For Fort Hood Warrior Transition Brigade soldier Staff Sgt. Billie McCanick, life after the Army includes helping homeless vets. For another brigade soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Ben Lolohea, it’s about being better than your competitors. For Don Rodgers, it’s about finding something to fill time while his wife, a brigade soldier, recovers from her war wounds.
Three different goals, but one common denominator: the entrepreneurial spirit.
Thanks to the brigade’s career transitioning resources, their dreams came one step closer to reality with Operation Jump Start, an entrepreneurial workshop designed by Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management.
Anthony Thomas, brigade transition coordinator, said the recent workshop was held to educate soldiers on not only starting a business, but also evaluating their own transition progression.
“Entrepreneurship and small business ownership are key opportunities for wounded, ill and injured service members, their families and caregivers,” said Thomas, adding soldiers are natural entrepreneurs.
Dr. John Torrens agreed. He facilitated the two-day workshop that was packed with information on the “nuts and bolts” of the entrepreneurial experience such as marketing, economic and legal issues, business planning and financing.
“Being in the military actually gives the service member a unique advantage in entrepreneurship opportunities because of their skills and experiences,” Torrens said. Veteran-owned businesses are more likely to succeed than their civilian counterparts, he added.
“We’re just trying to amplify their skills and give them the tools to set up the opportunity to get into business for themselves.”
McCanick, who is assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, said the most valuable take away for her was that it gave her a “starting point” toward her dream of helping homeless veterans and their families get off the streets by establishing a foundation that centers on finding them housing, jobs and educational opportunities.
“I am extremely ecstatic that I now have a path and direction,” said the 16-year career soldier. Creating a business plan was also valuable for her. “With the type of organization I’m trying to set up, I need to identify those key points.”
Not having a business plan, hurt his stone landscaping business, Lolohea said.
“I just kind of jumped into it without doing my homework,” said Lolohea, who is assigned to brigade’s intake company and also has been in the Army for 16 years. “I just knew how to do the stuff so I just went for it.”
Besides Operation Jump Start, the brigade hosts various job fairs, resume writing workshops, skills assessment and employment workshops throughout the year. All are geared toward the soldier who soon will trade the uniform for a business suit.
“Career, education and readiness tools are a big part of taking care of our soldiers,” Thomas said. These tools reduce stress for the soldier and the spouse.
In fact, many of the brigade’s career and transition resources are open to spouses, including Operation Jump Start.