West Virginia University was recently recognized as one of 84 colleges and universities on U.S. Veteran Magazine’s list of 2016 “Best of the Best” Veteran-Friendly Schools. And it’s no secret that the WVU College of Business and Economics has made a commitment to support veterans through several different initiatives, including the Veteran's Entrepreneurship Essentials course that was held over the summer.
Under the BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which is housed in B&E, the online course with two required residencies, which had nine students, was designed specifically for veterans interested in entrepreneurship.
“We think the inaugural year of the Veteran’s Entrepreneurship Essentials was a success. We were pleased to have the attendance and the quality and level of professionalism among the students in the course,” said Steven Outright, director of the BrickStreet Center. “We are committed to providing resources to our veterans. These students now have the knowledge of what it takes to build a business, and we hope to make this an annual course. We will begin gearing up for next year, seeking funding and economic support to make this a reality for our veterans.”
At the final residency, which was held August 5-6 at B&E, students presented their final business plans and were awarded a certificate of completion. Business plans ranged from veteran community development plans and nonprofit organizations, like Operation Welcome Home, to others like distribution brewery High Earth Brewing Company and Makers HOP, a place to provide the “maker” community with various resources and workshop spaces, storage areas and retail spaces under one roof.
Major General James A. Hoyer, Adjutant General of West Virginia, attended the event to bestow words of inspiration and a challenge upon these veterans, relating to the recent floods that devastated southern West Virginia.
“We face a significant challenge with this recovery and with the whole economic transition we are in as a state, but, if we do it right, we can come out of this better, stronger and faster. But you guys in my mind are part of the key to this because you are veterans. You have the work ethic, the determination, the character – all those things that we need to push things in the right direction,” General Hoyer said.
One student, Marine veteran Jamie Summerlin, CEO of Operation Welcome Home and race director of the Morgantown Marathon, spoke to and on behalf of his classmates, saying that he was not only proud of his fellow veterans for serving their country honorably but also for coming back to West Virginia to really make a difference.
“I am really excited about what you’re talking about doing with the different shops. I think General Hoyer’s point was very well stated in that there are opportunities for us around the state to give back. With High Brew and one of the things we are talking about doing with the races I put on, we are actually going to do a craft brew race series around the state to get the different craft breweries to work on tourism,” he said.
Summerlin also left his classmates with a challenge.
“I want to encourage my classmates to keep doing what you’re doing. I learned a lot from every one of you. I really did,” he said to his classmates at the residency. “Obviously with your plans and things that you already had going, it’s been phenomenal to look at how far along you already are, and I think it’s going to be a tremendous success with the connections we made through this class.”