Programs Helps Disabled Vets Become Entrepreneurs

WASHINGTON — Retired Army 1st Sgt. Renee Floyd was­n’t about to let a dis­abil­i­ty stop her from real­iz­ing her dream of hav­ing her own busi­ness.

Apply­ing 21 years of expe­ri­ence as an Army mechan­ic, she launched BRF Mobile Lube Ser­vice in Phenix City, Ala., in 2009 and began trav­el­ing to people’s homes and busi­ness­es to pro­vide con­ve­nient oil changes and main­te­nance ser­vices.

But her big break came last month, she said, when she attend­ed the Entre­pre­neur­ship Boot­camp for Vet­er­ans With Dis­abil­i­ties at Flori­da State Uni­ver­si­ty. The nine-day EBV crash course is part of a pro­gram designed to help par­tic­i­pants get their busi­ness­es off the ground or enhance ven­tures they have start­ed.

Syra­cuse University’s Whit­man School of Man­age­ment in New York was the first to offer the pro­gram for vet­er­ans dis­abled as a result of their mil­i­tary ser­vice since Sept. 11, 2001.

Flori­da State Uni­ver­si­ty in Tal­la­has­see, Fla., launched its own pro­gram in 2008. Now, a con­sor­tium of sev­en uni­ver­si­ties around the Unit­ed States par­tic­i­pates, anx­ious to help dis­abled vet­er­ans make their dreams of entre­pre­neur­ship a real­i­ty.

Randy Blass, a retired Air Force lieu­tenant colonel who serves as direc­tor for the FSU pro­gram, said entre­pre­neur­ship offers the vet­er­ans some­thing a reg­u­lar job can’t.

Par­tic­u­lar­ly for those strug­gling to deal with a sep­a­ra­tion from mil­i­tary ser­vice that they did­n’t ini­ti­ate and often did­n’t want, Blass said entre­pre­neur­ship offers a new sense of iden­ti­ty.

“They are no longer that cor­po­ral or that sergeant or that cap­tain. They are going through an iden­ti­ty tran­si­tion, and to just get a job does­n’t always address that psy­cho­log­i­cal iden­ti­ty need,” he said.

Entre­pre­neur­ship also holds allure to those who see it as a way to con­tin­ue serv­ing the coun­try. “By being an entre­pre­neur, we are help­ing with the eco­nom­ic recov­ery,” Blass said. “You are cre­at­ing jobs. … That mes­sage is not lost on some­one who still wants to serve and is look­ing for some iden­ti­ty to latch onto.”

Par­tic­i­pants begin online train­ing before arriv­ing on cam­pus for an inten­sive boot camp that Blass said keeps them engaged from sunup to long after sun­down. Through class­es and work­shop ses­sions, they learn the nuts and bolts of run­ning a busi­ness: how to write a busi­ness plan, raise cap­i­tal and build a cus­tomer base.

The cost of the boot camp, includ­ing food, lodg­ing and trans­porta­tion, is picked up by par­tic­i­pat­ing uni­ver­si­ties with gifts from alum­ni, entre­pre­neurs, cor­po­ra­tions and busi­ness lead­ers.

After the pro­gram, par­tic­i­pants receive a full year of ongo­ing sup­port and men­tor­ship.

The train­ing is demand­ing, and expec­ta­tions of par­tic­i­pants are high. “We don’t cod­dle,” Blass said. “We also don’t dwell. We don’t even real­ly talk about their dis­abil­i­ties.”

Rather, the focus of the pro­gram is strict­ly on entre­pre­neur­ship. “We talk about busi­ness,” Blass said. “We are going for­ward. We are not look­ing back­wards.”

Floyd had made good head­way in build­ing her mobile lube busi­ness. She had put her bach­e­lor of sci­ence degree in busi­ness admin­is­tra­tion from Amer­i­can Mil­i­tary Uni­ver­si­ty to work, for­mu­lat­ing a strong busi­ness plan and mar­ket­ing mot­to: “We change lives, one car at a time.”

What she did­n’t ini­tial­ly rec­og­nize was that a fear of approach­ing author­i­ty fig­ures had kept her from ful­ly mar­ket­ing the busi­ness. “It was hold­ing me back from going to the cor­po­ra­tions and small busi­ness­es and offer­ing my ser­vices to them,” she said.

But it took a pro­fes­sor at the FSU boot camp to help her real­ize and press through that fear, she said.

