VFW Magazine June/July 2011 : Page 20

Succeeding Through ‘Entrepreneurship Boot Camps’ One in seven veterans is self-employed or a small-business owner. A fourth of all vets would like to start or buy a business. Now, an innovative initiative by the academic and public sectors is making this possible for disabled veterans. An entrepreneurship class in progress. By Michael Masucci, Jr. W ar veterans are a select group of individuals. Many take an incredible amount of pride in something very special: giving back to those in need. One veteran did just that. After serving as an Air Force logistics officer (1992-2006),with a tour on Haiti, J. Michael Haynie started the Entrepreneur Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) program in 2007. He had one goal in mind: to answer the question “what is my calling as a veteran?” “We had no money.We had no resources—we had an idea,” said Haynie, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University, N.Y.Haynie received his Ph.D. in entrepreneurship from the University of Oregon. “The EBV program for me was my opportunity to give back,”he says. Today, EBV is the nation’s leading educational program that integrates veter-ans with disabilities with formal one-on-one and collegiate-structured classes based upon entrepreneurship practices. Within two years, Haynie’s goal was broadened. In 2009, the Small Business Administration (SBA) partnered with Syracuse University, entering into a three-year cooperative agreement providing funding totaling $450,000 to support the university’s year-long EBV program on six (now seven) campuses. Says SBA’s Karen Mills: “We often speak about the sacred trust we have with our service men and women, and one way we honor that trust is ensuring they have every possible opportunity for success.When it comes to entrepreneurship, their success also means success in driving economic growth and creating jobs.” During the first year of the partnership, 129 service-disabled veterans partici-pated in the program. Since its inception,more than 320 disabled vets have grad-uated and more than 150 businesses have been launched by graduates. To qualify, veterans must have been discharged after 2001,have a VA-documented 20 • VFW • June/July 2011 J. Michael Haynie started the Entrepreneur Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities program in 2007 at Syracuse University in New York. PHOTO COURTESY RAY TOENNIESSEN PHOTO COURTESY RAY TOENNIESSEN

Succeeding Through 'Entrepreneurship Boot Camps'

Michael Masucci, Jr.

