Podcast: Veteran’s Entrepreneurship Program, Part 2

Today I’m going to continue my discussion on the Veteran’s Entrepreneurship Program.  I quite honestly cannot say enough good things about this program and I was privileged to be a part of the inaugural class in 2010 at Oklahoma State University.  I actually started this program in 2009, just before the holidays by going through some distance learning training, and in the early part of 2010, I went through the eight day residency course, or “boot camp” as it is called.

Originally, back in 2009, I was running my father’s landscape and construction support services business here in San Antonio.  At that time, I really wanted to venture out on my own, but I didn’t have a full grasp of exactly what I wanted to do.  My three areas of interest included construction, of course, and it also included national and homeland security since I served as a counter-intelligence agent while in the military.  My third area of interest involved medical devices because I owned a portion of a medical device business.

I recall announcing that I wanted to leave the company during an operations meeting with my father and my siblings.  There was a palpable silence in the room following that announcement, but I knew it was something I needed to do.  I made that announcement on a Wednesday and the following Friday I received a call from Oklahoma State University.  They were doing some outreach and had obtained my number from someone.  They asked if I would be willing to help advertise this new program to people here in San Antonio and, of course, I said I would.  When they told me more about the program itself, I said not only would I be happy to advertise it, but could I apply for it.  Because I was a service disabled vet, I was definitely eligible, and the rest is history.  The distance learning phase precipitating the eight day residency helped me zero in on my business concept and model, and I ended up selecting construction.

It turned out to be a total win/win situation, both for me in gaining valuable training through the program, and for them, because I was able to advertise their program with real hands on experience.  I am a huge advocate of the program and the level of instruction that you receive for absolutely free, is something I encourage all disabled veterans interested in entrepreneurship to take advantage of.  The professors and other folks involved in the program were exceptionally helpful and always responded to my inquiries.  I am most grateful for the opportunity to attend and can say with certainty that it helped me build my company to the level where I am today.

The program does require you to invest a year of your time, but it is time well spent.  You begin with distance learning, then spend eight days in residency at Oklahoma State, which is the most intense part of the training.  Once that is completed, you return to your home and continue working on building your business.  For the remainder of the year, you receive support in the form of a coach/mentor from an experienced entrepreneur.

There is an application process in order to apply for this program, and I would encourage anyone interested to make application in a timely basis.  Only 30 to 35 applicants are accepted each year and when you consider that it is open to all service disabled vets in the entire country, I think it’s safe to say that those openings are going to fill quickly.  I have a brochure I will be happy to email to anyone who is interested or you can obtain more information by visiting vep@okstate.edu.  If you want to speak to someone by phone, you can call the Riata Center for Entrepreneurship at 405-744-7552 and just ask for information about the Veteran’s Entrepreneurship Program, of V.E.P.

When I made application, I was required to put together a resume as well as an essay on why I wanted to be an entrepreneur.  However, I don’t know if these steps are still required.  I also was required to furnish several letters of recommendation from business associates who were well acquainted with me.  Although there were several steps to applying, it wasn’t a difficult process and if you are ready to be a business person and know where your focus is, you basically just need to put it down on paper for application, a very small task to perform for the incredible amount of qualified free training you will receive if you are accepted.  The knowledge and business expertise you receive in this program, from people who are successful entrepreneurs themselves, is invaluable, and all that is required of you is an investment of your time.

I still remain in contact with the school itself, as well as communicating with some of my classmates periodically.  When I went through the program, there was only myself and one other person focused on construction.  Other classmates were interested in photography, racquetball and one gentleman who was permanently wheelchair bound, had designed a machine to allow someone to roll a wheelchair up to exercise.  I only had one woman in my class, but subsequent classes have had several women.  These people were all brilliant and all of them were motivated to become entrepreneurs.

Again, if you are interested in making application, you can visit the above mentioned website or you can also go to the web site for Oklahoma State University’s Veteran’s Entrepreneurship Program. Also, please feel free to contact me personally I’ll be more than happy to send you the brochure via email.  The brochure consists of four or five pages and discusses everything you need to know about the program.  I would encourage anyone interested to help get the word out about this program.  There is a cut-off and if you are interested, the sooner you make application, the better.