SCORE Chester and Delaware Counties Partners with
St. Joseph’s University Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program
Beginning in 2015 with the mission to provide a future where all individuals and families who serve in defense of our nation are empowered to thrive, St. Joseph’s University (SJU) Veterans Bootcamp recently completed its tenth entrepreneurship program. Inspired by a 2013 60 Minutes broadcast that featured Syracuse University’s course, Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV), a generous SJU graduate’s gift enabled SJU to launch a local program. US Air Force veteran and SJU alumnus, Ralph Galati spearheaded the development of the course. The SJU bootcamp has since joined the Syracuse consortium, part of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF).
The unique characteristics and needs of military-affiliated entrepreneurs are addressed within the program, helping with every phase of the life of a business, from ideation to start-up to growth. Participants are recruited through veterans’ networks, the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the IVMF oversees a national enrollment effort and manages applications for all consortium schools. This June, Saint Joseph’s completed its 10th cohort overall and grew the program to 195 veteran alumni. According to Hank Gillen, an Army veteran who serves as the Director of the Office of Veterans Services at Saint Joseph’s University, “Our data show that approximately 25% of our participants are operating a business when they come to the course, and roughly 33% start a new business within 12 months of program completion. Others defer for more training, continue working, etc. Some 15% report they have reconsidered launching a business, which we also consider a positive outcome.”
What is unique about the program is there is no cost to the veterans participating. The program is funded by individual donors and grants. It currently receives SBA funding for a portion of operations, and from the Josetta Fund foundation. Past foundation support has included Newman's Own Foundation and a regional economic development organization. Alumni and friends of the program contribute to the Office of Veterans Services at SJU, and to an endowment established to benefit student veterans on campus and the entrepreneurship program. The University provides facilities and services such as transportation and security. Faculty and speakers from the business community provide their expertise without charge. SCORE Chester and Delaware Counties and SCORE Philadelphia have actively participated in each of the 10 cohorts. Dan Krause, Navy veteran and former Chapter mentor, initially connected SCORE with the St. Joseph’s program. In recent years, John Hess and Maria Smith have coordinated engagement of our Chapter’s volunteers.
Mr. Gillen is grateful to the dozens of SCORE volunteers over the seven years. Prior to the COVID crisis in 2020, the cohort met in person at St. Joe's campus in Philadelphia where approximately 12-15 SCORE volunteers participated each time. That included the three years when the program ran twice per year. As a result of the pandemic, the two most recent cohorts were virtual with a much lower Veteran participation and up to five SCORE Chapter mentors taking part. Special thanks to our mentors who supported during the pandemic: John Hess, Jerry Francis, Brendan Murphy, Steve Crumrine, and Phil Macero. The SCORE volunteers meet several times during the week with the veterans, offering feedback on their venture concept and priorities. They offer specific help as the cohort participants prepare for the Venture Pitch Competition at the end of the week, guiding them to develop an impactful venture plan to present to a distinguished panel of judges, including select SCORE mentors. Several volunteers have also served as judges for the capstone Venture Pitch competition.
It was also noted that the SCORE mentoring is regularly cited in exit surveys as a highlight of the entire program. Enabling the veterans to experience the benefit of business mentors ensures they will seek out such relationships as they return home. Chapter mentors have also reported maintaining ties to those they have mentored from all previous programs. A 2021 SCORE Small Business Achievement award winner, Andy Resch, CEO of Resch Enterprises, was a graduate of the 2018 Bootcamp!
Moving forward, Mr. Gillen hopes to continue the SCORE association in future iterations of the program. As new programming to assist the region's veteran-owned small businesses is developed, he would like to further use the mentors' expertise and generous sharing of their time. “The mentors' support of their fellow business professionals is truly inspiring.”