The Florida SBDC Network, in partnership with Veterans Florida, welcomed the first class of participants in the new Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program, a statewide initiative offering qualified veterans the opportunity to receive an accelerated entrepreneurship education at no cost. The pilot program, which began the first of three phases March 15, received over 600 applications and accepted 400 participants.
Delivered through five participating institutions of higher education, the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program is an educational training program in entrepreneurship offered to military veterans that meet the following requirements: have been honorably discharged, are National Guardsmen or Reservists, or are active duty within one year of separation; reside in Florida, and demonstrate a strong interest in entrepreneurship.
The first phase of the program, an accelerated online training, seeks to equip participating veterans with the essential information to build their venture on a strong business foundation. The course entails developing business concepts, exploring feasibility, researching target customers, and gaining an understanding of Lean Startup and the Canvas Business Model, programs utilized in the phase two in-class training. Over a period of eight weeks, participants will receive exercises, readings, videos, and guidance from instructors from one of five institutions of higher education – the University of West Florida (UWF), University of North Florida (UNF), Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and Hillsborough Community College (HCC).
Due to funding support provided by the State of Florida, the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program is offered to participating veterans at no cost. In December, Veterans Florida, a non-profit created by the Florida Legislature to attract and retain veterans, selected UWF, through its Florida SBDC Network and Military Veterans Resource Center, to administer the program.
“Military veterans are 45 percent more likely to start a business than those with no prior active-duty experience,” said Bobby Carbonell, Executive Director of Veterans Florida. “The support and training the program provides is designed to serve as a catalyst for veterans to kick-start the launch of their business concepts.”
Michael Myhre, CEO and Network State Director of the Florida SBDC Network, described the positive response the program has received.
“Demand for the program exceeded resources, capacity, and our expectations,” said Myhre. “Our initial goal was to recruit 400 qualified veteran applicants within six weeks – a feat we achieved within a two week period. Prior to suspending our statewide marketing efforts and closing applications earlier than planned, we received over 600 applications – demonstrating the significant demand and need for this type of program in the state.”
Following the conclusion of phase one in May, participating veterans will attend six days of in-class training held over a period of three consecutive weekends at their assigned institution of higher education. Following successful completion, participants will receive up to six-months of ongoing mentorship from Florida SBDC business consultants to drive success.
The objective of the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program is to assist all participants realize their entrepreneurial potential and develop practical skills – both technical and behavioral – to achieve their entrepreneurial aspirations.
For more information, please visit www.FloridaVetBiz.org.