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Veterans Entreprenuership Event held in District 11 Showcases UNF Training Program

On February 7, 2018, District 11 CM Danny Becton joined an estimated 75 people, many of them veterans, who met at the Veterans United Craft Brewery tap room at 8999 Western Way in District 11. They came to learn about the success fellow veterans have achieved by becoming entrepreneurs.

The event was co-sponsored by Veterans Florida and the University of North Florida Military & Veterans Resource Center. Both institutions are working to give veterans the skills needed to start their own businesses.

CM Becton stated, “As a 28-year small business owner myself, I very much appreciate and understand how an organization of this type is so badly needed. Helping entrepreneurs understand and navigate the processes along with the requirements of having a business, certainly provide a tremendous advantage to those who participate. These Veterans took home tonight great information and connected with resources that can really help. As I think back not having any of these resources and learning from the school of hard-knocks, these tools would have been valuable.”

Bob Buehn, director of the Military & Veterans Resource Center, said because of military training and discipline, veterans are excellent prospects to become entrepreneurs.

Those gathered heard from former Navy pilot Ron Gamble, owner of Veterans United Craft Brewery. Upon his retirement he started and sold several software companies. While successful, he wasn’t passionate about the work. One holiday, he received a home brewing kit and began to make his own beer. This new hobby soon turned into his new career. He received brewing training in Chicago, volunteered at craft breweries in New England and then returned to Jacksonville to start his own company. Most of his employees are also veterans.

That’s the goal, Bobby Carbonell, executive director of Veterans Florida, said. “We want veteran entrepreneurs to succeed so they in turn can hire veterans themselves.”

Veterans Florida offers web-based courses, on-campus workshops at six universities around the state including UNF as well a Master Advanced Program of classroom instruction also held at member universities.

The online portion serves as an introduction to business terms and the realities of owning a business. There are six, 2 to 3 hour on-campus workshops that make up the second stage. This is aimed at those with a gem of an idea or those who are just starting out as business owners.

The Master Advanced Program is on-campus and consists of 60 hours of classroom instruction. This is broad-based learning that exposes students to all forms of entrepreneurship. To participate, veterans must have a well-established business plan or have started the business. Because each session is limited to 20 students, participants must be accepted into the program.

The state veteran’s entrepreneur program is in its third year. Since beginning in 2016, 300 veterans have graduated from this tuition-free program. Those graduates who have formed their own companies have earned combined to date $4.8 million and hired 34 employees.

Those veterans interested in learning more or getting involved should go to http://www.veteransflorida.org or call Diane Stover, Coordinator of Outreach & Recruitment at the UNF Military & Veterans Resource Center at 904-620-5534.