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Supporting career dreams for veterans – Syracuse.edu

Supporting career dreams for veterans – Syracuse.edu

Exterior of the National Veterans Resource Center with flags waving on a sunny day.

The Blackstone LaunchPad from Syracuse supports veteran students with their business ventures, including a partnership with the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families and the Defense Monitoring Program on specialized training for veterans.

Have you ever had an idea for a business that you knew would be successful? Many people – including veteran students – have great business ideas. But not everyone has the opportunity to develop the entrepreneurial skills needed to bear fruit. Fortunately for them, Syracuse has the Blackstone LaunchPad in Syracuse University libraries to help entrepreneurs pursue their business ventures and creative endeavors.

LaunchPad serves students, faculty, staff, and recent graduates from every academic discipline who are interested in research and discovery, building innovative career paths, and learning the principles of project creation. Syracuse’s LaunchPad is part of the larger Blackstone LaunchPad Network, which in 2013 launched a nationwide effort to provide service members, veterans, and their families with resources and employment opportunities as part of the Veterans Initiative.

The Syracuse-based LaunchPad and its CEO, Linda Dickerson Hartsock, works with student veterans on their business ventures, including partnering with the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and the Defense Monitoring Program (DCP) on specialized training for veterans. Hartsock recently led training workshops for two programs hosted by the IVMF as part of the Veterans Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program and a bootcamp to give non-student veterans a taste of the college experience. She also hosted a DCP summer workshop on project creation and presentation skills on business model and product development.

“We’re really starting to develop our relationship with IVMF, which I’m proud of because it’s the number one program in the country for veterans, especially for veteran entrepreneurs,” Hartsock says.

There are approximately three million veteran-owned businesses in the United States today, and Hartsock says that based on her research with the US Small Business Administration, these companies are more likely to succeed than those without veterans. Hartsock believes this is due to soft skills often learned in the service. “When you think about the soft skills that go into entrepreneurship, flexibility, along with problem solving, team building, and conflict resolution are at the top of my list.”

Amanda Rylee ’19 and Brian Kam ’16 are just two veteran students among the many who received support from LaunchPad as they set out to pursue their business dreams.

Amanda Riley: Blood, Sweat, and Beer

US Army Captain Amanda Riley knew 19 a good beer. Her stepmother grew up in Fairhope, Alabama, worked for a company that created portable barrel containers, and Riley would travel with her around the country to visit customers at their breweries. From this, she developed her love for craft beer, and once she joined the army she noticed that when the service personnel went out for a beer after work, craft beer was not available. “While there are breweries owned by veterans, none of them are distributed or sold at military exchanges.”

A photo of Amanda Riley standing next to a tank is displayed indoors.

U.S. Army Captain Amanda Riley ’19 says she envisions creating a handmade beer line for each branch of the military.

Riley studied entrepreneurship and startups at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. Her academic interests and love of craft beer merged when she launched her business, Blood, Sweat and Beers, with the goal of creating a craft brew specifically for the military audience. She says she saw a great opportunity to capitalize on the increasing popularity of craft beer and interest in military-branded beers.

I started working on a business model for a semester and reached out to LaunchPad to improve it and raise seed money. While working on her business, Riley developed critical leadership skills that apply to her active military career. “I believe that my leadership skills, perseverance, passion and resilience that I gained through entrepreneurship have helped me succeed in my military career.”

Blood, Sweat, and Beer is currently on hold while Riley is on active duty with the Security Force’s 1st Aid Brigade, but is eager to get back to him once her contract expires. It envisions creating a production line for each of the military’s branches. Some of its beer names include Blue Falcon Lager, Puddle Pirate Pale Ale, and Zero Dark Thirty Double IPA.

I believe that my leadership skills, perseverance, passion and resilience gained through entrepreneurship helped me succeed in my military career.

– Amanda Riley 19

“Syracuse University has provided a veteran community like no other, as well as unlimited support from faculty, peers, and the community that I never imagined possible,” Riley says.

Brian Cam: Thriving

Brian Kam ’16 served from 2003 to 2007 as a corporal in the United States Marine Corps, another student entrepreneur and veteran who used the LaunchPad to work on something meaningful. Cam started his project, Thrive, in 2016 after returning from Nepal where he did relief work after a devastating earthquake. Thrive provides professional educational programs and frontline medical assistance to communities in need. Cam and his co-founders, Ryan Brinkerhoff 16 and Joshua Moon 16, turned to LaunchPad to start their venture.

Two men sitting next to a small solar panel.

Brian Cam 16 (left), a former corporal in the United States Marine Corps, started Project Thrive in 2016 after returning from Nepal where he was doing relief work after a devastating earthquake.

“Blackstone LaunchPad and Linda Hartsock helped us put all the pieces together,” Cam says. “We learned what to do, how to form a nonprofit, how to do business abroad, and how to become entrepreneurs.”

While studying international relations at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, and working on Thrive, Cam also sought help from the Office of Veterans Affairs and Military Affairs (OVMA). “OVMA gave me a lot of support when I was a student. They had spaces for me to decompress. I met a lot of veteran friends there who gave me support, and that was very important as a veteran of the Syracuse community.”

Cam now works as a nurse in Ogdensburg, New York, and works in child psychiatry. He says mental health is often neglected in children, and he was introduced to this business while in Nepal where he witnessed a gap in medical support.

He says it was the entrepreneurial spirit he developed at LaunchPad that gave him the motivation to pursue nursing school. “A lot of the things I learned in Nepal, and a lot of the things I learned at LaunchPad, motivated me to become a nurse — I found my calling where I can still help those who are less fortunate than me,” explains Cam.

OVMA gave me a lot of support when I was a student. They had spaces for me to decompress. I met a lot of veteran friends there who gave me support, and that was very important as a veteran of the Syracuse community.

– Brian Cam 16

Meaningful listening is one of the skills he learned at LaunchPad that he uses every day in his nursing. “My ability to listen purposefully and thoughtfully allows me to validate my patients and their experiences, de-stigma and misinformation about mental health, to help identify their stresses, emotions, and strengths, and to inspire healthy coping mechanisms and commitment to self-compassion and mental health well-being. Purposeful listening remains the most important skill Which allows me to inspire change through Thrive projects and in my current role as a pediatric mental health nurse.”

Cam is now a LaunchPad mentor, offering his advice to current students and veterans pursuing their dreams. “If a student has an idea, they should go after it. There are plenty of resources at LaunchPad that can help them make that dream a reality.”

This story was published in .


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