AT A GLANCE
What: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Veterans Entrepreneurship Program
When: Application deadline is April 27. Self study begins June 1 with an on- campus eight-day training session July 21-29.
Qualifications: Honorable discharge, service-connected disability preference
Contact: www.UTC.edu/Business/VEP; call Sandra Cordell at 423-425-4417; or email Sandra-Cordell@utc.edu.
UTC is taking applications for a new, free program that aims to teach military veterans how to start a successful business.
The Veterans Entrepreneurship Program application deadline is April 27. Those accepted will begin the first phase of the yearlong program in June.
Dr. Robert Dooley, dean of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's College of Business, brought the program model with him from Oklahoma State University when he arrived in Chattanooga last summer.
Dooley said in a recent interview that while it's obvious to most employers that veterans make good employees, what's often overlooked is their ability to run their own organizations.
"It's not their job skills they've learned, it's the fact they come out of an environment that's mission-oriented, they follow through on a task and have a strong desire to achieve goals," Dooley said.
Those intangible skills are the same that make a good entrepreneur, he said.
The year-long program begins with a month of self-study before vets hit UTC in July for an eight-day "boot camp" that teaches them the fundamentals of entrepreneurship.
After that comes a 10-month mentoring phase where they'll get feedback and support as they fine-tune their businesses.
The program, which is free to the students, is being paid for through business and individual donations at an estimated cost of $3,000 per student.
Dr. Steve White, a professor of management at UTC, has coordinated the program curriculum.
White said the short stay for the on-campus boot camp should fit well into working veterans' real-world schedules.
"We want people to understand if they've got the time, that's all they need," he said. "We're going to try and take somebody who has minimal to no knowledge of running a business and give them eight days of fundamentals."
But even those already in business for themselves can benefit, said Jonathan Williams, president of the Tennessee Veterans Business Association.
Williams went through a similar program last year at Texas A&M University even though he had been running his Knoxville-based business, Accord Federal Services LLC, for a year.
The 10-year U.S. Navy veteran took what he and his partner had been doing with their work managing federal contracts and scrutinized every aspect.
"You're basically immersing yourself in your company," he said. "I wanted to make sure that we were on the right path with our business plan, accounting, costs, marketing."
Williams said working in small groups and then staying connected with other veteran business owners helped tremendously. He has continued that support network philosophy as head of the state veterans business association.
Dooley said that as of last week the program had nine applicants, but there's space for 20 to 30. If the program is successful, the plan is to make it an annual event, and the university staff will track participants' success in their future business endeavors.