One in seven veterans is self-employed or a small-business owner. A fourth of all vets would like to start or buy a business. Now, an innovative initiative by the academic and public sectors is making this possible for disabled veterans.<br /> <br /> War veterans are a select group of individuals. Many take an incredible amount of pride in something very special: giving back to those in need.<br /> <br /> One veteran did just that.<br /> <br /> After serving as an Air Force logistics officer (1992-2006), with a tour on Haiti, J. Michael Haynie started the Entrepreneur Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) program in 2007. He had one goal in mind: to answer the question “what is my calling as a veteran?” <br /> <br /> “We had no money. We had no resources—we had an idea,” said Haynie, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University, N.Y.Haynie received his Ph.D. in entrepreneurship from the University of Oregon.<br /> <br /> “The EBV program for me was my opportunity to give back,” he says.<br /> <br /> Today, EBV is the nation’s leading educational program that integrates veterans with disabilities with formal one-on-one and collegiate-structured classes based upon entrepreneurship practices.<br /> <br /> Within two years, Haynie’s goal was broadened. In 2009, the Small Business Administration (SBA) partnered with Syracuse University, entering into a threeyear cooperative agreement providing funding totaling $450,000 to support the university’s year-long EBV program on six (now seven) campuses.<br /> <br /> Says SBA’s Karen Mills: “We often speak about the sacred trust we have with our service men and women, and one way we honor that trust is ensuring they have every possible opportunity for success.When it comes to entrepreneurship, their success also means success in driving economic growth and creating jobs.” <br /> <br /> During the first year of the partnership, 129 service-disabled veterans participated in the program. Since its inception,more than 320 disabled vets have graduated and more than 150 businesses have been launched by graduates.<br /> <br /> To qualify, veterans must have been discharged after 2001, have a VA-documented service-connected disability and prove a genuine interest in small business. Selection for the program is based on an assessment of an individual’s ability to succeed.<br /> <br /> The course includes 60 days of training online and nine days of immersion through workshops. A post-course technical assistance program is offered, too. Personal interaction with experts in business provides an ideal opportunity to hone essential skills and is no doubt a primary asset of EBV.<br /> <br /> All of the above gives veterans a chance to use their military training and education in a real-world environment, as many have done.<br /> <br /> Success Stories Numerous <br /> <br /> Haynie started EBV with only 20 students, and had gone on to graduate more than 350 by 2010.Many graduates now own businesses that had earned more than $1 million in revenue in 2009—and the success stories are still piling on.<br /> <br /> “It’s given me and my family a gift for life,” says filmmaker and EBV graduate Brian Iglesias. “They treat you with such great respect.You can’t believe that people were nice enough to do this for you. Now, I have the hard skills to really run or start my own business.” <br /> <br /> Iglesias graduated from the EBV program in 2008 with the intention of taking his film education from Temple University after serving 13 years (1995-2008) in the Marines, and turning it into a film career and company.<br /> <br /> He did that and then some. His time as an infantry platoon commander with the 2nd Bn., 5th Marines, in Iraq (2003 and 2004-05) prepared him well for his future work.<br /> <br /> Iglesias’ film production company, Veterans Inc., produced the Korean War documentary Frozen Chosin, which has been screened in Korea, and has caught some really great buzz. This includes reviews in the New York Times, private screenings in libraries across the country and a television contract that will begin in September 2011.<br /> <br /> “We have a graphic novel coming out soon—but we are still operating out of the Starbucks half the time,” Iglesias laughs.<br /> <br /> Even with Iglesias’ remarkably fast success and recent film stardom, he remembers where he came from and where his roots are. If it weren’t for the people of EBV, none of this would have been possible, according to Iglesias.<br /> <br /> “They are like my ammo man, the guy who just keeps bringing me ammo,” says Iglesias. “I’m fighting for my future, my family’s future—these guys are in the fight with me. They stick with you, especially when you help yourself.” <br /> <br /> Jesse Canella, 2010 graduate, started a new business venture called honorvet.org, and raised approximately $150,000 for the website in 2010.<br /> <br /> “You learn to do more with less in the service,” says Canella. “I can exploit my own skills with full potential for running my own business.” <br /> <br /> Canella joined the Marines in 2004. He served in Iraq (2007-08) as a rifleman with the 1st Bn., 1st Marines, 1st Marine Div.<br /> <br /> Honorvet.org is a website that offers veterans a social and multimedia networking platform that serves as a major communication hub and service tool for them.<br /> <br /> EBV is more than just showing up to class every day, taking notes, studying for exams and handing in assignments, says Canella. It’s an atmosphere with a lot of camaraderie and interaction between veterans—many of whom become friends and stay in touch after the program.<br /> <br /> “Within days, everyone is smiling,” says Canella. “It [EBV] does a tremendous amount of things to the veterans, outside of the business.” <br /> <br /> Canella says he learned confidence, doing more with less and networking.<br /> <br /> Haynie thinks veterans are the perfect types to become successful entrepreneurs: they are passionate, hard-working and selfless individuals who understand structure and live and die by accomplishing goals.<br /> <br /> “We need a plan for them,” said Haynie. “The idea of going out and creating something new from nothing and playing a role in watching things grow and become successful—there’s a real rush to that.” <br /> <br /> As a role model to both young and older veterans, Haynie hopes that they, too, will someday give back and have the same success stories to tell.<br /> <br /> “The growth of the EBV program over the course of the last five years is that story,” says Haynie.<br /> <br /> EBV’s Director on Success and Service<br /> <br /> Watching people succeed is only part of the greatness of EBV, says Ray Toenniessen, managing director of the national EBV program and right-hand man to J. Michael Haynie. It’s watching veterans turn their passions, dreams and hopes into reality—that’s what makes this program special, says Toenniessen, a veteran of the Army’s 155th Transportation Company in Iraq (2008-09).<br /> <br /> “A business isn’t going to work if it’s something you don’t truly believe in,” says Toenniessen. “Take what you love to do, and fill a need.” <br /> <br /> Working with EBV has been a life-altering experience, says Toenniessen. The EBV program’s changes and improvements have been truly monumental and strategic, he says.<br /> <br /> “We are very careful about our growth and our expansions,” emphasizes Toenniessen. “We are very much focused on the quality of our growth.” <br /> <br /> When asked about the program, Haynie’s calling to help veterans and why he accepted this position with EBV in the first place, Toenniessen responded quite easily: <br /> <br /> “When you serve in the military, you have that sense of pride and calling. This program allowed me to continue to serve.”

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