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    UF Program gives veterans a business boot camp

    UF program gives veterans a business boot camp

    Photo By 1st Sgt. John Fries | Veterans from all services were selected to attend the Veterans Entrepreneurship...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. 1st Class John Fries 

    81st Readiness Division

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. - It all starts with an idea. Whether it be an IT staffing company, boat repair business or a non-profit organization that helps improve accessibility for the disabled in their own homes, these business plans are just ideas and without the right knowledge and mentorship may never be born or worse, fail.

    The University of Florida and Warrington College of Business Administration have established a Veterans Entrepreneurship Program that’s free to the applicants who are selected to attend the program.

    The program director, Dr. Michael Morris explains that this program is not for just anyone and they need partners, like Army Reserve Ambassadors, who can help find the right people for the program.

    Morris said, “We have over 100 applications for those 43 spots. You can’t just go by a list, you have to have connections, people, gatekeepers like Army Reserve Ambassadors who are aware of vets, vets with disability ratings that are trying to transition or trying to plan for the future.”

    Army Reserve Ambassador for Florida, Mr. Leon Caffie is a native of Gainesville attended the graduation ceremony of this year’s VEP class and played a key role in getting the right people for the program.

    The VEP is a three-phase program and once a candidate is enrolled, they spend five weeks with online discussions and a self-study curriculum. Phase two is the intense eight-day residency portion where students are flown to Florida, lodged and provided meals, at no cost to them, while receiving a deluge of business information which was referred to by students as an eight-day Masters Program.

    The final phase is a six-month mentorship program where the graduates execute their plan and other entrepreneurs and subject matter experts are available to answer any questions they may have as well as access to online peer-to-peer networking.

    Sponsors and private donors, with operations and program development provided by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Florida, underwrite the costs of the VEP.

    This is the second graduating class from UF. Last year 43 veterans completed the inaugural class and went on to execute their business plan.

    Ed Dial is one of those graduates. He has owned Ocala ATV, in Ocala, Fla. and Gainesville, Ga., since 2007 and he is grateful for the scope and depth of information provided to the class and it helped him relook at the way he was doing business.

    “It gave me a better idea to look at things in a more sophisticated way to market a lot better and to do my finances a lot better. A lot of things added to what I was already doing to make it better,” said Dial.

    As a result, Dial says his sales have increased.

    This year’s class is full of hope and optimism. Aaron Eklund, a former Navy Corpsman is from Virginia Beach, Va. and plans to start up an IT staffing company called Veteran Global LLC that focuses on hiring veterans with networking skills.

    “I already have a degree in business administration from a private college. When I compare that to what I learned here, I didn’t get that value out of over $100,000 of education,” said Eklund. “I also didn’t get the networking, which is the biggest thing. It’s life-changing.”

    While every business opportunity come with it’s own risks, the students of the VEP are now be armed with knowledge and the experiences of others to guide them along the way.

    For more information about the Veterans Entrepreneurship Program, go to or email



    Date Taken: 05.13.2015
    Date Posted: 05.26.2015 14:58
    Story ID: 164557
    Location: GAINESVILLE, FL, US 

    Web Views: 470
    Downloads: 0