IVMF Student Testimonials

Veterans participating in Syracuse University’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) program are grateful for what they say is a life-changing experience.

Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities Begins 10th Session

A group of nearly two dozen veterans with disabilities have converged on the Syracuse University campus for the 10th Barnes Family Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities. The event kicked off Saturday with a welcome reception and words of encouragement from organizers.

Laurie Reid, V-WISE NYC, 2014

U.S. Navy veteran Laurie Reid, one of the first women to deploy on an aircraft carrier (the USS Abe Lincoln) to the Persian Gulf following Desert Shield/Desert Storm, is Founder and President of Breaking the Cycle Consulting. Her Florida certified minority, woman and service disabled veteran small business helps bring hope and success to families struggling with child to parent violence. Reid attended the V-WISE conference in New York City in 2014 hoping to find direction for her business. She came out ready to dedicate herself full time to her business venture. Since then, Breaking the Cycle has revamped their website and hired a business coach and marketing consultant to relaunch. “What an amazing event filled with like-minded, mission-driven women vetrepreneurs! This memorable conference, supportive staff, and my fellow V-WISE sisters gave me the confidence needed to jump full speed ahead into my business full-time. Thank you V-WISE!" Check her out at http://www.childtoparentviolence.com/.

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Jill Hinton, V-WISE Chicago, 2013

U.S. Army veteran Jill Hinton is the Chief Heroine of Outdoor Book Club, a company inspired by the 2014 Citi Salutes Realizing Your Dream Business Plan Competition where Hinton took third place and won $10,000 to start the business. She leads workshops and trips for women in the great outdoors, all inspired by great books. Mom to five kids, Hinton went into her first V-WISE conference in Chicago in 2013 knowing only that she wanted to start some kind of business. She came out with a solid plan on how to launch with the right resources in place. “After the first day of the conference, I went back to my hotel room and literally jumped on the bed, I was so excited and brimming with ideas," said Hinton. "Talking and networking with other women vets who wanted to start businesses gave me the inspiration I needed to quit my job and truly 'realize my dream.'" Since then, Outdoor Book Club has been featured on Forbes.com, Better Homes & Gardens magazine, Women magazine, Womensday.com and more.

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Dr. Sonja Ogletree Satani, V-WISE Grad, 2013

Dr. Sonja Ogletree Satani served 10 years in the United States Air Force and founded Corporate Cycle Consulting, LLC in 2012. As a consultant, Dr. Satani helps individuals and businesses to be profitable and successful and to bridge leadership opportunities through communications, collaborations and community service. Since Dr. Satani attended V-WISE Jacksonville in 2013, Corporate Cycle Consulting has been selected as Small Business of the Year 2013 through the Charleston County Council Small Business Enterprises, was one of six finalist for 2013 Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year, and was featured in the June 2014 issue of Forbes Magazine. According to Dr. Satani, “Participating in this program allowed me to network with others and gave me the opportunity to think beyond the scope of limitations. Going through this program allowed our organization to soar to new heights and we are still flying towards our next milestone.”

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John A. Latham, VCTP Grad, 2014

"The Veterans Career Transition Program (VCTP) is an excellent program for Senior Noncommissioned Officers. As an Army Sergeant Major, I have been involved in a number of high value projects over the course of my career and I highlighted these projects on my resume; however, it wasn’t until I completed the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification through the VCTP that businesses and government agencies recognized the validity of my project management experience. As a bonus, this certification was at no cost due to the generosity of Syracuse University and J.P. Morgan/Chase in providing the training and paying the testing fee for the PMP certification. Once I added the certification to my resume and mentioned it in job interviews, various employers expressed more interest. Ultimately, I was offered and accepted a management analyst position with a government agency less than a month after completing the certification. I highly recommend this program as a way to validate the experience many Senior Noncommissioned Officers possess in a way civilian hiring managers understand."

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Lauren N. Bluemle, V-WISE Denver 2013

U.S. Army Veteran Nichole Bluemle developed her business, Back to the Box, after identifying that the extensive home based exercise programs she was creating for her physical therapy clients were desired by their network of family and friends. She created a subscription based website for easy access to the programs. As a physical therapist, certified orthopedic specialist and certified strength and conditioning specialist, Nichole's programs target injury prevention, diagnosis and management.

While Nichole was confident the programs were well developed and desired, she needed guidance on how to best market her product and to make the most of information technology and social media. After attending V-WISE, Nichole says she "...found the education and motivation provided to be invaluable. Since the course I have been diligent in my social media campaign and using a blog and strategic online advertising which has boosted SEO so that potential customers become aware of our existence."