“After he hit me with that and made he think about it, I was able to resolve that issue right away,” Floyd said. She imme­di­ate­ly began push­ing her­self to sin­gle out and engage busi­ness lead­ers to pro­mote her busi­ness.

Anoth­er big take­away from the boot camp was learn­ing to rethink her approach to the busi­ness. “I real­ized that I had to come out of the tech­ni­cian role and into the man­age­ment role to make it a suc­cess,” she said.

The boot camp expe­ri­ence and fol­low-on men­tor­ing already is mak­ing an impact on her bot­tom line.

“I’m see­ing an increase in my busi­ness and new oppor­tu­ni­ties to expand it,” she said. “I came back here [from the boot camp] on fire. And I am still imple­ment­ing those things I learned from the school, and mak­ing them a per­ma­nent part of my dai­ly busi­ness.”

Now, Floyd calls her­self “a walk­ing kiosk” in extolling the val­ue of the EBV pro­gram to oth­er dis­abled vet­er­ans.

“The busi­ness or idea that you nev­er thought you could own is only an EBV class away,” she tells them, and “the busi­ness that you cur­rent­ly own is only an EBV class away from suc­cess that you could nev­er have imag­ined.”

Oth­er grad­u­ates of the pro­gram share Floyd’s enthu­si­asm.

Chris Can­cialosi, a for­mer Army Nation­al Guard avi­a­tor, start­ed his own busi­ness, gotham­CUL­TURE, short­ly after return­ing from Iraq in 2005. But it was the EBV pro­gram, which he attend­ed in 2009, that helped him real­ize the dif­fer­ence between being self-employed and being an entre­pre­neur.

“If you expect to grow, you have to focus on grow­ing the busi­ness,” he said, rather than try­ing to do it all solo. Now that he’s hired a staff and del­e­gates some of the company’s sup­port func­tions, Can­cialosi is see­ing his com­pa­ny grow by leaps and bounds.

“Being an entre­pre­neur means that I have the abil­i­ty to con­trol my des­tiny, to make a dif­fer­ence in the world in my own way,” he said. “The only lim­its that are set for me as an entre­pre­neur are those that I set for myself. I am [now] able to cre­ate some­thing in the world in my own vision.”

Oth­er alum­ni of the pro­gram say they are apply­ing the lessons learned through EBV in build­ing their busi­ness­es.

Jose Rene “J.R.” Mar­tinez, an Army vet­er­an severe­ly burned when his Humvee hit a land­mine in Iraq in April 2003, grad­u­at­ed from FSU’s pro­gram in 2008 and now serves as a moti­va­tion­al speak­er and actor on ABC’s “All My Chil­dren” soap opera.

Daniel Hash, anoth­er grad­u­ate of the 2008 boot camp, found­ed Unit­ed Doves, a com­pa­ny that releas­es doves at wed­dings, funer­als and oth­er events, then retrieves the birds after they return home.

Mary­lyn Har­ris, a for­mer Army nurse who attend­ed last year’s class, runs Har­rland Health­care Con­sult­ing, a man­age­ment con­sult­ing firm.

For­mer Army staff sergeant Claudel Aubry, a 2010 EBV grad­u­ate, runs a logis­tics man­age­ment firm that spe­cial­izes in trans­porta­tion and sup­ply chain man­age­ment.

Reg­gie Crane, a retired chief mas­ter sergeant who attend­ed the same class, is apply­ing lessons learned to his com­pa­ny, Next Lev­el Coach­ing and Con­sult­ing Ser­vices.

Can­cialosi called the pro­gram one of the best things going for dis­abled vet­er­ans who have the fire in their bel­lies to become entre­pre­neurs.

“For peo­ple who are very seri­ous and very com­mit­ted to start­ing their own busi­ness and world of entre­pre­neur­ship, this pro­gram is fan­tas­tic,” he said.

“It is a phe­nom­e­nal pro­gram. The peo­ple run­ning it are extra­or­di­nary human beings” he added. “It real­ly is that epit­o­me of the idyl­lic Amer­i­can spir­it.”

As the pro­gram grows, Blass said, the next plan is to expand it to include care­givers of vet­er­ans with dis­abil­i­ties and spous­es of the fall­en.

Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty was the first to offer that pro­gram, and Blass said FSU will offer its first Entre­pre­neur­ship Boot­Camp for Vet­er­ans Fam­i­lies in Feb­ru­ary.

Details about the pro­gram and how to apply are post­ed at http://whitman.syr.edu/ebv/ with links to par­tic­i­pat­ing uni­ver­si­ties’ web­sites.

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →