For the seventh consecutive year, the Spears School of Business will host more than 20 military veterans for an intensive, eight-day entrepreneurial boot camp later this month on the campus of Oklahoma State University.
Twenty-two military veterans from all across the United States and representing nearly every branch of the United States military will be traveling to Stillwater to participate Feb. 20-27 in this innovative program.
The Veterans Entrepreneurship Program (VEP) continues to attract national attention as it enters its seventh year in empowering American military veterans as they turn their business ideas into workable business models. The program is designed for veterans who are interested in starting a venture as a means to financial independence or have an existing business that they would like to grow.
“As a land-grant university, we are called to serve veterans,” said Alexces Bartley, manager of events and outreach for the OSU School of Entrepreneurship. “The Riata Center for Entrepreneurship takes a lot of pride in VEP because there is no better way to thank our veterans for all that they have done than to teach them the significance of being entrepreneurs.
“We believe in teaching them practical skills that will empower them to become self-sufficient and to then pass along that knowledge to help other fellow veterans achieve their goals. The network of veterans that we have built, along with others who have volunteered their continued mentorship, is such an important part of the program. Each one of these individuals share similar passions and goals that allow them to support one another form a personal and business resource standpoint.”
Participating in the 2016 VEP includes veterans from the Air Force (4 enrollees), Army (10), Marines (2) and Navy (6). The will be traveling to OSU from their homes across the U.S., including Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
Like a military boot camp, the eight-day residency is intense, rigorous and demanding. It is an opportunity for hands-on learning and interaction with world-class faculty, guest entrepreneurs, business experts and others. The boot camp exposes the participants to the nuts and bolts of business ownership through experiential workshops and lessons.
There is no cost to the veterans to participate in the VEP. The entire program – transportation, accommodations, books, food and instruction – is provided free of charge to each of the participants.
“For the past six years, the program has been supported by OSU alumni and donors that have a passion for veterans,” Bartley said. “Our faculty members and industry experts donate their time and the community comes together to make sure they are accommodated. VEP would not be possible without their generous support.”
Since the program was started in 2010, VEP has graduated more than 350 veterans from the consortium of universities (Oklahoma State, Florida and Tennessee-Chattanooga). Also, this year will see the addition of the University of North Dakota into the consortium along with its first graduating VEP class. Over the past six years, more than 50 veterans have launched a new business, 75 have experienced sustainable growth, and 24 have added new employees (half of which employ other veterans).
Of the thriving businesses that VEP have assisted, 15 have revenues between $100,000 and $500,000, nine report revenues between $1 million and $5 million, and one has revenues in excess of $5 million.
The VEP is presented by the Riata Center for Entrepreneurship and School of Entrepreneurship in the OSU Spears School of Business and offers a three-stage learning experience. Participants complete online self-study sessions over a five-week period in December and January, travel to OSU’s Stillwater campus for the eight-day on-campus boot camp, followed by 10 months of ongoing mentoring from entrepreneurship experts at OSU and online peer-to-peer networking.
For more information about the VEP, visit http://riata.okstate.edu/veterans/.