Veterans with Disabilities find Help, Ongoing Support in SU Program for Their Business Ventures

Jul 26, 2017

Veterans with a range of disabilities are in the program, which gives them background and support in a range of business skills
Credit Bridget McAllister/WAER News

Nearly 30 Veterans with physical and psychological disabilities are learning skills this week at Syracuse University to successfully build and launch their own businesses.  The 11th annual Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities is offered through the Institute for Veterans and Military Families.   

Coordinator Elissa Gibbs says the mission of the program is to arm the men and women with the knowledge and support they need to get their business ideas off the ground.

Elissa Gibbs is the Program Coordinator
Credit Bridget McAllister/WAER News

“I think a lot of them, probably their biggest challenge is, “Where do I start?  I have this great idea.  I know what I want to do.  Where do I get funding?  Where do I put plans into action?  Who do I go talk to?  How do I deal with banks?’   So we try to give them the tools that they need so they can go out and actually do that and be strong business owners.”

The intensive residency program is more than a week of 13-hour training days working with instructors and local entrepreneurs who’ll share insight on everything from the production process to business branding and marketing.  

Alantheus Thompson hopes to get his agriculture business idea off the ground
Credit Bridget McAllister/WAER News

Alantheus Thompson hopes to create an aeroponic agriculture start-up in Asia.  He’s finding part of the process is dealing with the fear of failure.

“It’s a part of you.  It’s a process that you can feel growing and any time something changes, you’re super excited about it.  But it’s also a really scary experience.  You’re creating something,.  There’s a lot of uncertainty.  Life is hard, so it’s pretty scary.” 

The U-S Small Business Administration, or S-B-A, helps the vets acquire small grants to get the ball rolling.  Participants are also entitled to one full-year of post-conference support and assistance from the program.  Veteran Erica Cano already operates her own photography business and says maintaining the passion is critical.

Erica Cano is one of the veterans in the program at SU's Whitman School. She's getting assistance with a photography business.
Credit Bridget McAllister/WAER News

“I’ve had periods in my life where I kind of lost it but in the end, in the darkest moments, you find just that tad bit of hope and you use that or you have it in you and you just didn’t know.  When you come to this program, I feel that’s kind of what it does.”

This year the program has participants from all five branches of the military.  The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities is free to all selected applicants, and works with a network of 10 colleges and universities across the U-S.          To learn more, click here.