Louisiana Boot Camps spurs business startups for veterans

BATON ROUGE — The second class of military veterans in the Louisiana Veteran Entrepreneurship Program completed the program’s “boot camp” last week, with recruiting now underway for a third round of LVEP participants who’ll learn how to launch a business.

Begun last fall, the program enables service members leaving the military to gain intensive training online and through the boot camp, followed by long-term counseling from small business resource partners.

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Louisiana Economic Development launched the program through a partnership with the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, the Louisiana National Guard, the Louisiana Business & Technology Center and LSU Executive Education. LVEP seeks to have at least 30 percent of the participants launch a business and collectively raise at least $5 million in startup capital. A long-term goal for the program is to create 100 new jobs through new veteran-operated businesses.

“The Louisiana Veteran Entrepreneurship Program combines LED’s priority of growing Louisiana’s small businesses with our priority of supporting veterans who have given so much for our country,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “To assist veterans in becoming successful entrepreneurs is indeed a great privilege for our department and our state.”

Applications are being accepted now for the next program session, which will be held in North Louisiana or Central Louisiana. Veterans who would like to participate may learn more at OpportunityLouisiana.com/LVEP. Those from the Barksdale Air Force Base region of Shreveport/Bossier City and the Fort Polk region near Leesville are encouraged to apply for the upcoming session.

The latest boot camp was conducted at the Louisiana Business & Technology Center in LSU Innovation Park, with Veterans Affairs Secretary Joey Strickland and other officials welcoming the participants. The event culminated a three-week, online-learning process in which veterans gained training in capital fundraising, banking, Small Business Administration loans, accounting systems, tax matters and business management skills.

LVEP coursework — developed and delivered through the Louisiana Business & Technology Center and LSU Executive Education — outlines critical steps to start, operate, fund and launch a business, while giving veterans the tools needed to develop their business ideas. LED is providing initial funding for the program.

As LED and its partners implement the program, they will evaluate progress and identify solutions for sustaining the program in future years. Both the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs and the Louisiana National Guard have played integral roles in establishing the program.

The National Guard Transition Assistance Program is assisting in marketing the new initiative to veterans and military personnel statewide through the program’s advisers and employment coordinators. Once veterans complete the program, they will be provided resources in their communities for follow-up support and small business counseling. Louisiana’s Small Business Development Centers, business incubators and other small business partners will be available for coaching veterans after they complete the boot camp.