The Wall Street Journal
By: Sarah E. Needleman
November 11, 2010
Several new programs that aim to help military family members and veterans start businesses were announced this week ahead of Thursday's observance of Veteran's Day.
The Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, along with sponsor Ernst & Young, is offering "boot camp" for entrepreneurs. The program--open to family members who are full-time caretakers of wounded veterans, as well as surviving spouses of those who lost their lives in combat--consists of a four-week online course, followed by a week of classes and a year of mentoring.
Nelida Bagley, right, with her son, Army Staff Sergeant Jose Pequeno, who was severely injured while deployed to Iraq in 2006. Mr. Pequeno's sister, Elizabeth, is on left.
.Nelida Bagley of Tampa is among the participants in the program's inaugural class, which started last month. Her son, Army Staff Sergeant Jose Pequeno, was severely injured while deployed to Iraq in 2006 and can no longer walk or speak. Ms. Bagley has since quit her job as a supervisor for a manufacturing company to care for Mr. Pequeno full time, and is relying on her daughter for financial support.
"As a parent, you're supposed to take care of your kids," says Ms. Bagley. "My daughter has been taking care of me for the past five years. So I need some type of income to allow me to take care of my family."
Ms. Bagley is now hoping to launch a home-based business to help parents of disabled children get answers to questions about their health-care, financial and other options. In the boot camp, she's learning how to write a business plan and other start-up basics. "I was clueless how to do this," she says. "This program is a tremendous relief."
Syracuse has been running another boot camp since 2007 that helps disabled veterans start businesses. It accepts 150 participants a year and the Small Business Administration, which guarantees loans for veterans, is a partner. Participants can also take classes on six other campuses: University of Connecticut, Texas A&M, University of California-Los Angeles and Florida State, Purdue and Louisiana State universities.
This week, Syracuse and the SBA announced they're partnering on two more entrepreneur boot camps slated for 2011. These will include a program for helping National Guard members, Reservists and their families launch businesses and another for women veterans looking to do the same.
Separately, franchise company Kitchen Tune-Up announced that it will begin donating the cost of up to 100 new units to honorably discharged veterans. Normally, buyers of the home-remodeling franchise would be charged a franchise fee, training and equipment expenses totaling $40,000. But founder David Haglund says he's waiving that amount for veterans, so they will only be responsible for securing a vehicle, a business phone line, insurance and other basic operating expenses.
Mr. Haglund, who started the 170-unit company 22 years ago, says his motivation to lend a hand to veterans comes from having family members who served in the military. He's also concerned about the nation's high unemployment rate and hopes that vets who open Kitchen Tune-Up locations will help create jobs.
Kitchen Tune-Up first tested the initiative last spring by giving away five franchises to veterans like Frank Skubel, who served in the Army Security Agency from 1967 to 1971. Mr. Skubel says that prior to becoming a franchisee, he'd gotten laid off from a regional vice-president position at a large telecommunications company. He wasn't ready to retire, and after failing to find a new job, he began looking into starting his own business. When he found out about Kitchen Tune-Up's veteran's program in July, taking up the opportunity was "an easy decision to make," he says.
Mr. Skubel has since completed what he describes as a comprehensive two-week training program and is now setting up his franchise in his hometown of Tallahassee, Fla. Without the $40,000 discount the company gave him to get started, he says he would've needed to apply for a loan and isn't sure he would've had success given the poor economy. "I can only equate it to winning the lottery," he says.
Write to Sarah E. Needleman at email@example.com