The Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program gives veterans who have an idea for a business or who already run their own enterprise the knowledge and guidance they need to achieve success.
For the second year in a row, Veterans Florida, in partnership with seven institutions of higher learning across the state, is offering a free Veterans Entrepreneurship Program. It provides participants with vital academic insights from top educators, the resources of seven veteran-friendly universities, the engaging support and wisdom of student peers and ongoing mentorship from community business leaders. Applications are due December 14, 2016 and veterans are encouraged to sign up now.
“Entrepreneurship is a great employment option for veterans,” says Bobby Carbonell, Executive Director of Veterans Florida. “Their military service makes them uniquely suited to owning and running their own business. Military service requires you to complete a mission with limited information and that’s pretty much the gist of entrepreneurship too. You have to get things done when you don’t always have all the answers and all the resources. The Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program teaches veterans the important aspects of business and helps them get started the right way.”
This Veterans Entrepreneurship Program Helps More Florida Veterans Than Any Other
The initial 15-week instruction phase of the program combines independent online learning with in-class sessions that take place every two weeks on Saturdays and afford face-to-face input from peers and instructors. The second phase of the program provides ongoing mentorship from business experts.
The program is structured to accommodate the demands of a busy, complex life. The broad geographical distribution of the participating universities makes it possible for students to attend the on-campus sessions near their home without having to fly anywhere and spend time away from their work and family.
The fact that there are seven participating schools means that a large number of veterans can attend. “This is definitely the only entrepreneurship program we’ve seen on this scale,” says Carbonell. “Most programs are run by individual institutions, universities or organizations and can only accept a small number of people each year. We want to help every veteran we can—this year our program will allow us to handle almost 300 veterans.”
Participating Schools Offer a High Level of Support and Access to Rare Resources
The resources of the participating schools are so plentiful and distinctive that they can easily meet the wide-ranging interests and needs of the veterans who enroll in the program. “Each school brings something different to the table,” says Carbonell. “They all have great qualifications and great entrepreneur instructors, but they all also provide unique opportunities. For example, UCF, one of our newest partners, is the home of the Defense Department’s Modeling & Simulation Program, and the school also has connections to the entertainment industry. So folks with a business idea who want to work in Computer Science, Virtual Reality or in an emerging technology area could have access to world-class resources at UCF that they would not be able to get anywhere else.
“There are examples of this kind of rare access throughout the Entrepreneurship Program network across the state. Our partners make sure that all of our students have access to their on-campus resources as well as off-campus resources.”
The participating schools are also a good fit for veterans who come to class with a completely different set of life experiences than younger students who have not served in the military. The schools that make up the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program network cater to veterans and make sure they get all the support they need.
“This program has changed people’s lives. Creating a successful business is something the participants had always wanted to do but they had either lacked the confidence to get it off the ground or needed a little bit of help. With the assistance of this program, they’re able to support their families, grow the economy and hire other veterans by doing something they can and want to do. That’s a big deal.” –Bobby Carbonell, Executive Director, Veterans Florida
Carbonell emphasizes that participating students help each other in the class sessions—those who have been in business for a couple of years often end up providing great real-world examples of things to do and not do to their peers who are just getting started. And, he says, those who have come to the program with just a business idea tend to be very creative and spur conversations within the class that help the people who already have operational businesses. “The varied experiences of the program participants benefit everybody.”
Florida is an Ideal Place to Own and Run a Business
Graduates of the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program will find that Florida, as a low-tax state with a low level of regulatory burdens, is an easy place to start and run a business. In fact, Florida is ranked as the #2 best state for business. “Most businesses don’t require a government license,” says Carbonell. “And when you do need a license or a permit, the process to get one is usually pretty straightforward and affordable. Most people can open a business for a couple hundred dollars. It’s a big state too—there are 20 million people—so businesses can tap into an incredible market just within the state or in one of our major cities.”
Achievements of Graduates of the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program
A number of veterans who have completed the inaugural Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program have launched and are building impressive businesses; the program’s successful track record is evidence of both its high caliber and relevance. Cases in point: Scott Neil, who owns American Freedom Distillery in St. Petersburg, Florida with several veteran partners; Keith Basik, who invented the Flip Towel (a workout towel worn on the wrist) and learned to perfect his pitch in the program; and Bradley Cantrell, the owner of Happy Hour Ice Cream.
Carbonell explains that the program is a great starting point for anyone who either wants to start a business or has started a business but has had no professional help in evaluating the ideas and thinking through all the details that are so vital to success. “Our program can help connect you with all the right resources,” he says. “It’s never a good idea to go it alone and think you know all the answers. That’s when bad things start happening to entrepreneurs, so we highly recommend that you check out this program.
“We don’t require you to have a certain type of business or idea, a certain amount of experience or a certain amount of revenue before you enter the program. We’ve redefined the meaning of entrepreneurship—not every enterprise has to be a scalable, global, multi-million dollar online or technology-focused business. There’s a whole lot of value in creating a small business that may serve a local community and employ people at the local level.”
When filling out the application, take care to provide quality information and do a good job of explaining your business idea or operating business.