Military veterans from across the United States will travel to Oklahoma State University to participate in the ninth annual Veterans Entrepreneurship Program (VEP), which includes an intensive, eight-day, entrepreneurial boot camp on the Stillwater campus Feb. 17-24.
Twenty-one veterans, representing all five branches of the U.S. military, will travel to Stillwater to participate in the “boot camp” that empowers them to 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.
“Our aim is to empower veterans through entrepreneurship to create their own futures,” said Alexces Bartley, manager of outreach programs for the OSU Riata Center for Entrepreneurship, which coordinates the Veterans Entrepreneurship Program.
Like a military boot camp, the eight-day residency is intense, rigorous and demanding. It includes hands-on learning and interaction with world-class faculty, guest entrepreneurs, business experts and others. The boot camp exposes participants to the nuts and bolts of business ownership through experiential workshops and lessons.
“We provide industry knowledge and support for businesses at every step of implementation,” Bartley said. “Our faculty members and industry experts make sure the veterans are well prepared by the time they leave Stillwater. What better way to thank our U.S. military veterans for their service and sacrifice than by helping them achieve their goals in civilian life?”
Participants in the 2018 VEP include veterans from the Air Force (2 enrollees), Army (9), Coast Guard (1), Marines (8) and Navy (1). They will be traveling to OSU from across the United States, including California, Kansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Oklahoma. This year’s participants range in age from 30 to 68.
The 10-month program is comprised of several phases: Phase 1, online self-study sessions (Jan. 8-Feb. 9); Phase 2, the residency on the OSU campus (Feb. 17-24), and Phase 3, ongoing mentorship from experts at OSU and online peer-to-peer networking (April 1-Aug. 31).
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.
To participate, veterans must be separated from active duty, or be in the process of separating from the service with an honorable discharge. They also must be identified as disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs or Department of Defense, based on a service-connected disability, and they must demonstrate an intense motivation to start or grow a business.
Since its inception in 2010, the program has assisted 253 veterans with their businesses, and 80 percent report those businesses are still in operation or have launched new businesses utilizing the knowledge gained through the VEP training.
The VEP is presented by the Riata Center for Entrepreneurship and School of Entrepreneurship in the OSU Spears School of Business.
To learn about donating to the program, providing mentoring assistance or for more information about the VEP, click here.