Mount Royal University (MRU) hosted its first five-day Business Boot Camp for Canadian military veterans this week.
The boot camp is intended to equip vets with the tools and skills they need to start and own businesses and give them an alternate option to earn income as they try to readjust and reintegrate into civilian work and life.
“We think this is a brilliant plan because there are so many veterans that have leadership skills and such a wide variety of abilities that can be put to use in the civilian world,” said Krista House, who was attending the course with her business partner, Natalie Forcier.
House and Forcier have started the Veteran Rose Corporation, a company that helps link veterans with the health care they need. In particular, it combines different types of medicine and takes an all-inclusive approach to medicine, instead of having veterans turn directly to prescription medications to cope specifically with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
House and Forcier met in Afghanistan in 2008 while both were serving as medics in the Canadian Armed Forces.
House said she loved her time in the military, but when she came home she was diagnosed with PTSD. Discharged from the Armed Forces because of it, she was looking for a way to integrate again.
“I spent a lot of years trying to figure out how to improve my life and how to live life again,” said House.
House then went through several veterans support programs, including Project Trauma Support out of Ontario. She said the programs were life-changing, and because of them, she feels she improved to the point where she could provide support for others again.
This is when House and Forcier decided to start their business and help other veterans with PTSD.
The pair have partnered with the Vet’s Brigade and are setting up a hybrid clinic in Edmonton that is meant as a one-stop-shop for veterans.
The biggest problem House and Forcier have faced has been the lack of business skills and know-how needed run the company they had started.
“Being from a military background and being medics, we both have the desire to help, and we both have the experience with the military, and understanding veteran’s needs, but we didn’t have the business acumen,” House said.
“When we got the course outline I was quite excited because it involved all the areas in which I had already jotted down as ‘I need to hone these skills,'” said House.
According to Judy McMillan-Evans, an instructor at Mount Royal in the entrepreneurship program, the purpose of the program is to provide those exact skills.
“Five intense days, 24 students, and from idea right through to a completed business model canvas which is a concept of a business,” said McMillan-Evans.
McMillan-Evans also explained students need to shift their mindset from the regimented hierarchy of command in the military, where roles and responsibilities are well defined, to an understanding that they are now at the top of that chain as owners and operators of their own business.
The program is crafted to help create that entrepreneurial mindset, in addition to the business skills vets will learn.
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MRU created the program in partnership with the Canadian Legacy Project, a volunteer-run not-for-profit that is fully funding the course.
President and founder of the Canadian Legacy Project, David Howard, said after months of research and consultations with veterans from across the country, it became clear this type of program was not only needed but wanted as well.
“Employment is a big issue,” Howard said. “Now there [are] programs that help build resumes and help get jobs with traditional companies… but what we didn’t see and what we see a big need for is for vets to start their own businesses.”
He said self-employment is attractive to many vets for a number of reasons.
“There’s a large group that are suffering from post-traumatic stress that may be better served by having their own business,” Howard explained. “We have a large group that are entrepreneurs. They are business-minded individuals so starting their own business is something they wanted to do, they just needed the tools.”
MRU and the Canadian Legacy Project plan on continuing the program indefinitely and will be rolling it out in several different cities across Canada, hosting a new boot camp every couple of months.
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