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Disabled vets learn business at boot camp

Cynthia Gibson | 11/23/2010, 7:19 p.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.--With the national unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, many recent veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are finding it increasingly difficult to compete for jobs in the civilian workforce.

If they're disabled, the task is even more daunting. However, some disabled vets are finding a way to create their own job opportunities through a unique business boot camp offered at colleges and universities around the country.

Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) was started in 2009 through a partnership between the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Syracuse University. Since then, seven schools around the nation, including UCLA's Anderson Graduate School of Management, offer EBV for veterans with a service-connected disability and who served on active duty after September 2001.

EVB is free to veterans who are accepted into the program and is designed around two central elements: (a) focused, practical training in the tools and skills of new venture creation and growth, and (b) the establishment of a new support structure for graduates of the program.

EBV involves three phases: (1) A self-study curriculum, facilitated by an online discussion and assessment module. During this phase, delegates will work on the development of their own business concepts. (2) A nine-day residency, where delegates are exposed to the "nuts and bolts" of business ownership through experiential workshops and lessons. (3) 12 months of ongoing support and mentorship from faculty experts.

UCLA's EBV application process is rigorous and selective. It consists of an on-line application process, submitting a resume, two letters of recommendations followed by a personal interview. Elaine Hagan, executive director at the Harold Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at UCLA's Anderson Graduate School of Management, who oversees EBV at UCLA, said the university got involved because of the needs of disabled vets.

"Often because of the nature of their disability, they can't continue in the line of work that they were in. But entrepreneurship often gives them the possibility to generate an income by helping not only themselves and their families, but also creating jobs in their communities," Hagan said.

To date, more than 300 wounded warriors have received a certificate of completion from the program nationwide and more than 150 businesses have been launched by graduates.

In addition to underwriting a portion of EBV costs for the universities, SBA has provided more than $1.25 billion in loan guarantees for veterans through its 7(a) and 504 programs and its Patriot Express loan pilot initiative.