Helping veterans run their own business

By Dale Johnson Posted: August 24, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Peter Moroz (right) is one of the U of R professors providing guidance to 20 former military members learning how to run a business.
Peter Moroz (right) is one of the U of R professors providing guidance to 20 former military members learning how to run a business. Photo: U of R Photography

The University of Regina is helping members of the Canadian military make the transition to the world of business.

The U of R is the only place west of Quebec offering this concentrated seven-day business boot camp.

“This is not a ‘micro-MBA’; in one week, you’re going to get a glimpse of business, and that should cause some curiosity, and should cause you to ask some questions,” says Brian Schumacher, Associate Dean of the Paul J. Hill School of Business.

This is the fourth year the course – called the Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur (POE) – has been offered at the University of Regina. POE provides education, tools, resources and networking opportunities for transitioning members of the military interested in starting their own business. It’s a program of the Prince’s Charities Canada, and was started by HRH The Prince of Wales.

As the program has evolved at the U of R, Schumacher says there’s less emphasis on starting a business, and more on developing and building existing businesses.

“These are folks who are pretty committed to starting their business, or their business is underway already. And for some, we encourage them to perhaps pivot and approach their opportunity from a different perspective,” he explains.

One of the 20 veterans taking the course this year is Jay McArthur of Brighton, Ontario, who spent 14 years in the military as a cook. Now he runs his own home inspection company.

Jay McArthur
Jay McArthur spent 14 years in the military and now is learning how to grow his home inspection business. Photo: U of R Photography

“It’s really been an eye opener, leaving the military and going into entrepreneurship; they’re complete, polar opposites. I’ve had no previous training in business, so now I want to learn more, and start progressing and growing my business,” he says.

He’s already picked up a few tips during his time in Regina. “I’m learning how important the business planning phase is. It’s helping me stay on track and it’s going to help me grow and keep pushing forward to make my business bigger and stronger.”

The former military members are getting one-on-one support from 26 U of R students and recent grads who are members of Enactus, a volunteer group that works on community projects and business ventures.

Jenna deBoth of Enactus, an education student, is the volunteer project manager of the Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur in Regina. She says the student group looks after the organization of the week, such as scheduling, logistics and social events.

She says the volunteers help provide support for the former military members – many of whom have been out of the formal school system for a decade or two.

“There are mentoring sessions three times throughout the week. They’re paired with a veteran and they use their knowledge they’re gaining in school to help the veterans develop their business,” deBoth says.

Most are upper-year business students, but there are also some first-year students, alumni, and students from other faculties.

They help with such things as presentation skills – and social media.

“The younger generation really knows social media, so it’s a great opportunity to display what they know about social media, and help develop an on-line presence for the businesses. These students are excited to be able share their knowledge with someone else.”

And deBoth says the veterans are teaching the students a thing or two.

“Veterans have had lots of experiences that many students don’t have, such as military experience - and life experience. They’re able to share a different form of knowledge with the students – life-based knowledge. They become mentors for the students,” she says.

McArthur is glad to be at the University of Regina to find out more about running his business.

“I’m really glad that I found out about this program, and that it's available to help veterans who want to become entrepreneurs,” he says.

Since 2013, there have been 78 graduates from the program at the U of R. In all, 289 people have graduated since the program was launched nationally in 2011.