Bank of America to Support Initiative for Veterans
UConn’s Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) has received a $15,000 grant from the Bank of America Foundation.
The grant will support UConn’s program in the School of Business that provides disabled veterans with training in entrepreneurship and small business management, the UConn Foundation, which applied for the grant, announced.Continue Reading
CNBC – For a variety of reasons, the solution to joblessness among veterans may be to prod more of them toward entrepreneurship. “This gap is a nut that’s hard to crack, but I actually truly believe that veteran-owned businesses are going to be the thing that heals our country in the next 15 years,” said Michael Zacchea, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and director of the University of Connecticut’s Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities.
UConn ranked No. 54 nationally, in a year that saw record applications and a process that was highly competitive. It is one of many recognitions that the University has received for its veteran programs, which include an Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV). Last year, the UConn EBV and School of Business were recognized by Newman’s Own Foundation as one of the five best veteran non-profit organizations in the country.
Mike Ennis, a retired Marine with experience as a military recruiter, successfully explained and defended his plan for a start-up called Veterans and Executive Talent Search (VETS) recruiting company, which will seek medical personnel interested in working for the Veterans Administration.
Ennis, who is from the Groton area, has already secured the support of a key angel investor, said Michael Zacchea ’12 MBA, director of the EBV program. Ennis impressed a panel of judges, all entrepreneurs or inventors, to place in the 18th annual Connecticut Collegiate Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the Entrepreneurship Foundation of Fairfield. Ennis was awarded free use of office space to grow his business at The Grove in New Haven.
His business will augment the Veteran’s Choice and Accountability Act, which seeks to expand VA services, including the number of doctors and mental health professionals, Zacchea said. Ennis currently works as a veteran employment specialist at the Connecticut Department of Labor.
The School of Business offers a nine-day Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities each year. The intensive course is funded by private donations and features the expertise of UConn faculty. While enrolled in the boot camp, veterans learn everything from creating a business plan to finding funding. They are offered additional planning support for their businesses during the ensuing year. The UConn program, now in its fifth year, has been recognized as one of the nation’s best for military personnel.
The 2014 EBV class was exceptional, Zacchea said. Twenty-six students were accepted into the class and there was no attrition, despite the difficult schedule, which started with 8 a.m. classes and continued with homework until midnight. Nine of the graduates from this class have already started businesses and a tenth will launch this month. Two others have accepted full-time jobs and another graduate enrolled in an MBA program, Zacchea said.
But Therrien, a former Navy corpsman and advanced x-ray technologist, was overwhelmed at the prospect of starting his own business.
“Before, I looked at it as an insurmountable mountain,” he said.
After enrolling in a nine-day Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), sponsored by the UConn School of Business, he has increased confidence that he can make his business plan a reality.
The course is funded exclusively by private donations and features the expertise of UConn business faculty. This year, 26 veterans learned everything from how to write a business plan to finding funding. They developed social media skills and took a course on “discovering your personal genius.”
“It’s very flattering and humbling that so many people are willing to give their time and themselves to help a veteran,” Therrien said. “We all appreciate it very much.”
This fall, UConn’s EBV was recognized at the Pentagon by Newman’s Own, Fisher House Foundation and the Military Times as one of the nation’s best and most innovative programs for improving the quality of life for U.S. military personnel.
This is the fifth year that the EBV program has been offered at UConn. Seven of the veterans hail from Connecticut; most of the rest are from neighboring states. This year’s class was composed of 19 men and seven women.
“This was a great class, the first one that we had with no attrition at all from acceptance through graduation,” said program Director Michael Zacchea. “Our veterans said it was an amazing and transformative event.”
“These people aren’t in it for the money,” Zacchea said. “Every vet here wants to solve a problem. They are very focused on ‘mission accomplished.’ Because our veterans all come from diverse backgrounds, we offer a very hands-on program. We tell them how to find an accountant, a lawyer, how to establish a relationship with a bank.”
What makes the bootcamp unique is it addresses the veterans’ holistic needs—even providing a free suite and laptop for the future business
owners. It also offers mentorship for a year, to help veterans identify and overcome business barriers. The UConn program is also part of a larger community of veteran entrepreneurs throughout the country. The rigorous course usually had veterans working on their businesses until midnight.
Since they graduated on Oct. 10, the veterans have been preparing their business plans, for which they could be awarded a $3,000 grant to use as seed money.
“I would tell everyone to hire a veteran,” said Rosita Campbell of New Jersey, a bootcamp graduate, who wants to own her own fitness center. “We are dependable, reliable and offer standards of service and excellence that are beyond what is expected. We also have incredible integrity. All of that has been ingrained in us from a young age.”
The School of Business’ Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities was recognized as one of the nation’s best and most innovative programs for improving the quality of life for U.S. military personnel.
General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provided remarks at the 15th Annual Newman’s Own Award Ceremony at the Pentagon on Sept. 24. In addition to the honor, the UConn program will receive a $37,500 award.
“I was really surprised and extremely flattered,” said Program Director Michael Zacchea, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient. “There are 400,000 organizations in this country that work with veterans. To be one of five selected for this incredibly prestigious award was truly an honor.”
