For Veteran Entrepreneurs, the Sky's the Limit
Calvin Young has an idea. He wants farmers to be able to see distressed areas in their crops while sitting in their living rooms. For Young, who has served in the Illinois Army National Guard for 21 years, the idea has bloomed into a business called Sky Farmer, and he came to GSU to find ways to make it a success.
Young was one of the 120 attendees at the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at GSU’s 13th annual Veteran’s Entrepreneurial Boot Camp November 12, and said he came away with a “plethora” of knowledge he will use to get his 18-month-old start-up company off the ground.
For business-minded veterans, the Boot Camp is a full day of workshops and networking events that provides practical guidance for business owners on a variety of topics from experts, many of them veterans themselves.
Young said the resources he found at the Boot Camp would help his business and would be beneficial to any veteran considering business ownership. “This is phenomenal for veterans,” he said. “I have had conversations with many of my veteran friends who would like to start a business, but they don’t know how to take it to the next step. This event allows them to start getting the information they need to start creating a business plan, how to think about money and getting funds to start their businesses.”
Illinois State Senators Tom Cullerton (23rd) and Napoleon Harris (15th) addressed the attendees over lunch. Cullerton was the keynote speaker and said that being a veteran himself, he knows better than most the difficult waters business owners face in Illinois. He told the group that building a business is a challenge for anyone, but veterans have tools for success.
The state puts a lot of hurdles in front of you to operate a business, but they are not insurmountable. Our military training gives us an ability to solve problems put in front of us.
Events like the SBDC Boot Camp and the daily work of the GSU Veteran’s Resource Center (VRC) have enabled the university to be named to U.S. Veterans Magazine’s Best of the Best List for 2015, as one of the publication’s Top Veteran-Friendly Schools. The VRC has made it their mission to make veteran students feel at home at GSU, working with them to make sure their transition to GSU is seamless as possible, and that their educational goals are being met. VRC Coordinator Kevin Smith said endeavors like the Boot Camp help enhance the university’s reputation.
For Priscilla Cordero, Director of the SBDC at GSU, the annual event is an important reminder not only of the sacrifices veterans have made for their country, but also of their ability to give back to communities economically. "Veterans put their lives on the line for us. It is a privilege to be able to serve them in return by helping them get their businesses started and continue to grow. They are then further able to help their community by creating jobs and economic opportunity," she said.
Veterans coming together to help each other is important to an entrepreneur like Young, whose partners in the company include a U.S. Air Force veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and another Illinois National Guardsman, who fought in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
The feeling of camaraderie and unity will keep Young coming back, even if his business is soaring. “I can always learn a lot from the people who are here. This is a wonderful event and I look forward to the next boot camp at GSU,” he said.