Program Helps Families of Wounded, Fallen Start Businesses
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2011 Later this month, a group of 17 family members who care for wounded warriors, as well as surviving spouses of fallen service members, will gather at Syracuse University in New York to learn how to start and run their own businesses.
Syracuse’s Whitman School of Management will host its second Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families smack in the middle of Military Family Appreciation Month.
The program is a spin-off to a similar program Syracuse and six other universities offer for disabled veterans.
Participants -- family caregivers of post-9/11 veterans with a service-connected disability or surviving spouses or adult children of service members who died since 9/11 as a consequence of military service -- will attend the program at no charge, officials said. Syracuse University and its donors will pick up the cost of tuition as well as transportation, lodging and meals.
The goal, explained Tina Kapral, director of education programs for Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, is to help family members whose lives have been turned upside down by loss or a loved one’s disability get back on their feet and provide for themselves and their families.
For many, entrepreneurship may be the perfect solution, she said. It offers the opportunity to pursue a rewarding career while maintaining the flexibility they may need to work around their loved ones’ medical appointments and other care-giving responsibilities.
“Our goal is to allow these family members to find a financial path forward and some financial stability for themselves and their families,” Kapral said.
As an additional benefit, the boot camp brings together people who understand each other’s challenges and provide support. “Our program allows networking and relationship-building and a built-in support group when you are with other people who are in the same situation as yourself,” she said.
Participants in the upcoming boot camp actually began the program in October with a full month of online coursework, Kapral explained. They will arrive at Syracuse on Nov. 13 to begin the second phase of the program, an intensive week-long residency course focuses on small-business management. Classes frequently run from 7 a.m. to as late at 10 p.m., all aimed at providing students the best possible foundation to succeed when they return home.
“The whole purpose of all the classes is that at the end, [participants] are writing their own business plan and doing their final venture pitches to experts and faculty for the business they want to kick off,” Kapral said.
In many cases, the boot camp experience helps family members identify the kind of business best suited to their interests and needs and refine their ideas and goals, she said.
The businesses they go on to launch run the gamut, she said. During the first family boot camp last year, participants drew up plans to open a bridal boutique, a language translation service, a framing shop, a pottery and glasswork business and a café. One planned to work as a consultant, educating other families of veterans about services and benefits available to them and how to apply.
After completing the boot camp, residents receive ongoing support and technical assistance from a team of faculty members, experienced entrepreneurs and other experts to ensure they’re positioned to realize their entrepreneurial goals, Kapral said.
Florida State University, one of seven universities that sponsor the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, soon will launch a second program for family members. Seats are still available for that program, which will run Feb. 22 to March 1 at FSU’s extension campus in Panama City, Fla.
Randy Blass, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who serves as director for the FSU program, said he welcomes the opportunity to expand the school’s support for disabled veterans and their families.
“This program gives caregivers of the men and women who served our country an opportunity to secure their financial future,” he said.
Although Syracuse and FSU offer the only entrepreneurship programs for veterans’ families, they are part of a consortium of seven schools with entrepreneurship boot camps for qualified disabled veterans. Those programs are available at the University of California, Los Angeles; Texas A&M University; Purdue University; the University of Connecticut; and Louisiana State University.
Details about both the disabled veterans and family member programs and how to apply are posted at http://whitman.syr.edu/ebv/ with links to participating universities’ websites.