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Kelly Hoffman, EBV-F – Syracuse University, 2013

Kelly Hoffman's husband graduated from the EBV at Syracuse University In 2012, she describes his experience as "far more than training in entrepreneurship, EBV transformed my husband and his outlook on life post EBV". Hoffman was thrilled to learn that there was also a program for military family members called EBV-F, she says that "as soon as I found out there was a program just for me, a military spouse turned caregiver to a husband battling the effects of PTSD, I jumped on the chance to attend."

Since graduating from EBV-F at Syracuse University in 2013, Hoffman has launched her new venture called Chocolate Pennies. A consulting, life-coaching and public speaking company, Chocolate Pennies tells the story of a Marine Corps wife dealing with life post-war. “When my husband returned home from his first deployment, I expected life to pick up where it left off. Once the honeymoon was over, I started to sense things were a bit different. Not knowing anything about PTSD, I assumed these issues would eventually work themselves out and go away. Since we had never heard of PTSD, we did not seek help.” Hoffman’s daily blog deals with transition issues and is read by military spouses nationwide, her public speaking business is thriving and she is working on publishing her first book that she hopes will help other military spouses dealing with the effects of PTSD at home.

Hoffman credits EBV-F with "providing me with the knowledge I needed to launch into the unknown and giving me the confidence and understanding I needed in order to make my new business successful."

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Andres Lazo, VCTP Student, 2014

Andres Lazo separated from the Army as an Infantry Reconnaissance Scout at the rank of Sergeant (E5) in August 2009 and is a recipient of U.S. Military Purple Heart Medal. Andres enrolled at Syracuse University as a full-time student pursuing his Masters in Public Administration. He wants to obtain a PMP certification, and his ultimate career goal would be a role in social entrepreneurship.

Andres started the Veterans Career Transition Program in October 2013. He worked with his VCTP academic advisor to develop a professional resume that he could submit to Team Rubicon’s inaugural Clay Hunt Fellows Program, a year-long leadership and training program for military veterans. Andres was selected as one of seven fellows to take part in this exceptional opportunity.

Andres feels strongly that VCTP contributed to his current success and his job placement. “The Veterans Career Transition Program (VCTP) has played a pivotal role in my transition from being a U.S. Army combat veteran to being a full-time graduate student at Syracuse University. The entire staff at VCTP have been incredible from helping me with resumes and job applications, to learning project management skills and time management techniques. The advisors, Laura and Jennifer, have helped me translate my military skills to a civilian career in Homeland Security. They even helped me prepare for an important interview which allowed me to secure a fellowship studying emergency management with Team Rubicon, Inc. This year I will be pursuing a Project Management Professional (PMP) and Six Sigma Greenbelt certification with VCTP. I am so grateful for the difference they have made in my life.”

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John Raftery, EBV – Syracuse University, 2007

In 1999, John Raftery enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, and in 2001 he successfully completed training to become a member of Marine Corps Recon. In 2003, he deployed with 1st Recon Battalion in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and took part in the initial push into Baghdad. After this year-long deployment, John returned home to his young family with impaired hearing, chronic pain in his knees and back and severe PTSD, yet he considers himself lucky. He says, “Many of the Marines I served with had it much worse than I did.”

After receiving an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps, Raftery attended Dallas Baptist University to study accounting. Like many veterans, Raftery had difficulty finding work, and eventually accepted a part-time job as an accounting assistant in Dallas, Texas. Knowing that John was dissatisfied with his job and his future prospects, Raftery’s mother-in-law learned about the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) program, and encouraged John to apply. John had always wanted to start a business, and thought the EBV might offer a fresh start and empowering opportunity for himself and his family.

John completed the EBV program in 2007, and shortly thereafter founded Patriot Contractors in Waxahachie, Texas – a service-disabled, veteran-owned (SDVOB) specialty construction company, offering a broad range of project management, finish construction, and design-build services. When John launched the business, he was a one man operation taking on small jobs, where and when he could find the work. However, we all knew that bigger and better things were on the horizon for John and his new venture. In fact, John’s story is one that exemplifies why so many call business ownership the embodiment of “the American Dream.”

John went on to leverage the skills and leadership ability he developed serving his country as a Marine to build Patriot Contractors into a thriving and successful venture. Today, Patriot Contractors has over twenty employees, and projects all over the U.S. for clients that include the federal government, Fortune 500 companies, hospitals, churches, and community organizations. Put most simply, John’s success has been nothing short of remarkable – as demonstrated by Patriot Contractor’s ranking by Inc. Magazine as the 106th fastest growing private company in America. As Patriot Contractors’ President, Raftery is a hands-on leader involved in every aspect of the business from pre-construction to operations. John says, “As a veteran business owner, it is important for me to recognize the training I received in entrepreneurship and small business management through the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities program… the ongoing support and mentorship have been critical to my successful transition from post-service, to operating a successful venture. Entrepreneurship has truly been an important step for me in making the 100-percent transition since leaving the Marine Corps.”

