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Business bootcamp for veterans underway at SU

Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities

Disabled Veterans are getting a crash course in how to become entrepreneurs this week in Syracuse.

Dan Piston spent six years in the Navy.  When he got out two years ago, he realized he had a passion for the health and fitness field. And wanted to put that In action by doing something like owning a gym.

"I do not have much training in business. Right now my undergrad degree is in health and exercise science. And I’ve always had an interest in owning a business, but I didn’t know how to do it, or where to get started,” said Piston.

So he’s joined the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, run out of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families out of Syracuse University.  It’s a three-pronged program that starts with an online course and moves on to an intensive nine-day residency that’s happening now at 10 universities across the country, including Syracuse. After that there’s a year-long mentorship and program. Twenty-one disabled vets are participating at SU this year.

The national director of the program, Al Florkowski, says vets are a good fit as small business owners.

“I think a lot of the skills our service members leave the service with, lend well to entrepreneurship, and the trials and tribulations you go through the process of starting a business," said Florkowski. “They have a certain persona of determination, a strong desire and the willingness to persevere. And there’s lots of folks out there who want to start a new business, but my not have the discipline that it takes to tough it out.”  

Piston agrees many other vets are in the same boat.

“Especially with the enlisted ranks. A lot of people do not have college degrees or formal training associated with that. So once they serve in the military, many people get out after the first enlistment -- especially nowadays. They don’t have that formal education to back up some of their ideas or to provide them with the focus they need,” said Piston.

There have been over 1,000 grads since the program started in Syracuse in 2007, and nearly 70 percent have their own business.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.