Providing those who served with an opportunity to thrive

February 18, 2015

From a construction company in Detroit, to a cleaning service in Tampa, to an engineering firm catering to government agencies in Jacksonville, veteran-owned enterprises are flourishing with the help of an innovative entrepreneurship program at the University of Florida.

The Veterans Entrepreneurship Program, sponsored by the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the Warrington College of Business Administration, is designed for disabled veterans who are interested in starting a business or who have an existing business. The VEP, which launched last year, hosted 32 decorated military veterans, and provided them hands-on training and mentoring for their established businesses or concepts. Last year’s participants hailed from 15 states, and all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.

“Veterans start ventures and succeed at entrepreneurship at higher rates than society as a whole,” said professor Michael Morris, VEP founder. “Our approach with VEP is rooted in a commitment to help men and women who have given so much to our country create their own futures, and a future for other veterans.  As a result, the program is intense, rigorous and very hands-on.”

The program consists of three phases that provide practical training in venture creation and growth, and is accompanied by a support structure for participants as they pursue their ventures.

The program’s three phases are:

Phase I - Concept Development and Self Study (March 30 to May 1): Through online discussions moderated by the College’s entrepreneurship faculty, participants work on developing business concepts. Delegates with existing businesses work on understanding and shaping relevant issues.

Phase II – Boot Camp (May 9-16): Delegates arrive in Gainesville for an intense eight-day workshop on the UF campus with faculty, guest entrepreneurs and business experts. This hands-on learning experience exposes participants to the “nuts and bolts” of business ownership.

Phase III - Mentoring and Venture Development (June 1 to November 15): Delegates receive mentorship for eight months from entrepreneurs and business experts. Participants can rely on these successful business professionals to help provide solutions to existing problems.

To qualify for the program, veterans must meet three requirements:

  1. Separated from active duty service (or currently in the administrative process of separating) with an honorable discharge.

  2. Identified as disabled by the Veteran’s Administration or Department of Defense based on a “service connected” disability or “service distinguished” based on exemplary military conduct.

  3. Demonstrates an intense interest in entrepreneurship and small business ownership/management.

 Instruction, materials, travel expenses, lodging and meals for the Phase II Boot Camp will be provided at no cost to each delegate. The costs of the VEP are underwritten by sponsors and private donors, with operations and program development provided by CEI.

The VEP is currently accepting applications for its 2015 class, and the deadline is March 2. For more information, contact Dr. Michael Morris, VEP Program Director, at or (352) 273-0329 or visit