Boots to Business


As we celebrate our veterans this month we pause to recognize those who make our freedom possible, especially with the efforts to assist our veteran population. The Veterans Business Outreach Center at Gulf Coast State College has undertaken a unique delivery of Boots to Business, pre-venture two day business training to those separating military members and their spouses at Panhandle Military Bases.

In August 2011, President Obama announced his comprehensive plan to address the issue of transitioning veterans finding meaningful employment opportunities in the civilian workforce. Specifically, the President directed the DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs to work closely with other Agencies, and with the President’s economic and domestic policy teams, in leading a task force that would develop a new training and service delivery model to help strengthen the transition of our Service Members from the military to civilian life. This included steps to improve the existing TAP (Transition Assistance Program) for Service Members.  TAP was renamed Transition GPS; Goals, Plans, Success.

The Boots to Business course is one of the three optional training tracks and is offered by the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University. Other post military career tracks focus on employment and attending college.  Boots to Business is available to retiring and separating military members and their spouses who have designs on entrepreneurship.  Military members who complete the two-day seminar build their own feasibility study and take with them practical knowledge of what is next in starting a small veteran owned business in the Florida Panhandle or where ever they call home.

VBOC has been actively engaged in the delivery of the Boots to Business curriculum and has conducted 19 Boots to Business courses with 331 completers.  Jim Riley and Brent Peacock have been lead instructors with John Miller, Mike Ross, Bob Walz and Mike Calidonna in a supporting role for this two day event.  Although the program was developed by Syracuse University, the personal experiences of the instructors bring it to life.  Lively discussion of practical ‘this is how I did it when I left the service’ and ‘when I was an SBA Lender. . . .’ lend trust and honesty to the various modules with examples and stories to illustrate best practices on starting and running successful veteran owned ventures.  Both Mike Ross and Mike Calidonna are Air Force veterans who went on to be successful entrepreneurs and Bob Walz is a retired SBA lender and former SBDC Center Director. John Miller is a Certified Business Analyst with the VBOC along with Peacock and Riley.

Boots to Business graduates Christopher Laue and Daniella Lee have gone on to start successful businesses.  Christopher Laue attended Boots to Business at Tyndall Air Force Base before starting his Port St Joe based St Joe Velo Bicycle Shop.  Daniella Lee attended the Boots to Business at Eglin Air Force Base before starting Emerald Pointe Cosmetics LLC a Pensacola based cosmetic company.

Boots to Business completers are offered an eight-week online course provided by Syracuse University to take their skills to the next level. The VBOC has additional Boots to Business events scheduled through the remainder of the calendar year, and looks forward to assisting those separating veterans and spouses with their business endeavors.

America looks to its military veterans once again for economic recovery as business owners and leaders of industry, the VBOC at Gulf Coast State College is proud to serve those who have served.