Business program strives to help veterans succeed

By Lauren Lavelle


VET business students at their graduation ceremony after completing the nine week program. From left to right: John Langston, John DeSeignora, Eric Myhre, Wynette Jackson, Jessica Hansen, Ken Mack and Greg Fontaine.

For the fourth year in a row, Rider’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies will host the Veterans Entrepreneurship Training (VET) program, a nine-week learning experience that provides veterans with a series of classes aimed at business plan development.

With help from professors from the College of Business Administration, the program is split into two portions. Each phase gives the veterans the proper tools to take their business ventures to the next level.

“Phase one has veterans develop their business concept,” said Director of Rider’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and Small Business Institute Ronald Cook. “This concept is then finalized before the veterans move into phase two, the full business plan creation process. Only veterans whose business concept is approved by the program can move into phase two because, to build a business plan at this rapid pace, it has to come from a solid concept.”

Boasting small class sizes and continued assistance after program completion, the VET program’s main priority is the well-being of the veterans and the hope that they gain valuable life lessons from their experiences.

“The class size is limited to 20 students to allow for instructor feedback and individualized attention, which is vital during the business plan creation process,” said Cook. “Upon completion of the summer program, veterans receive one year of mentoring as they pursue their venture dreams.”

According to Cook, before establishing the VET program, research was conducted that concluded that, because of their vast age range and educational experiences, veterans often brought more to the table than average students. Instructors looked forward to working with them and hoped to help them master their unique skills.

“We selected an in-person format as we believed that hands-on teaching and guidance provided the best chance for success and we wanted to establish a personal connection between the veterans and the instructors, as well as between the veterans and mentors,” said Cook.

Overall, Cook is proud of the program’s success and ability to help veterans meet their full potential.

“It has been a delight helping these veterans and seeing some of their ideas take off,” said Cook. “There are four possible outcomes from the program:  it can help the veteran decide if they want to be an entrepreneur at all; it can help determine if an idea has any merit; and the plan can serve as a road map to a venture. Veterans also gain a network of business contacts and access to ongoing resources.”

Charles Ziegler, a Rider graduate and mentor for the VET program, also appreciates the program’s credibility and finds a certain sense of gratitude in working with the veterans.

“I wanted to give back to those who have served the military and who have given so much to protect our country,” said Ziegler. “There are always articles in the news about veterans having a hard time getting back into society.  I wanted to help with the transition and assist them in pursuing their dreams.”

When asked what he sees in the future for his mentees, Ziegler said he hopes they find success, even if it is not the kind of success they are looking for.

“I hope they either start a successful business or realize their idea will not be a profitable venture before spending their life savings on an idea that might not work,” said Ziegler. “I have seen each of the veterans I have mentored grow and learn something that they didn’t know before the program started. Personally, that gives me satisfaction.”

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