University of Regina boot camp helping veterans run their own business

University of Regina boot camp helping veterans run their own business

A business boot camp at the University of Regina is giving veterans and those transitioning out of the Canadian Armed Forces an opportunity to foster their entrepreneurial skills.

Now in its seventh year, the Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur (POE) program gives participants a crash course in business essentials including marketing, finance and accounting.

Its goal is to help military members launch their second careers as entrepreneurs. Professors and students in the U of R’s Paul J. Hill School of Business volunteer their time and share expertise and knowledge with the veterans.

“What we really give to them is the understanding that they come with a huge skill set that they learned in the military that is really easily applied to the business environment,” said University of Regina associate professor Lisa Watson.

For Trevor Stoddard, after 29 years in the military, he says the course gave him the confidence to open T.A.F.F’s, a Saskatoon-based, keto-inspired food truck in April.

“Instead of just comfort food people could have at home, I wanted them to have something different — but keto,” Stoddard said.

WATCH: (June 9, 2016) Military to classroom: Former military members learn business ropes

Stoddard added that his passion for cooking started when he was quite young, but is one that he didn’t pursue until he retired.

“I joined the military when I was 18, I joined as a logistics supply tech — I actually tried to join as a cook but was told there were no openings so I took supply tech,” Stoddard said.

“When I got out of the military I was like ‘OK, I’m going to do this,’ and I applied for culinary, but I didn’t know how to advance further as far as the business side of it.”

After taking the free week-long POE course in 2016, he developed the network and a support base needed to pursue his business.

“I actually built [the food truck] from scratch, it took me two years to build,” Stoddard said. “They gave me the tools and they gave me the confidence to keep going, but I give most of the credit to friends and family that have pushed me.”

With more than 100 graduates across the country, other veterans like Jillian McLellan are turning to the crash course for guidance, armed with business ideas.

“I have a not-for-profit called Watch My 6 Service Dogs,” McLellan said. “I actually train service dogs for the military members and civilians that have psychological and mobility needs.

“I really wanted to come and learn how to do better marketing and build the business to the next steps that it can be.”

The program is offered in partnership with Prince’s Trust Canada, Enactus Regina and the Paul J. Hill School of Business. It’s hosted by the University of Regina.