From Military to Business Owner

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Opportunity to Transition from Boot Camp to E-Scholars

Sixteen veterans stepped up for a three-day business boot camp at the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to discuss potential ventures, some of which are already in the works.

The boot camp, Vets2Ventures, was held at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Bloch Executive Hall to provide exposure to an entrepreneurial environment for transitioning veterans. Full scholarships were awarded to each veteran accepted into the program, supported by the Regnier Institute and private sponsors.

Jeff Hornsby, Ph.D., director of the Regnier Institute, and Michael Begelfer, program coordinator, encouraged the group to ask questions, share information and garner as many resources as needed. Hornsby shared some of the opportunities available to them.

“We look forward to supporting you as you return to civilian careers, armed with exposure to entrepreneurship,” said Hornsby. “If you are committed to becoming an entrepreneur, you can transition from this boot camp to our E-Scholars program. The one-year program, funded by a grant from The Kauffman Foundation, will help start a venture from an idea or grow an existing business to new heights. The program culminates with an opportunity for the first place winner of our Venture Challenge to earn up to $15,000 to fund their enterprise,” said Hornsby.

Six attendees are already engaged in entrepreneurial ventures, ranging from security to construction startups.

Tony Mendes, Ph.D., instructor and associate director of the Regnier Institute, is responsible for the cross-campus program. He discussed the entrepreneurial personality with the veterans.

“What is the entrepreneur’s personality?” Mendes asked. “It is high risk, high learning and self-determination. These types also learn to operationalize their ideas and sell their products.” He pointed out that sales is an important part of being an entrepreneur, even though some resist it.

“The fastest growing area of entrepreneurship is social entrepreneurship, where you can form a venture to continue to make a difference in society,” said Mendes.

Art Filmore, founder and chair of the Heart of America Stand Down, has studied post-traumatic stress disorder for more than 20 years and helps homeless and wounded veterans. He discussed the valuable experiences veterans bring to their ventures.

Filmore’s topic – “Military: Best ENT Training Ground” – provided startling statistics on the plight of many of our veterans. He said more than 1,800 homeless veterans are on the street each night in Kansas City, and approximately 35 percent of vets are homeless in the U.S.

Filmore, a Vietnam veteran, said that even though veterans of that war were treated with great disrespect, “no one can take away the pride of being a veteran.”

“Being a veteran is an opportunity, not an entitlement,” said Filmore. “It provides the skillset for those veterans who are goal-oriented and a mindset to take care of others. You men and women have a perspective that others don’t – one of life and death. Don’t lose that. And, the leadership skills you learned in the military can be used in a veteran-owned business, which is about having fun, being a success and doing what you’re passionate about.”

Included in the three-day boot camp were sessions covering business models, legal issues, market research and financial models.

Michael McCoy, executive director at Innovative Solutions & Vision Consulting, LLC, gave tips concerning networking.

“Networking for veterans is one of the most important aspects of career transition and should be one of the highest priorities regarding time and effort. It provides a structure for veterans to help gain insight and perspective into new environments while allowing a rapid transfer of information, insight, perspective, experience and advice from trusted members of business and community organizations,” said McCoy.

“It allows you to accelerate your situational awareness, which is very similar to intelligence gathering for military operations to help make decisions and develop courses of action. We don’t step onto the battlefield without intelligence, thus stepping into the civilian world and a new career is no different,” concluded McCoy.

“Vets2Ventures focuses on building entrepreneurs rather than developing specific ventures,” said Begelfer. “Our goal is to assist the veterans in building the necessary confidence to transition from a military identity and to understand that an identity as an entrepreneur is open to them,” said Begelfer.

|Wandra Brooks Green, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

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