Saturday, Nov. 5th saw the largest and most successful veterans entrepreneurship symposium take place at the Ybor City campus of Hillsborough Community College (HCC) Tampa. Sponsored by USAA and partnered by the HCC and Suncoast Credit foundations, it was an all-day inspiring and informational program designed to help veteran entrepreneurs learn and compete for prize money. Gary Schoeniger fom the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program exposed attendees to the George Land Transformation Theory about startup through obsolence, and George Zwierko, a prominent advertising vetpreneur, explained how his creative marketing gave him the freedom he has always wanted.
The group has several break-out sessions from which to choose -manage it, contract it, pitch it, and fund it. After several pitch competitions voted on by those present, three finalists were given 3 minutes each to pitch their idea to a panel of professional judges. Among them were Lisa Monnet, Founder of Eye C Solutions, Paul Huszar, President of VetCor, Jim Sampey CEO of Veterans Florida, and Deon Bradly of Bradley Coaching. Two veterans won $1,000 and $2,000 runner-up prizes while the grand prize of $10,000 went to Michael Zanetti, CEO of Trades Factor. Zanetti runs a website (tradesfactor.com) that puts military skills (e. g., a welder) together with civilian employers who needs match them.
It was announced the long-planned HCC veterans entrepreneurship center will open Nov. 10th in the Hillsborough County ECC collaborative center as “Operation Startup”, 2102 E. Palm Ave, Ybor City, Tampa. Known as OPSU, the center will provide veteran entrepreneurs with mentoring, networking opportunities, access to advisors, and sources of capital. After four years holding symposiums and two years as the Tampa outlet for the state-funded Florida Veterans Entrepreneurship Program, the center is a dream come true in Tampa. Together with HCC entrepreneurship and innovation academics and OPSU’s co-curricular programs (FL association of veteran-owned businesses, ecosystem Pow-Wows, and the Startup Toolbox series), the center will become a launch pad for veterans wishing to build a business of their own.
Kudos to Profs Andy Gold and Beth Kerly as well as Valerie Ellis Lavin of HCC for working so hard to bring their vision to fruition.
To apply for the 2017 Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program click on – https://www.veteransflorida.org/veterans/veterans-florida-entrepreneurship-program/.
Key Dates: December 16, 2016: Program Open House (at each Network Partner, HCC)
January 20, 2017: Program Orientation and Start of Instructional Period
May 6, 2017: Pitch Competition and End of Instructional Period. All instruction is free to the Florida resident veteran or active duty military person.