UNIVERSITY PARK │ The Illinois Small Business Development Center at Governors State University hosted its 11th Veterans Entrepreneurial Boot Camp on Wednesday.
The one-day intensive seminar is designed to provide information and resources to veterans so they can grow their businesses successfully. It included breakout sessions on business planning, financing options, social media, the Affordable Care Act, international trade and certifications for government contracting.
“We have an initiative to work with veteran-owned businesses and make sure they have access to the resources we provide, said ISBDC Director Priscilla Cordero. “Veteran-owned businesses make up a big part of the businesses in the U.S."
Cordero said the focus of the seminar is for both veterans looking to start a new business or expanding their existing one. About half of the attendees are already in business.
About 150 veterans registered for the seminar and overall the ISBDC has served more than 1,200 veterans through the boot camps.
“The program has grown,” said Bob Rakstang, of the ISBDC. “It’s broadened out the opportunities for people to network, get financing and coaching. Lots of networking takes place. I find it personally exhilarating.”
The Veteran Business Owners Panel Discussion, which opened the boot camp, included Tiffany Bennett, who owns two beauty shops and is in real estate. She said she found out about the ISBDC through the Veterans Administration. She said Rakstang and the ISBDC helped structure her business plan.
“They started me from scratch, took my ideas then gave me suggestions,” she said.
Bennett served on the panel because she wants to “give back” to other veterans and also to see what’s new with the ISBDC.
“They always come up with some new and innovative products,” she said. “Bob and Priscilla are very good at finding out what’s going on and bringing it to the veterans.”
Veterans attending the boot camp included Virgil Mathis, of Chicago, who is an American Legion business representative for military veterans.
“I come here every year,” Mathis said.
Mathis said he is involved in an innovation center for veterans on Chicago’s west side and wanted to network at the book camp in order to bring some ideas back with him.
Illinois State Sen. Michael Hastings, a veteran and West Point graduate, delivered a lunch-time keynote address.