Nearly 30 veterans from across the United States will travel to Oklahoma State University to participate in the 10th annual Veterans Entrepreneurship Program (VEP), an eight-month program that includes an intensive, eight-day entrepreneurial boot camp on the Stillwater campus Feb. 16-23.
Twenty-seven military veterans representing four of the five branches of the United States military will participate in the boot camp designed to empower them to turn their 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 profitably.
“VEP empowers veterans with both the courage and knowledge to pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations,” said Chad Mills, manager of outreach programs for the OSU Riata Center for Entrepreneurship, which coordinates the Veterans Entrepreneurship Program. “We strive to deliver the best educational and hands-on experiences possible that can be utilized for any endeavor they wish to pursue.”
Participating in the 2019 VEP cohort includes veterans from the Air Force (6 enrollees), Army (15), Marines (2) and Navy (4). They will travel to OSU from across the United States, including Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Oklahoma, and range in age from 35 to 64.
The program has three phases: Phase 1, online self-study sessions (Jan. 7-Feb. 8); Phase 2, the eight-day residency on the OSU campus (Feb. 16-23), and Phase 3, ongoing mentorship from experts at OSU and online peer-to-peer networking (April 1-Aug. 31).
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.
The entire program – transportation, accommodations, books, food and instruction – is provided free of charge to each of the participants, and is made possible through generous sponsorships and donations from organizations such as the Spencer C. Duncan Make it Count Foundation, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, and the Small Business Administration, to name a few.
To participate, veterans must be separated from active duty, or separating, 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 demonstrate an intense motivation to start or grow a business.
“Throughout the program, we provide knowledge and support for individuals with either a concept or early stage venture,” Mills said. “Both our faculty members and industry experts ensure the veterans are well prepared by the time they leave Stillwater at the conclusion of their eight-day residency boot camp. 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?”
Since its inception in 2010, the program has assisted 267 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, visit https://business.okstate.edu/riata/veterans/.