A public relations firm in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A real estate investment business in Hermosa Beach, California. A helicopter purchase and renovation company in San Diego. An El Paso, Texas contractor specializing in welding who also imports artisanal furniture from Mexico.
The businesses cover the widest imaginable range of products and services, and all share a connection: They were founded by military veterans injured in the line of duty, and they were launched after those veterans completed a blended online/on-campus entrepreneurship course at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.
The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) teaches post-9/11 veterans the ins and outs — and ups and downs — of small business ownership, with a nod to the skills they acquired in the military. Participants get instruction in accounting, financing, legal matters, HR, management, and more from top professors and successful entrepreneurs, engaging in workshops and developing strategies for raising capital and attracting customers. Ultimately, they write business plans — a springboard to launching their own businesses.
“You look at the leadership traits that an officer should have in the military and they just line up with all the same things that you want in someone who is a successful entrepreneur,” says Elaine Hagan, director of the program at UCLA, one of 10 EBV programs at U.S. business schools across the country. UCLA’s program marked its 10th year this summer.
HIGH SUCCESS RATE FOR EBV GRAD BUSINESSES
The EBV program was launched at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at the University of Syracuse in 2007. Since then, of the 1,400 participants who have participated in the program nationally, 72% have started a business, of which 92% are still in business. The program is offered at no cost to veterans — funded by private donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations, it does not require the use of a veteran’s GI Bill benefits.
EBV is a three-phase program, beginning with a 30-day online course where participants shape their business plans and learn business language. The second phase is an intensive nine-day residency at the participating university, “about 40 hours of classroom instruction in a week,” Hagan says, following which EBV graduates have year-long access to support and mentorship through EBV Technical Assistance, managed by the IVMF at Syracuse University.
Danielle Marshall is one of the more than 200 graduates of the UCLA Anderson EBV program, offered through the Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Marshall graduated from the program in 2014. She was the alumni speaker at the 2016 graduation, and joined the more than two dozen veterans who gathered this year. An Air Force veteran who suffered a debilitating spinal cord injury and left the service after about seven years, Marshall launched Styled to Profession to help women find their personal professional style. She “teaches people how to dress for body type, skin tone, and professional message,” the need for which she learned after leaving the military and struggling with the transition to civilian life.
“I assumed that one size fits all and that I had to dress really stuffy, and that was professional,” Marshall tells Poets&Quants. “But what happened was, it made me look uncomfortable and feel uncomfortable — and when it translated to employees and co-workers, they thought I was really stuck up and stuffy. There was a whole psychology behind that that I didn’t even know existed.”
‘FOCUSED, INTENSE — SO MANY RESOURCES TO HELP YOU’
Marshall was a clinical lab scientist in the Air Force, and she taught chemistry and hematology while in the service. But when she became a civilian, she “left the lab” and fell in love with business, soon earning her master’s in business management and marketing from the University of Phoenix. Still unsure where her career would go, she was attending a two-day IVMF event in Colorado when she learned about the EBV program, which she immediately decided to apply for.
The EBV program at UCLA “was very focused learning and very intense,” Marshall says. “There are just so many resources to help you. It’s a much smaller group (than the IVMF event), so you’re going from about 300 to our class, which was 18. And you’re learning the nuts and bolts. There’s a lot of one-on-one. It was phenomenal.
“The program would help anybody. Having my master’s degree and being in business for a while before I went there, I thought I knew a lot, but when I got there I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know anything!’ It was a lot, but they were so open and honest. There were many times when we would talk each other through things, and that’s really important, because when you leave the military you find that civilian life is very different — the connections are different and you’re not in that microcosm anymore, and so it’s very helpful to be in an environment full of people who had gone through the different trainings I had been through, and you share experiences. It felt like home.”
EVOLUTION OF THE PROGRAM
Besides UCLA and Syracuse, eight universities have the EBV program: Cornell University, Florida State University, Louisiana State University, Purdue University, Saint Joseph’s University, Texas A&M University, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Missouri. “We are honored to participate in the EBV Consortium,” says Alfred E. Osborne Jr., senior associate dean of UCLA Anderson and faculty director of the Price Center. “As a public institution, UCLA has a demonstrated legacy of service and we look forward to helping these distinguished young men and women develop the skills that they will need for the next phase of their careers.”
Hagan has seen the program undergo an interesting evolution since UCLA’s first iteration in 2008. “In the first two years of this program we had six or seven guys that were 25, they all were probably in high school and enlisted after 9/11 — a much different group from now, where the average age is probably in the mid-30s to mid-40s, and we have people in their 60s as well.
“We’re just seeing more awareness of the program and in the program, as well, where even people who might have been around a business, they want to take it to the next level and they have new ideas. Not that the other guys haven’t gone on to do interesting things, too, but it’s been interesting to see the change over the years.”