The UConn Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) is offered at no cost to participants, who typically come from across the Northeast. The program taps the talent of the UConn School of Business faculty to provide veterans, disabled due to their service, with cutting-edge training in entrepreneurship and small business management.
Zacchea hopes the award will bring greater recognition to the EBV program and further develop the network of services available to returning veterans. Despite its U.S. Navy sub base and the Coast Guard Academy, Connecticut isn’t known for embracing the military culture in the way that other states have, he noted.
“Historically the veteran population hasn’t had the attention here that it has in other states like Florida, Texas, California and the South,” he said. “We feel some of our award was due to our unsung work in an underserved area.”
Yet Connecticut offers many advantages to returning veterans, including educational and business opportunities, he said.
Unlike other entrepreneurship programs, the EBV addresses reintegration issues beyond just business. For instance, the veterans are offered a free business suit, courtesy of Brooks Brothers, to help ensure their business success. In addition, the program graduates have access to intense mentorship services for a year, so whether they want to start an IT business or a company that specializes in personal training, they have assistance identifying and overcoming business barriers.
UConn alumni Mitchell Strauss ’79 MBA, Ray Gustini ’65, ’65 JD, General Joseph Went ’53, Barbara Went and John Welch ’80 MBA, also attended the ceremony.
Newman’s Own, Fisher House Foundation, and Military Times sponsor the competition, which seeks to reward ingenuity for programs that benefit service men and women and their families.
“Improving lives for the military is the cornerstone of this program. Newman’s Own is proud to be part of an initiative that helps serve a crucial segment of Americans, those who serve our country,” according to Tom Indoe, president and chief operating officer of Newman’s Own.
Over 250 entries were submitted for the 2014 program. Seven judges evaluated each entry based on the organization’s impact to the respective communities, creativity and innovation.
Pictured: General Martin Dempsey, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; Michael Zacchea, Lt. Col. U.S.M.C. Ret, Program Director, Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities; Tom Indoe, President & Chief Operating Officer, Newman’s Own, Inc.; Suzie Schwartz, Trustee, Fisher House Foundation; Peter Lundquist, Vice President & General Manager, Military Times. Photos by Ashley Estill.
UConnâs Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) fills an important need both for the veteran population in that it provides access to entrepreneurial education and resources, and to the state in that it helps create economic vitality and businesses that create jobs.
A May 2011 study from the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy revealed that 45 percent of veterans are more likely to take the plunge into entrepreneurship than people with no active-duty military experience. âI think there are several reasons why veterans tend to be more entrepreneurial, says Michael Zacchea â12 MBA, EBV program manager, in a 2012 Hartford Business Journal interview. âFirst, in the military, they developed a bias for action, and a commitment to mission accomplishment. Veterans tend to network with other veterans, and tend to understand things like logistics and supply chains. Veterans have learned management and planning skills that lend themselves to entrepreneurial success.â
On Veterans Day in 2004, Zacchea nearly died while fighting with his unit in the streets of Fallujah, one of Iraqâs deadliest combat zones. Nine years later and retired from the Marine Corps, he has led more than 60 disabled veterans through the EBV program curriculum. âWe believe that veteran entrepreneurship is part of the solution both for the current generation of 2.5 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and for our economy both nationally and for our state. In Connecticut, there are more than 40,000 veteran-owned businesses, which account for 8% of the stateâs GDP,â says Zacchea. âVeteran business owners create both economic and social value disproportionate to their size of the population.â
Learn more about UConnâs EBV program and hear feedback from participants in this video:
Kicking off the annual week-long Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), the UConn School of Business welcomed this year’s incoming class of veterans at a dinner reception on Friday evening, October 4.
Following a welcome from Michael Zacchea ’12 MBA, EBV program manager, keynote speaker Dawn Halfaker inspired the crowd by sharing her story. A decorated war hero and entrepreneur, Halfaker is a former Military Police Officer in the United States Army who commanded a military police platoon in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She was subsequently wounded during a combat patrol near Baghdad in 2004, earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for her service. Halfaker is now president and chief executive officer of Halfaker & Associates, LLC, an award winning professional services and technology solutions firm founded in 2006, and employs more than 100 people including a workforce of almost 50 veterans.
Entertainment for the evening was provided by UConn a-cappella group, Conn-Men.
About the EBV
In 2010, UConn’s School of Business was honored to become one of eight members of the EBV Consortium of business schools and universities. The EBV program offers cutting edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management to post-9/11 veterans with disabilities resulting from their service to our country.
The School of Business is proud to participate in this very special program that helps give back to individuals who have sacrificed for our country. EBV demonstrates the power of entrepreneurship in our communities by fostering an essential route for job creation and economic vitality.
To date, the UConn EBV has helped 42 veterans open 45 businesses, and to place another eight veterans in full-time jobs.
Pictured: Dawn Halfaker, Michael Zacchea, Justin Nash ’14 MBA, a 2012 EBV graduate and founder of Veteran Construction Services, and School of Business Dean John A. Elliott. (Photo courtesy of Lynn Luczkowski, L2 Communications)