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Veteran Entrepreneurs accepted for program at UND

Haley Olson,                                                                  

The Veterans Entrepreneurship Program (VEP) aims to instruct and mentor those accepted into the program to start their own business. The first phase is an online seminar which started on Aug. 22, 2016. The first phase is conducted through blackboard and focuses on the concept of online discussion and assessment.

The second phase of the VEP is Oct. 22, 2016 until Oct. 29, 2016. It is a week-long practice at the Center for Innovation. This part of the program will focus on the mentality aspect of starting up a business and also known to the students and mentors as the “boot camp” stage in the program.

The third phase of the VEP is an intense six to eight week coaching session followed by eight months mentoring. Mentors who have created successful businesses will guide the students in their own ideas on start-up businesses and learning hands-on how to be successful. 

UND is the first Midwestern state to start this program; following in partnerships with University of Florida, Oklahoma State University and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. With hopes of a high demand of applications, Tyler Okerlund, VEP director, would like to expand the program in the future.

“The military was a key element in my life,” Tyler Okerlund said. “I want to give back to those that have been disabled. I want to help the people who have impacted my life.”

The program is welcome for all ages. This year, the program includes ages from 23 all the way up to 55, with the average being around the age of 35. Of the 25 disabled vets admitted, 10 of them are from different states. Of the 25 accepted, Okerlund stated that they had 30 over-all applicants.

“The vets understand the meaning of commitment,” Okerlund said. “They understand the meaning and seriousness of learning.”

After applying for the program, vets sent in their Veteran’s Affair form, which provides information on the percentage of how disabled they could be considered to be. This portion is to help validate that the veteran has some form of disability.

With high hopes of the future, Okerlund hopes to have an annual fall program that will attract those interested in the program.

“We want the community to help fellow vets.” Okerlund stated. “This program can help give back greatness to vets.”

With no funding from UND, the VEP program looked at outside funding. Since it is outside of UND, the program received benefactor grants from Edison Margaret Larson, the Dakota Fund and the Grand Forks Visitor Bureau.

Relying heavily on funds, the program is free to the vets and also takes care of traveling expenses, hotel expenses and food expenses during phase two of the program.

To apply for the program, you can request for an application from the UND Center for Innovation Foundation, call them at 701-777-3132 or email them at: NDVEP@innovators.net

Haley Olson is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at haley.l.olson@und.edu

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