Making the switch from the military to owning a business

By Dale Johnson Posted: August 23, 2017 9:45 a.m.

U of R business professors, including Peter Moroz, are helping people from the military learn how to run their own business.
U of R business professors, including Peter Moroz, are helping people from the military learn how to run their own business. Photo: U of R Photography

The Paul J. Hill School of Business is again running a seven-day boot camp to help veterans make the transition to running their own business.

The 20 members of the Canadian Armed Forces are from across Canada. Prince's Operation Entrepreneur (POE), is a program of Prince’s Charities Canada. It combines three of HRH The Prince of Wales’ lifelong interests of encouraging entrepreneurship, support for the Canadian Armed Forces and youth.

The U of R is the only university west of Quebec offering this concentrated business camp.

One of the students is Jacqueline Buckley, who grew up in the Maritimes and now lives in Carstairs, Alberta. After 20 years in the military, she was medically released in 2010 due to severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Since then she’s worked in a domestic violence shelter. She’s also started her own firm that sells skin care and make up products, because she sees it as a way to help women restore confidence and self-esteem.

“I wanted to focus on providing a well-rounded genre of services that can assist trauma survivors, military veterans and others in re-discovering their own beauty to be able to transition into their new life,” Buckley explains.

Her business has been running for a few years, but she’s here at boot camp to learn more about running a business especially the areas of financing, marketing and developing a business plan.

Thomas Mebs grew up on a ranch near Percival, between Broadview and Whitewood, and now lives in Brandon, Manitoba. He’s been in the military for 13 years, and is enrolled in Assiniboine Community College starting next month, where he will work on a two-year business administration certificate – and then he will be taking over the family ranch from his parents. This week, he’s getting a head start on his studies, with this boot camp of how to run a business.

Mebs is seeking some fresh ideas on how to keep the family business strong.

“They’ve built up a great operation and I’ve learned a lot from them. But they’ve done things one way for a long time. As things are changing and evolving, I don’t think I can just take over the ranch and continue in the same direction. I want to see where I can go,” says Mebs.

To help Buckley, Mebs and the other students, business professors are sharing their knowledge in such areas as accounting, business planning, marketing and workforce management.

Prince

 Jay McArthur, who attended last year’s boot camp at the U of R, runs a home inspection company in Brighton, Ontario. Earlier this year he met Prince Charles during the Royal Tour. Steve Day, who was at the Regina boot camp in 2013, also met the Prince.  Photo courtesy of Tom Sandler

“It is exciting and rewarding to serve people who have served us by sharing what we are passionate about with them in a way that is useful to them. This is an event that faculty members who teach in the program schedule their holidays around. It is entirely volunteer above and beyond our teaching responsibilities,” explains Dr. Lisa Watson, Associate Professor of Marketing, in the Faculty of Business Administration, and one of the faculty advisors, along with Lee Elliot.

As well, about a dozen students who belong to Enactus are also involved in the program.

One of them is Iyanu Adetogun, who is going into final year of business. She’s one of the four project managers, and co-ordinates volunteers to make sure the week is successful.

“This adds to our business experience, so it’s really worthwhile,” she says.

Ramisha Attiq, who is going into third year of business, is learning about event planning; she co-ordinated transportation from the airport, and is also setting up the lunches.

“I came from Pakistan to Canada two years ago, so I want to give something back to society. That’s why I got involved in Enactus,” Attiq says.

In the evenings, the student volunteers work one-on-one to mentor the veterans in such areas as using the internet, business planning and polishing up their presentation skills.

And Attiq says the learning goes both ways. “You learn a lot from talking to them and spending time with them.”

“As faculty advisors, Lee and I are extremely proud of the hard work of the Enactus Regina project management team have put in to make the week a success and grateful for all of our local sponsors, including our Lead Sponsor, Conexus Credit Union,” says Watson.

Besides Conexus and other corporate sponsors, the Enactus team has also set up a GoFundMe site for fundraising for the week.

Since 2012, over 200 businesses have been started by the 330 graduates of the POE boot camps, including 78 graduates from the program at the U of R.

“We are always delighted to play a part in these people’s lives at such a pivotal time. Our faculty continues to be proud to offer this program each year, and to have the opportunity to help this year’s 20 military members develop the skills and confidence they need to succeed in business,” Watson says.

And for students like Jacqueline Buckley, it’s a chance to change their future. As she puts it: “I’m extremely grateful to be here – this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

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Helping veterans run their own business