three major pathways that servicemembers pursue during the transition to their post-service lives. According to the National Survey of Military-Affiliated Entrepreneurs, veterans are not only more likely than their civilian peers to start and run their own businesses but on average, they also out-earn their non-veteran counterparts.
During the Saturday evening graduation ceremony at the National Veterans Resource Center, J. Michael Haynie, IVMF’s Co-Founder and Executive Director, shared his personal opinion on what makes the program a success in preparing veterans for the challenges of entrepreneurship.
“The EBV program really embodies the convergence of two truths that I hold very closely. The first of those is the power of business ownership to change the trajectory of lives and families,” says Haynie, a U.S. Air Force veteran and the University’s vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation. “The second truth is the resiliency, the grit, and the selflessness of those who have served, and how those attributes translate to the relentless pursuit of the next big challenge, however daunting that challenge may be.”
With more than 2,400 EBV graduates to date, the program also calls upon previous graduates who have seen significant success after attending one of the IVMF’s entrepreneurial training programs. One such graduate is U.S. Marine Corps veteran Chris Dambach, owner of Industry Standard USA. Dambach’s business provides construction and facility support services for government projects and has been featured on the Inc. 5,000 list celebrating the fastest-growing businesses in the United States.
Dambach also had a hand in recruiting one of this year’s graduates, local Syracuse business owner and U.S. Air Force veteran, Brandon Johnson. Johnson is the owner of Crossett Property Management, which manages several properties located primarily in the Strathmore area of the city.
“I met Chris at a veteran-focused conference a few years ago, and we were talking about getting into the government contracting space eventually, and he told me I had to do the EBV program,” Johnson says. “Just feeling the energy in the room and being exposed to the faculty that’s here, it’s just a great refresher to keep our tools sharpened to go out there and be successful in business.”
The program does more than teach about small business management, however, it also gets the participants out into the local community to speak with local business owners. This year’s cohort visited Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and Talking Cursive to learn firsthand what struggles local owners go through as they grow their businesses.
In addition to the EBV program, the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs at Syracuse University leverages access to world-class faculty for introductory lessons in entrepreneurship for a small group of participants with the Warrior Scholar Project (WSP).
The WSP program is designed to prepare transitioning service members for higher education. Understanding that most of the program participants haven’t been in an academic classroom for several years, WSP prepares participants for the rigors of higher education, equipping them with the tools necessary to be successful in the pursuit of their academic goals.
The WSP program spanned the course of two weeks; the first week focused on humanities and the second week focused on entrepreneurship. Tristan Whipps, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran studying information management technology and professional technical writing at the School of Information Studies, served as a business fellow over the summer to help guide and mentor this year’s participants after being a program graduate with last year’s cohort.
“The business week is designed to demystify business as an undergraduate degree. They’re getting a crash course on topics related to entrepreneurship like some legal considerations for entrepreneurship, branding and marketing, as well as small business finance,” Whipps says.
Both cohorts would not be nearly as successful without the dedication and support from professors and faculty members of Syracuse University. This year, 11 professors and faculty members from outside the IVMF taught crucial lessons in a range of disciplines between the two programs. Those faculty members are:
- Sean Branagan, director of the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
- Craig Champion, professor of history, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
- Carol Faulkner, professor and associate dean for academic affairs, the Maxwell School
- Tim Gerkin, professor of writing and rhetoric in the College of Arts and Sciences
- Crystal Houston, adjunct professor, the Newhouse School
- Thomas Keck, professor of political science, the Maxwell School
- Eileen Schell, professor of writing and rhetoric, the College of Arts and Sciences
- Alex McKelvie, interim dean, the Martin J. Whitman School of Management
- John Torrens, professor of entrepreneurial practice, the Whitman School
- Kenneth Walsleben, professor of practice, the Whitman School
- Elizabeth Wimer, assistant teaching professor, the Whitman School
John Wildhack, the University’s director of athletics, served as the guest speaker during the graduation ceremony. Wildhack shared some of his personal insight from his time during the startup of ESPN and provided some of his own advice to guide them on their path upon leaving campus and returning to their entrepreneurial journey.
“As you embark on your next chapter or continue to grow the business you’ve already established, identify what motivates you, what drives you, and what’s most important to you both in your work and as an individual,” Wildhack says. “For me, it’s the three F’s: Family, Faith and Friends.”
For more information on the programs and services offered to service members, veterans, and military-connected spouses, please visit the IVMF website.