Written by: COL (Ret.) Jill Chambers
It didn’t take me long to start asking the age-old question as I was nearing the close of a 30-year Army career in May of 2009 – “gee, I wonder what’s next?” I had no desire to even use the word “retirement,” and I was ready to re-launch into at least another 30 years of doing something that deeply interested me and of which I had sole responsibility for the outcomes.
Along came Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) at UCLA where I attended the 10-day boot camp at the Anderson School of Management in July 2010. I was introduced to an all-star cast of professionals within the business school who devoted their personal time into guiding all 20 of us in the class towards becoming successful entrepreneurs. They personally equipped me with what I call “civilian business knowledge.” Businesses run just a bit differently outside of the military and it was essential to have that understanding.
I was also provided with critical information on how to access additional financial resources should I need them, a rolodex of contacts connected to my passion and support in constructing a viable action plan to get moving towards this new and exciting goal of becoming a successful entrepreneur.
To top it off – EVERYTHING was of no cost to me. UCLA’s EBV program paid for my travel, lodging and food costs. Literally, I was treated just like a general officer. Another great benefit that I have had the opportunity to test is that once you graduate, there is an entire team behind you should you need additional support as you set up your business. You can tap right back into your network of professors for answers to questions concerning business plan creation, marketing concerns or legal questions. They are always there, ready to serve the veteran.
It was the support and encouragement of the EBV team that inspired me to use my strengths, talents and resources to venture out and create my Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB). My personal gifts, combined with the training provided by the visionaries who created EBV, helped me to achieve my successful re-launch status!
A veteran who is mentally ready to take on the adventure of being their own boss will find that EBV is one of the greatest paths to fulfilling their dream. There is no question that this program has been the best educational experience I have had in my professional career for one simple reason – practical and applicable training. The leadership of EBV and the entire team of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) have stayed true to their vision and mission focus – “to serve those men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country.” They are doing just that in spades.
Between working with our returning warriors over the last seven years and travelling to Iraq six times from 2009 to 2011, I have developed a deep understanding of the challenges our service men and women face upon returning home. Our nation is defended by a force of volunteers who have put their personal aspirations on hold in order to serve our country, and it is vital to uphold a safe and promising landing zone for them once they return. EBV exists to do just that by recognizing the specific strengths that veterans possess and playing a critical role in bringing those strengths to bear in the United States work force as entrepreneurs. Now that’s a positive strategy.
Jill Chambers served 30 years as member of the U.S. Army before being selected as the special assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen in 2007. She focuses on the study of wounded warrior issues and is widely recognized as the first person in the U.S. military to develop a successful, sustainable strategy designed to reduce the crippling stigma associated with mental health challenges in a warrior culture.