A few former students from Texas A&M University were among the 25 veterans who came to campus in mid-July to bring to reality their visions of business ventures. These visions, ranging from real estate to tele-health enterprises, are honed through the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), sponsored by Mays Business School’s Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship.
The EBV initiative offers cutting-edge experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management to military men and women who were disabled as a result of their service. The intent of the EBV is to open the door to entrepreneurial opportunity and small business ownership by developing competencies associated with creating and sustaining an entrepreneurial venture and helping coordinate efforts with programs and services for veterans and others with disabilities. The program consists of a three-week online self-study, an eight-day residency period on the Texas A&M campus, and a year of mentorship and support as participants launch their new ventures.
Opening remarks for the event, held in the lobby of Texas A&M’s Clayton W. Williams Jr. Alumni Center, were provided by Jerry Strawser, Dean of Mays Business School. After welcoming the assembled crowd of guests, participants and sponsors, he announced to the EBV participants that they will learn how to become entrepreneurs. Strawser explained how participants will become leaders through the EBV program. “You will be supported by the best, here at Texas A&M,” he said.
Richard Lester, CNVE director, introduced the participants, who each had the opportunity to speak about their branch of military service, hometown and the type of business he or she would like to create.
This year’s Robin ’76 and Bob ’72 Starnes EBV Outstanding Alumni Award was presented to Liz Perez-Halperin for her dedication to using her business and entrepreneurial knowledge to help support and employ other disabled veterans. Perez encouraged the participants to “always remain true to their values, appreciate who they are and use the past as a stepping stone to the future.” Perez had a special message for non-combat and women veterans, urging them not to be ashamed of the work they carried out for the nation, saying, “regardless of how you served, you decided to fight for our nation. You are one of the few who can proudly say that.”
Throughout their time in Aggieland, the EBV participants were encouraged and supported not only by the many mentors, speakers and professors who helped them throughout the week, but also by several of College Station’s local entrepreneurs and the Corps of Cadets. During an evening and dinner at the Sanders Corps of Cadets Center, the veterans enjoyed viewing displays on the history of Aggieland and interacting with officers and members of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets.
Traditions Club hosted a relaxing night where EBV participants enjoyed dinner and speeches from Gary Blair, head coach of the Texas A&M Women’s Basketball Team. The night ended with a putting competition and a chance for EBV participants to interact with Coach Blair and several other veterans in attendance.
Seed Sumo and one of their in-residence startups, Gazoo, hosted the veterans for an exciting evening at the NutraBolt and Seed Sumo offices for a presentation from Chuck Hinton and the Gazoo founders on leadership and life as an entrepreneur. The evening finished with dinner, a tour of the facility and one on one mentor guidance with our veterans.
At the end of the residency portion of EBV, the participants gave final presentations to mentors and business leaders. Each veteran had 15 minutes to pitch their business proposal to a panel, answer questions on their business and defend the viability of their venture. Although this aspect of the program can be nerve-wracking, many of the participants said it was one of the most valuable learning experiences they had during EBV.
After a busy day full of presentations, and an even busier week of classes, the EBV participants were able to relax while on a tour of the George Bush Presidential Library before closing ceremonies at the Annenberg Conference Center. EBV mentors, sponsors and guests gathered together for an evening congratulating the EBV participants on their hard work and accomplishments. Keynote speaker Dan Moran, a former Marine and CEO of Moran Enterprises, Inc., congratulated the veterans and told them being an entrepreneur was one of the most difficult things he has done. “You are truly brave, not just for your service but for becoming entrepreneurs.”
ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL
Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,600 undergraduate, masters and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.
The Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, a part of Mays Business School’s Department of Management, provides encouragement, education, networking and assistance to entrepreneurially-minded students, faculty and Texas businesses. Since its launch in 1999, the center has enhanced student education through campus speakers, competitions and programs, work experiences and financial support. For more information about CNVE please visit: http://cnve.tamu.edu/