Syracuse University Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans 2013

goon175

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I am creating this series of articles to chronicle my time in the SU EBV program so that I can 1) give a little publicity to the program and 2) let you guys know it is out there and what it all entails.

I won't explain the program in depth on here, but rather I will provide you the link to give you a foundation of the program: http://whitman.syr.edu/ebv/about/

I have completed Phase 1, the online portion, and it was similar to other online classes you may have taken with a college. It laid a good foundation for the residency portion, and forced you to think of angles you may have not previously given much thought to.

Day 1:

Day one had us arriving to the Syracuse University Sheraton Hotel for in processing and orientation. I live about 45 minutes away so I drove in with my wife to be dropped off, but other students were flown in by the program and picked up from the airport. You were greeted in the lobby by Jared (the national program director) and his team, and they squared you away with your room key and a pretty sweet haul of gear that included a large shoulder bag, polo shirt, business materials, and even a really nice shaving kit. After receiving my key, and being notified that we all had our own rooms -which immediately distinguished this program from anything the military would run - I headed up to my room to prepare for the next hard time. I had about 45 minutes to un pack, organize, and get my tie on before we had to be back down in the lobby.

After everyone made it down, we took off as a group to go next door to the Whitman School of Management - one of the top ranked business schools in the world - for our initial orientation. We first had to get professional head shots taken, and then made our way into the classroom. We kicked off the orientation with the founder of the program, Dr. Mike Haynie, who is an entrepreneur professor at SU as well as a USAF veteran. This is when the importance of the program started to sink in. He threw out impressive statistics about the results this program produces (many of there graduates have eight figure revenues), as well as the great people that support the program. He also let us know that it was no accident that we found ourselves in this class, out of 198 applicants, only 28 of us were selected for attendance. Out of the 28 student-veterans, we had quite the variety - both junior and senior enlisted, junior and senior officers (highest rank in the class that I am aware of is a retired Ranger LTC). All four branches plus the USCG were represented, both male and females, and a variety of education levels. Some have their high school diploma, some have multiple masters degrees. Some students don't know what business they are going to start yet, some have been in business already for ten years with impressive revenues. The diversity of the class is truly impressive, and indicative of the program in general.

After the orientation, we went straight into the cocktail hour for the opening banquet. Fortune 100 executives, professional athletes, senior officers, and a variety of donors to the program were in attendance, and all waiting for us to come up and engage with them. There was an open bar and live music, which really set the tone for the evening. I spoke to quite a few different people, and got to know some of my fellow students - most of which were, in my opinion, much more impressive people than myself. You could immediately see why it was a big deal to make it into this program! The key note speaker for the evening was NFL athlete Derrick Dockery, who gave a great speech. He was in attendance with his buddy Roger "Rocky" McIntosh - both of which are big supporters of the veteran community. After the banquet was over we hung around for a bit, and I got the chance to talk to Rocky about my business as well as how he got involved in this program. I have nothing but good things to say about him, a really stand up guy.

Afterwards, we made our way back to the hotel bar, where most of the students as well as the VIP's from the banquet gathered for a few more drinks. I was able to get to know a few more of my fellow students as well as talk to Derrick and Rocky more. By 0030 it was time to retire to my room, we had to be downstairs ready to go for breakfast by 0730.

Day 2:

I was up at 0645 to iron my clothes, get a quick work out in (tabata push ups and sit ups), and shower in time to be down stares at 0730 for breakfast. Once I arrived downstairs to Rachels, the hotels restaurant, I was fortunate to discuss my background and my business with Ms. Bonnie Harvey, the co-founder of Barefoot Wines, over a heaping plate of scrambled eggs and bacon. After she left for an interview with a local news channel, my fellow students and I swapped a few deployment stories and discussed what we thought the day would entail.

By 0900 we were back over at the Whitman building for our first classes, given by Dr. Haynie. We discussed things like recognizing opportunity and talked about different examples of how some businesses are run. At lunch we headed up stairs for some great food and a presentation by the owners of Barefoot Wines, Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan. They have a great story, and really opened us up to some of the major challenges they faced. They are obviously VERY successful people, but they talked about how they had a great "get rich slow" scheme, and emphasized the truly hard work it takes to get to the top of your industry or market.

After lunch we had a few more classes, and some practical exercises. Jared shared his story which is honestly really amazing, and I think could give a lot of inspiration to a lot of veterans who are having a rough time post-service. Before we knew it, it was dinner back at the hotel with a variety of VIP's, and a book signing with Bonnie and Michael. I sat with my fellow classmates - An injured USAF CCT Airmen who is currently still on active duty down at the Center for the Intrepid, a prior Army boat guy who is studying at FSU and will be starting his own liquid natural gas company, and Earl, who I knew from before the program started. Before we knew it, it was time to head back over to class. At this point it began to sink in that "bootcamp" wasn't just a cute name they labeled the program - you are actively engaged from 0730 until 2230 every single day. The rest of the evening was kicked off with a demo on giving a venture pitch on your business (which we all have to do at the end of the week to a very distinguished panel of judges - think Shark Tank) and then working on the first few slides of our pitch. The student to my left is a cyber security guru and actually tested my website on the spot to see how secure it was (I was happy to see that he was impressed by my security on the site), and we discussed his branding and company. I also had a great talk with one of the business professors present who went through my slides and gave me some great feedback. I am happy to report that she was very impressed with my business and what we have done thus far. By the time we were heading back to the hotel, you could tell that the long day took a lot out of the class.

I can say that thus far, this program is more than living up to expectations. This is an excellent opportunity and I cannot relay how excited I am about the program and what is to come. If you would like to see a few pictures from the evening, head over to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EBVProgram
 
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goon175

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How are you planning to utilize the things you learned at this seminar to improve BSC?

I don't even know where to start, there are so many things. First off, upgrading my website which I personally think looks like crap will be a big thing. Then, making no-kidding business plan and having them look it over for me. The networking alone has already opened up a ton of doors. I have learned a ton of new sources of information that will really help me make more accurate projections. I also have completely changed my strategy about tax structures for the business. I'm a little foggy right now, and their are a few pretty major things that I would prefer not to put out, but suffice it to say that this program is already having major impact on the operation of my business.
 

Marauder06

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Did a guy named Mike Erwin talk to you today? He's an Army officer who heads up "Team Red, White and Blue." He teaches at West Point. We're not friends but I met him once. Seemed like a good dude.
 

goon175

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Just a follow up:

I haven't had time to do the write up of the last days of the program since I went immediately from the program into moving out of our house in NY and moving across the country. That being said, just a little re-cap:

  • It's an amazing program that I would recommend anyone apply to that has a goal of starting a business of any kind.
  • It is unlike anything you have ever done in the military, it was far more professionally ran than anything the government or DoD could ever put together.
  • You will learn more in 9 days then you even thought possible.
  • I am very pleased to report that I was presented with the "Most Outstanding Venture" award at the banquet at the end of the program. The award is given to the student/business who they feel has the most probability of becoming successful. Some extremely smart and successful people are the ones who decide who gets this award, so I was humbled to say the least when they announced my name.
If anyone needs contact info or has specific questions about the program, please feel free to send me a message.
 
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