Veterans’ Bootcamp Offers Mentorship, Business Expertise

Veteran's BootcampSteven Therrien, of Harwinton, Conn., has what he believes is a great idea for creating a superior solar panel that would capture some of the sun’s energy that is now lost.

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.”

See photos from the UConn EBV program.

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