Championing the Veterans' Plight for Entrepreneurship
It is truly an honor to be involved in this event and to be chosen as a Champion for Change. As we all work toward building a stronger country, the value of service and sacrifice cannot be overstated, and there are few who know more about service and sacrifice than our Nation’s Veterans. Putting their lives on the line, they protect the freedom that we enjoy, come to the aid of others, and build our Country’s reputation internationally.
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama highlighted the courage, selflessness, and dependability of our troops. With all that they have to offer, one would hope that Veterans would have access to the best opportunities after their service. Unfortunately, many return home from active duty to find another battle: one for employment, stability, and a sense of purpose. Rather than having the opportunity to use the skills learned through military training, Veterans are discovering that employers are hesitant to hire them. These employers may not understand the value of military training, or may view hiring Veterans as risky. Recent legislation providing incentives for companies hiring Veterans takes a step in the right direction, but by no means solves the problems facing these men and women.
In the past, employment assistance resources have been available to Veterans; however, traditional employment is not always an easy fit for those with military backgrounds. The transition from military to civilian life is difficult in itself, both personally and professionally. An already stressful situation is intensified by the perception that many Veterans do not blend well into corporate culture. Most Veterans feel that civilian employers and coworkers simply cannot understand their experiences, and that the available jobs aren’t as stimulating as the life-and-death situations they encountered in active duty. These challenges in turn cause feelings of isolation and frustration, thus limiting their success in the traditional workplace.
It is with this in mind that founders Ted Lasser, Greg Meier, and Nick Wichert have launched Veteran Entrepreneurial Transfer, Inc. (VETransfer), a business accelerator/incubator exclusively for veterans. Our program fills a void existing in the career development services that are currently available to veterans. We believe that by starting their own businesses, Veterans can take control of their lives, follow their passion, and enjoy the freedom they’ve fought to protect.
The first of it’s kind, VETransfer is a pilot program funded through the Department of Veteran Affairs VAi2 initiative. We provide entrepreneurship training and mentoring at our physical location in Milwaukee, WI and online through our virtual accelerator, Vetransfer.org. In addition to this training, we are creating a community of veteran entrepreneurs. The environment of creativity, collaboration, and teamwork among the Veterans in our program has been an integral element in the success of the program. Shared experiences, mutual understanding, and camaraderie build a sense of security and fellowship that our service men and women don’t often find in the civilian community. In fact, when Veterans launch their businesses, they create jobs in their communities, and tend to hire other Veterans to fill these positions.
One year ago, when we founded VETransfer, we established a goal to incorporate forty Veteran owned innovations into our program by the end of the two-year pilot program. Today, only one year later, we have launched or accelerated over 200 Veteran owned businesses, and have had to create a waiting list to manage the overwhelming demand for the program. We are thrilled to have experienced such success, and excited to continue expanding our program to help more of our Nation’s heroes find hope and opportunity through entrepreneurship.
Meet the VETransfer Team:
Ted Lasser (center), a decorated Vietnam War Veteran and experienced serial entrepreneur, serves as President and Executive Director of Veteran Entrepreneurial Transfer, Inc.
Greg Meier, J.D. is co-founder of Veteran Entrepreneurial Transfer, Inc. among other entrepreneurial ventures. He serves as advisor to a number of early-stage companies, non-profit organizations, and is on the Advisory Board for the UW-Whitewater Entrepreneurship Major.
Nick Wichert, MBA has a strong background in Business Development methodologies, and is co-founder of Veteran Entrepreneurial Transfer, Inc., among other companies in the technology and healthcare sectors.