HCC provides veterans with tools and resources necessary to progress from job-seekers to job creators and become socially responsible entrepreneurs as well as business and community leaders. This progress has verifiable, historical precedent. After World War II, 49% of military veterans started their own businesses. However, today that number is between 4% – 6%. Through HCC’s programs and services, more veterans can reclaim their historical achievements. HCC provides them with the foundation to build sustainable, successful companies and consequently become economic drivers throughout the North Texas region in the latter half of this decade and beyond.
VET Program (Veteran Entrepreneur Training)
Launching in 2011, the HCC’s program consisted of one evening class per week for 8 weeks. Classes were held at Southern Methodist University with a mentoring aspect attached to help veterans bring small business ideas to fruition. The SMU class, “Starting a Business” class, is part of the SMU Entrepreneurship Certification Program under the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship within the Cox School of business.
In 2014 the model was expanded upon by adding an additional class within the 8-week window. The additional class titled “Applied Entrepreneurship” was held at the HCC offices. The class expanded on the ideals and topics taught in the “Starting a Business” class and better positioned the potential entrepreneurs to have a successful business launch.
While the model used from 2011-2014 was successful, the vision had always been to conduct a full-time class which was longer in length and offered not only business skills to veteran entrepreneurs, but helped make more well-rounded individuals by offering additional courses much like one receives in a university setting.
In 2015 funding was made available that allowed HCC leadership to start fulfilling the original vision of the HCC Fellowship. Classes such as music, art, etiquette, sales techniques, networking, message development, mental health, social media, video production community service and lectures from successful entrepreneurs as well as business and community leaders were added to syllabus. The program was expanded from two night classes a week to five days a week for eight hours a day and the program was extended to 16 weeks. Veterans accepted into the program were given a monthly allotment of $3,000 per month to help cover living expenses while in the course so that they could solely focus on their business. To date, there have been 60 veterans who have gone through the HCC veteran entrepreneurship programs with 14 of those attending in 2016.
The goal for 2017 is to expand on these successes and grow the program from two classes to a 4-phased program hosting several cohorts per year. The vehicle HCC has created to carry out the new vision is the Veteran Entrepreneur Training Program (VET).
The VET Program is a 4-phase program designed to assist veteran entrepreneurs in every stage of the business life cycle. Each phase has a curriculum specifically tailored to the knowledge needed at each stage of businesses growth. The 4 phases are:
- RECON (Concept Phase)
- PRE-DEPLOYMENT (Formation Phase)
- DEPLOYMENT (Validation Phase)
- OCCUPATION (Growth Phase)
By participating in the VET program, veterans acquire skills, fellowship and professional experience that will lead them down the path of success. From their classroom work, lectures from business leaders, and practical applications of their interactions with entrepreneurs and business leaders, they will become equipped to both face the challenges of entrepreneurship and succeed. This education and training prepares veterans to hone key entrepreneurial skill sets that will allow them to develop, validate and grow their businesses. Additionally, the VET program also establishes a business eco-system where partnerships and strategic alliances are established in efforts secure greater profitability and sustainability for veteran-owned businesses.
The Recon (Concept) Phase:
The Recon phase is an 8-week, program for a committed group of ambitious veteran leaders. HCC has partnered with SMU Cox School of Business and the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship. The program is non-degree bearing, and entails 48 hours of informative sessions, case studies, and covers expansive approaches to veteran leaders in business and community.
This initiative connects veteran participants with distinguished veteran entrepreneurs and high-level executives in the corporate and non-profit industries to develop the veterans’ talents. Participants will learn varying methodologies of entrepreneurship; develop a network of peers, share ideas with mentors, as well as, others who will assist them to make an impact on the economy and their communities.
Parallel with military service, an aspect of this program is the opportunity to establish camaraderie with other motivated veterans who are also seeking to create change through action. The HCC VET’s have an opportunity to meet and build relationships with guest speakers comprised of entrepreneurs, pro athletes, and executive leaders. The alumni remain actively involved, ensuring the program continues to meet the needs of future veteran leaders.
The Recon Phase requires a commitment to the veteran’s business and the program. During that time, the class meets 2 nights a week, both at the HCC Veteran Business Center and SMU.
The Pre-Deployment (Formation) Phase:
The Pre-Deployment Phase consists of 4-hour classes, 3 days a week focused strictly on business formation. Classes will be on topics such as State filing for business formation, website design, developing sales techniques such as a sales funnel and a unique selling proposition (USP), and developing a customer relationship management tool, just to name a few.
HCC will assist the veterans, through by need grants, to pay for initial lawyer fees and web development fees. This will ensure the veteran has recourses necessary to begin selling their products and get their message out.
This phase is 6 weeks and will have set deliverables for the veteran to ensure HCC’s recourses are being utilized effectively and that the business has a sound foundation on which to launch. Once the deliverables are met, it is time to start selling.
The Deployment (Validation) Phase:
The Deployment Phase is designed to ensure the business is running smoothly and that the entrepreneur has a solid grasp of the business side of their company. Length of time in this phase depends on a couple factors. 1) How marketable is the product or service. Is it something there is a need for and that the consumers are desiring. 2) Does the entrepreneur need to pivot or adjust the product or the marketing side. 3) How motivated is the entrepreneur to make the business work. From time to time, individuals can be stuck on their vision of the business, even when the market is telling them to pivot in a different direction. These factors are key indicators to length of time in this phase.
The classes in this phase focus on advertising, accounting, branding, social media marketing, sales training, developing and evaluating pre-established metrics, inventory management, customer relations development, etc.
The Occupation (Growth) Phase:
In the Occupation Phase, business scalability is key. To make it into this phase of the program a business is growing and will need the knowledge on how to successfully do so. The need for additional staff, space and product are the triggers.
Classes will be focused on how to effectively scale a business, developing human resource procedures, and develop strategic partnerships to enhance the business growth to name a few. This is also the phase the business will begin the search for outside capital. Additional connections, classes and resources will be given to develop executive summaries, create a more robust business plan and creating a pitch deck and message.
The Veteran Business Pitch Competition:
HCC is establishing a Veteran Business Pitch Competition that will be multi-phased, starting with a pool of capital-ready entrepreneurs who will compete for a chance to pitch their business directly to a group of venture capitalists and angel investors. The initial pool of capital-ready businesses will then be whittled down to 2 veterans who will be the final, pitch competitors.
Although HCC will not be able to guarantee any funding will be forthcoming from the audience of venture capitalists and angel investors, the Veteran Business Pitch Competition is an excellent opportunity to sell themselves and their businesses to individuals who are ready to infuse capital into a great business.
HCC is in early conversations with individuals in the venture capital space to create a fund specifically designed to fund veteran owned businesses. This would not only ensure that businesses incubated at the Veteran Business Center have access to funds dedicated to ensuring they can move to the next stage, but would bring more veteran owned businesses into the HCC ecosystem.