How Savvy Veterans are Turning into Successful Entrepreneurs
Two years ago, I placed my first-ever call to the Department of Veterans Affairs. With the Afghan war winding down, I suspected a new generation of young, skilled veterans — with incredible diverse and valuable experience — would soon be hitting the job market. Most will make very valuable employees. But what, I wanted to know, was the federal government doing to help vets start businesses? Several days and a few phone calls later, the answer came back: Nothing. I made a mental note to move to a smarter country.
But last year I discovered Based in Business, a program founded by a group of students at Memorial University in St. John’s, Nfld. Privately, with the co-operation of the Armed Forces and the socially minded St. John’s business community, the free, week-long program has been turning retiring forces members from across the country into entrepreneurs since 2009.
This year, the good news is that the recently renamed and reinvigorated program has been expanded across Canada. The Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur, as it is now known, will be inducting three cohorts this year, at Memorial, Laval University in Quebec City (en français, naturellement) , and the University of Regina. The difference-maker seems to be the support of the Canadian Youth Business Foundation and Prince’s Charities Canada, a not-for-profit that channels the philanthropic interests of Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne.
The monarchy stepping in to do the government’s job seems counter to history as I learned it. But I’m delighted somebody is recognizing the importance of matching experienced forces personnel with their own businesses. Few veterans get much business training before serving their country, and this program — built on Based in Business’s model of hands-on training and mentoring from entrepreneurs — can help them learn the ropes fast and build trusted contacts whom they can call whenever they need help.