Last month, U.S. Military veterans experienced a different kind of boot camp: a full day of workshops designed to help them build essential skills for starting and growing a business.
The event, called Operation: Entrepreneurship, was organized by the Florida Small Business Development Center at Florida International University and the FIU Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center. About 50 veterans took part in the full-day forum on July 28 at no cost thanks to the support of the Foundation for Small Business Development and the Miami Veterans Administration.
Participants included veterans who already are in business, as well as those who are interested in starting a business. They represented a broad range of industries, from real estate development to agriculture to security.
A highlight of the day: lessons and stories from a panel of successful entrepreneurs who are veterans. The panelists, including several FIU alumni, shared the secrets of their business success. They included Ed Haynes, president, Haynes Security Services Inc.; Alberto Padron (BBA ’99), CEO of Stinghouse; Mercedes Dericho (BA ’12), CEO of Risque Dukes Swimwear; and Charles Rego (BA ’08) owner of South Florida Lab Testing.
“The panelists gave us a lot of insight on the doubts and challenges we face every day,” said participant Martha Gonzalez of Wings & Wings Air Trade. Their examples of overcoming obstacles on the path to success, she said, “showed us we weren’t alone.”
Presenters included Pete De La Torre and Sally Villalba of Entrepreneur Re-Boot Academy, who provided a dynamic two-hour workshop on the methods and tools important to business development, including tips on networking and personal branding.
Also presenting were experts from the Florida SBDC at FIU, who taught participants how to develop a business plan, how to access capital and about business-assistance resources that are available specifically to veterans. Veterans who participated in the event have the option to continue receiving one-on-one consulting from the business experts at the Florida SBDC at FIU.
“It’s always a pleasure to work with entrepreneurs and help them grow their businesses,” said Jackie Bueno Sousa, regional director of the Florida SBDC at FIU. “But it’s particularly rewarding to do so by working with those who have served our country. By helping them be successful in business, we can give back to them.”
Florida SBDC at FIU’s team of experienced business consultants helps businesses grow and succeed by providing no-cost business consulting to entrepreneurs and small-business owners. The Florida SBDC at FIU annually assists more than 800 entrepreneurs and business owners with access to capital, financial management, exporting, marketing, government contracting and more. For more information about the center, visit SBDC.FIU.EDU.