When I was little, I wanted to own an inn like the one in the movie Holiday Inn. It would be a magical place where you only had to work holidays and an overnight stay came with a gourmet meal and a floorshow featuring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.
Then I grew up.
I never quite learned to sing or dance like Bing or Fred. Life changed my career path. Kids changed my life path. But the truth is, the desire to work for myself, to create a business from the ground up, never left me. I had the spirit of an entrepreneur.
So I started a small gourmet food company called the Sensible Gourmet in 2004. Within four years I had grown-- and failed.
It took many years to recover from the financial and emotional impact that comes with starting and closing a business. By the end of last year I was finally ready to try again. Ideas began to brew. As much as I wanted to insist that I was a fearless entrepreneur, I was scared.
I was scared that I would again find myself deep in debt and dealing with devastating heart-break that comes with failure. And then, like the windshield wipers on my minivan of self-doubt, a link to the application for the Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families appeared in my inbox, and I knew I had to go.
I filled out the application, gathered my letters of recommendation, and waited anxiously for the phone interview that would determine whether or not I would get my chance.
There are few days in my recent life that compare with getting that acceptance letter. I cried. I knew that EBV-F was the answer I had been waiting for. It was the extra push I needed to jump head first back into the pool of small business ownership.
First, there was the online course. Thirty days of grueling self-study. And by grueling, I don’t mean in the elevator’s-broken-and-I-had-to-take-five-flights-of-stairs kind of way. It was much tougher than that. I received my course materials and books on Saturday with an assignment to read 450 pages by Monday! I settled in and read.
And then I cried some more. Not because I didn’t understand what I was reading, but because the ideas presented on all of those pages made so much sense!
After four years of reflection and regret about all of the mistakes that had cost me my business, here in the pages of these course-provided textbooks, were the answers and ideas that I needed to start again.
Before I knew it, it was time to head to Syracuse University for our in-person training. Even the online course had not prepared me for what was about to ensue. For six days we sat in a state-of-the-art classroom and absorbed all the ideas, principles and resources that would ensure our success.
Professors, instructors, guest speakers and previous EBV-F graduates shared their knowledge and experience. They answered our questions and challenged us to think about business in new ways. My brain hit maximum overload in about three day. Like the rest of the amazing 21 students in the class, I persevered.
Each night after class we worked to prepare a venture pitch to be presented on our final day. We conducted research, brainstormed, and tried to put concrete numbers and plans to the opportunities we wanted to pursue.
By the time I made it back home, I wasn’t the same. The fires of entrepreneurial desire had been rekindled in my heart and I was ready to do it. Only this time, I knew I would succeed.
If you want to find out more about the EBV-F program that is free for military families, click here.
Veronica Jorden is the Marketing Director for the Military Spouse Business Association and the Red, White, and Blue Pages. Her approach to business and marketing stems from the “typical” and varied military spouse career path and the hard knock lessons learned from her own small business experience. She is a former soldier, proud Army wife and mother of three.