ERLANGER, Ky. — From boots to business, military active duty and veterans are finding new opportunities through a different kind of boot camp. The Patriot Boot Camp is designed to bring potential entrepreneurs with a military background together with industry experts.
“Over the course of those three days, you meet one on one with CEOs, attorneys, marketing specialists, you meet with four different subject matter experts to talk to you one on one about your idea, or your company,” said Jen Pilcher, CEO of Patriot Boot Camp.
Started in 2012, the nonprofit focused on giving service members and their spouses the skills to create their own business is now growing itself. The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) veteran advocacy group is acquiring Patriot Boot Camp to elevate its reach.
“It’s gotten to the point where we reached out to DAV, a longtime partner and a sponsor of ours to say, you know, are you interested in joining forces,” Pilcher said. “So, this is the first time that an acquisition of this kind took place between two charities to impact and empower our veteran and military spouse founders.”
Pilcher said the new partnership also builds on another issue when it comes to finding veterans employment.
“Research and data prove that veterans hire veterans at higher rates," Pilcher said. "We know for sure military spouses hire military spouses at higher rates, my whole team was military spouses throughout the world. So, this allows us to come together, both legislatively and with entrepreneurship and employment all together."
Since its inception, there have been over 1,000 people go through the boot camp, according to data provided to WCPO. The challenge has been that there is more interest than space with more than 500 applicants vying for a spot in a 50-person class. The partnership hopes to change that via a mixture of in-person and virtual boot camps growing the reach globally.
“It shed a lot of light on our business that just needed to be taken to the next level,” said Nicholas Culbertson, co-founder of Protenus.
Culbertson is also a former member of the special forces, and tapped into components of his career in the service to apply toward his company that now employees more than 100 people.
“I actually love being an entrepreneur because it combines the outside-of-the-box creative thinking that you get in special operations that I was used to, but also the rigor of return on investment and, and data driven results that you have in academia,” he said. “If it weren't for good mentors that I had in school that kind of encouraged me to go down a path of entrepreneurship, I don't think I would have had my eyes open to the fascinating world that it is.
Carolyn Nice has spent 16 years in uniform and, like so many in the military, has seen her share of moves, otherwise known as Permanent Change of Station (PCS). It got her and her husband thinking about what they and so many others have to deal with which got her entrepreneurial motor running.
“We were thinking about how archaic the moving industry is — I mean, with stickers and markers," Nice said. "So, we give the ability to use QR codes, and actually label your things, whether they're going to storage, or they're going to someplace in your house."
The result was an app called Nice Move, which has a goal of making the moving process less stressful. It was something she said was also made possible because of her exposure to the networking within the Patriot Boot Camp.
“We met with founders, co founders, and fellow CEOs of more multimillion dollar companies, and to have the ability as someone who's really not so confident starting out, to have the time to be able to sit with someone and get sincere answers to your questions was phenomenal,” Nice said.
The DAV is headquartered in Erlanger, Kentucky and its roots run deep with its entire mission meant to advocate for veterans.
“We have supported Patriot Boot Camp and know its impact and the potential it has shown to dramatically improve lives. It empowers innovators in our community to succeed in business,” said Barry Jesinoski, DAV National Headquarters Executive Director. “And, of course, once those who served and the spouses in our community reach their goals, they hire more veterans and create more opportunities for them to excel. It’s a win-win from our perspective.