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Intersection: Veteran Entrepreneurs

John Burns (l) and Ricardo Garcia. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

One third of all startups fail by their second year and with the challenges veterans face on their return to civilian life, veteran entrepreneurs could use some support.  UCF’s Business Incubation Program is partnering with Veterans Florida for the third year in a row, to provide training and mentorship to help veterans get their businesses up and running.

Ricardo Garcia with UCF's Business Incubation Program says their second year was different because they "wanted to focus on helping veterans that were a little bit further ahead."

"We scaled back from the 27 veterans we graduated the first year to 15 veterans that we graduated this last course. All of them are within six months of launching or have launched their business," Garcia says.

"Some of the skills that they bring to the table are key to their success, things that the military instill within us," Garcia says.

John Burns created Eagle 6, a company that provides technology services to the defense sector, and graduated from this program. "85 percent" of his employees are veterans because of the clearance they have dealing with cyber security.

"Eagle 6 was my call sign as an aviation commander so I relate to that. The vision, the mission and the core capabilities come out of that," Burns says.

The grant from Veterans Florida is $75,000 this year, down from $85,000 for each of the first two years. Garcia says that won't stop any advances in the program. They plan on graduating two cohorts this year instead of one and will continue to provide veteran entrepreneurs opportunities through monthly and bi-monthly meetings.

"One thing we've seen and we're very grateful for is that veteran entrepreneurs that have been successful, that have gone through the UCF business incubator, they're coming back now and giving back and getting involved some way," Garcia says.

Burns is one veteran entrepreneur that has returned to give back.

"The amount of resources that they provide to me as a business owner allows me to then use those resources saved through that to launch into other endeavors," Burns says.

"When I come and share my lessons learned with new veterans getting started, I say really get into the financials. If you don't understand the financials, then get with somebody that can help you because that is the key to being successful," Burns says.

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