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Benjamin Norris, VCTP Graduate, 2013

After separating from the Marines in June 2012, Benjamin Norris found work as a project analyst. While he enjoyed his work, he wasn’t passionate about it. Instead, his passion was technology – specifically information technology and project management. Throughout his service in the Marine Corps, he had received training and experiences well-positioned to make him a valuable addition to the technology team at any private sector company. That said, those jobs were closed to him for one reason: he didn’t have the ‘right’ piece of paper. That is, nobody would hire Ben for IT jobs, because he didn’t have the industry-standard certifications and credentials required by employers.

Fortunately, Benjamin learned about the IVMF’s Veteran Career Transition Program (VCTP) – a program created specifically for veterans facing exactly the same barriers preventing Ben from advancing his career in technology. Put simply, VCTP was created to allow veterans to link their military skills and experiences, with industry standard certifications and credentials required by employers, and by doing so set veterans like Ben on the path to full and meaningful careers.

In November 2012 Ben worked with a VCTP academic advisor to create a plan that would prepare him to complete four industry standard certifications. By October 2013, Ben had completed VCTP training courses in Career Skills, Scrum Fundamentals, Project Management, and ITIL Fundamentals – and turned each into a valued industry credential. Specifically, after completing the training Ben took and passed credentialing exams for Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Certified Associate of Project Management (CAPM), Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), and Project Management Professional (PMP).

Just one year after starting the Veterans Career Transition Program, Benjamin Norris was offered and accepted a job at Boeing, as an IT Project Manager. “My PMP, ITIL, and CSM certifications, played a huge part in my success as a candidate. I truly believe that without those accomplishments, I would have never been selected for the job [at Boeing]. Therefore, the VCTP program has been extremely important in my career.”

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Justin Constantine, EBV – Syracuse University, 2009

In 2006, just six weeks after deploying to Iraq, Justin was shot in the head by an enemy sniper. The bullet hit him in a one-inch opening between his helmet and vest, entering behind his left ear and exiting his mouth, causing major damage along the way. He credits the courage and skill of a U.S. Navy corpsman—who felt a faint pulse, performed an emergency tracheotomy and began working on him on the battlefield—with saving his life.

During his recovery, Justin and his wife, Dahlia, noticed inquiring looks from passerby, due to Justin’s very visible facial injuries. “My head was still very swollen. Obviously, people were wondering what had happened to me.” As a way to help answer these unasked questions, Justin designed an original t-shirt with the phrase “IRAQ AND BACK” printed across the front. Whenever he wore the shirt, he found that instead of awkward glances and stares, people approached him, wanting to talk about his experience. “The outpouring was great. So many people came up to say ‘thank you’ and ‘we’re really glad you made it back alive.’” These conversations greatly helped Justin’s recovery.

Following their breakthrough, Justin and Dahlia launched their first business, Iraq and Back, which designed and sold patriotic gear for service members and their families, and military units around the world. For the couple, the business held an even deeper meaning because of that very first t-shirt. Today, Justin is a serial entrepreneur now embarking on additional business ventures.

"Not only should you, you have to check EBV, you have to apply for it. If you don't, you're squandering a huge resource that's out there. Starting and running a business is incredibly hard and there are so many things to do and take care of that one wouldn't think of, until you're in the middle of it. I never thought I'd have the opportunity to be a small business owner, but I do now, and I think running a small business is part of the American dream, where you're taking on the world and you have a chance to really succeed on your own."

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Sandra Gonzales, Army Spouse, Boots to Business, 2013

Sandra Gonzales is a former Army nurse, the spouse of a Field Artillery officer, and also the mother of six children. Sandra always knew that she wanted to start her own business, because she recognized that through business ownership she could create a vocation for herself that would allow her to enact her passion for learning and teaching, in a way that also afforded her the flexibility she needed to balance the roles of mother, wife, and businessperson.

Gonzales learned of the IVMF’s Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) program in 2011, and made the decision to enroll. After completing the V-WISE program, and later advanced training through the IVMF’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans Families (EBV-F) and Boots to Business training programs, she launched her own educational consulting firm called Docere eLearning Solutions, LLC.

When asked about her experience in the Boots to Business program, Sandra responded, “I have taken numerous online courses, and I have found Boots to Business to be one of the best. The online tutorials were extremely valuable as well as the feedback I received on my assignments. The class walks you through each section of the business plan and provides great insight into all the aspects of planning and launching a new venture. Had it not been for Boots to Business, I doubt that I would have been able to write a detailed business plan that will help me move my business forward. More importantly, it allowed me to compete in two different business plan competitions to earn seed money for my company. I would highly recommend Boots to Business to anyone serious about launching a new venture.”

Sandra’s company specializes in the creation of interactive learning programs primarily for K-12 and health care organizations. The inspiration for her business came from homeschooling her oldest child, who is autistic. For that reason, her educational programs are focused on the homeschooling community – specifically offering alternative therapies and special educational techniques for struggling learners. Sandra has built a world-class team of educators, entrepreneurs, health care professionals and IT specialists who have a love for teaching and a passion for helping others to learn. Sandra also serves as the editor for the newsletter of the homeschooling association, writing articles about autism, and innovative learning strategies.

The target market for the company’s first products includes approximately 2.2 million homeschooled children in the United States. Key trends such as an increasing demand for online learning for high school students make this 650 million dollar market a favorable one for her innovative learning solutions. The marketplace agrees. Sandra recently received $50,000 in seed capital to launch her new venture.

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Marty Skovlund, EBV – Syracuse University, 2013

Marty Skovlund recently separated from active duty in the U.S. Army after eight years of service during which time he served in the1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He has been awarded numerous military honors including the Meritorious Service Medal, two Army Commendation Medals, three Army Achievement Medals, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three Campaign Stars and the Iraq Campaign Medal with three Campaign Stars.

Skovlund has always been a self-starter and takes initiative with little to no guidance. He was able to display his talent in 2008, when he transitioned from 1st Ranger Battalion to a tactical site exploitation (TSE) operator. He had no previous experience in the job and was up against fellow soldiers who had received years of instruction through expensive government courses and military training. Skovlund learned quickly and, after a few weeks of on-the-job training, he was considered essential personnel for all task force missions. By the time his final deployment rolled around, Skovlund was chosen to be a primary TSE operator, even over the other formally trained and experienced TSE operators in the section.

Skovlund currently owns Blackside Concepts, a small business dedicated to providing quality American made clothing products and bridging the gap between the military and civilian community. Marty has seen steady growth in his business since leaving the Army and graduating from EBV, he has an incredibly positive outlook for FY 2014 and encourages folks that are interested in his quality American apparel to visit his website www.hop.blacksideconcepts.com. In his efforts to bridge military civilian gap, Marty has recruited fellow veterans to post regularly to “Hit the Woodline”, he hopes that the articles and blogs posted to www.hitthewoodline.com will help both veterans and civilians alike.

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Nicole Hayes, Veteran, V-WISE Jacksonville, 2013

Nicole is a former Navy Officer. After 20 years of service, she turned her passion for writing into her own business, James-Hayes Writing Group. Her company specializes in writing resumes, business plans and proposals, editing professional correspondence and peer-reviewed journal articles for publication, and academic research. In January of 2013, Nicole utilized the V-WISE program in Jacksonville to learn how to expand her customer base through effective marketing and pricing. Upon completion of the program, she launched a website to promote her business and continues to utilize knowledge gained to broaden her blossoming network.

After attending V-WISE Jacksonville, Nicole commented, “I just wanted to say the biggest THANK YOU for an absolutely fantastic conference. It was beyond my expectations, and probably the most informative, professional conference I have ever attended. The whole V-WISE staff was so helpful, friendly and excited; I could not wait to get home to let all my friends know about V-WISE and get them signed up for the Chicago conference.

I can't say enough positive things about this conference. The level of support without any strings attached was just mind-blowing. The professional materials, speakers, entertainment, signed books, and "BetterBrittle" made my weekend! I look forward to remaining a part of this wonderful organization and sharing it with everyone I come in contact with.

Networking with fellow V-WISE has helped Nicole outside of her business as well. She recently accepted a position as a Program Manager with DAK Professional Services, LLC, owned and operated by Stephanie McFadden Evans, a fellow January 2013 graduate.

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Edward Aguasanta, EBV Syracuse University, 2012

“I thank the EBV program for being so great and helping veterans like myself. I was truly at the brink of considering unthinkable thoughts about myself and my future until this miracle happened with EBV that breathed new life into me and cast a gleaming pathway into my future…Me and my fellow EBV classmates fought for the American dream and yet when we return home, we sometimes feel alienated from it, either by our own will or other personal circumstances. I no longer feel that way because of the EBV program and for that, I thank you!”

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Julie Mosteller, V-WISE Baltimore, 2011

U.S. Army Veteran Julie Mosteller launched her business, Angels Event Center in 2011, http://angelseventcenter.com/. Always in the people business, Julie felt this venture was a natural way to showcase her people skills and to find success doing something she loves. Julie was considering opening an event planning business when she attended the V-WISE program. By the end of the conference, she had the confidence she needed to take the next steps in the planning process. She moved forward with her decision to purchase the building she currently occupies and launched her catering and event planning business. At the conference, Julie met and developed relationships with several other women who were preparing to launch; several of whom she still remains friends with and collaborates with on their business ventures. Julie reports that “V-WISE was the spark I needed to get my focus back on track and to send me off in a positive direction.”
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