Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Empowering veterans in business: FAU’s VFEP nurtures entrepreneurial spirit in veterans

FAU’s Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program offers comprehensive business skills, while also fostering a unique community for veterans to transition into entrepreneurship and civilian life.
Veterans displayed their pitches at the summit together after the event, and the winner, Donald Lockwood was announced.
Jason Steinfeld
Veterans displayed their pitches at the summit together after the event, and the winner, Donald Lockwood was announced.

The Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program (VFEP) provides essential entrepreneurship skills for retired veterans to pursue independent businesses. It is held Tuesday and Thursday at the Office Depot Center in the College Of Business. The course is directed by Senior Instructor and Director Kevin Cox and primarily run by retired veteran and FAU entrepreneurship instructor Patch Paczkowski.

“We’ve been hosting this at the Adams Center for about nine years now, and it’s been very successful. It consists of an education program both at an early stage, and that’s for business. Right now, Patch has been instructing the program, and he has been great.” Cox explained.

Professor Packoswski is in his fifth year as the instructor and the course is in its first year for both Fall and spring.

FAU VFEP has been providing entrepreneurship education and resources to veterans in its current form for the five years I have been there. This is the first year it has been offered in both the fall and spring semesters,” Paczkowski stated.

Paczkowski is primarily responsible for the majority of teaching. Kevin Cox is also the coordinator of the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program, a statewide organization that provides funding and support by offering free entrepreneurship classes at no cost. 

Paczkowski understands that the skills  many veterans acquire in the course can assist them in creating independent companies, while simultaneously helping them converge back into civilian life.

“Veterans have developed tremendous skills of mission accomplishment, teamwork, communication, and technical capabilities throughout their time in the military but often have difficulty translating their expertise into the civilian sector. They tend to be excellent collaborators with high motivation but need support directing their energy. While not always the case, they may have experiences from the military that make it more difficult for them to connect with those who haven’t served. This is one of the benefits of the FAU VFEP: they can work with others with similar backgrounds and speak their language,” Paczkowski said.

Steve Edwards, a retired Army veteran and 2002 sociology graduate, is now Premier Virtual’s founder and CEO; he attended the event and  claimed it to be very successful.

“Veterans like working with other Veterans that have gone through what they went through. An 18 year old freshman right out of high school will not understand what it is like to be in a war zone. The camaraderie built in the service is unlike anything else and having a fellow soldier going through the same mentoring program can build deeper bonds,” Edwards explained.

Edwards is strong in his belief that retired  veterans working together on business is far more effective when it’s with other veterans and not just regular students.

“The camaraderie built in the Military is unlike anything else. I was in a Fraternity as well and still didn’t build the bonds I built in the Army. It is hard for a non-veteran to understand what that means. Programs like this one help a lot and Dr. Cox and his team are doing a great job facilitating it. They have grown the program tremendously over the last few years.” Edwards said.

Many event attendants and classes, such as Gonzalo Montoya, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and is currently working on his own insurance business, heavily agreed with Paczkowski’s skills in reaching out to veterans with their potential and struggles.

“My biggest struggle was transferring my skills back into regular American life. With this class, you can face the challenge of returning to American life,” Montoya explained.

Unlike most days of casual entrepreneurship lectures, last Thursday’s class  took a unique turn because it was the night before South Florida Tech Hub’s 2nd annual Ignite Florida Startup Summit. Where veterans (many of whom attend this course) pitch their business ideas to judges at the event. Therefore, this class focused on veterans attending the event to rehearse their pitch.

Retired Marine  John Wilkinson pitched his business idea known as Smart Tech Farms, an environmental-friendly indoor vertical farm . Explaining how being a vertical structure can equate acres of farmland into just one. On top of that, being indoors means avoiding pests; therefore, you do not need to use pesticides.

Gonzalo Montoya also had a business idea to pitch at the event he rehearsed. It was a pitch for his project titled Mohnerr Insurance Group, which aims to be a smaller, simpler insurance company than most others, making  it easier and more appealing to possible consumers.

“I know insurance is a pain, but that’s what I’m here for to provide a solution. I have ten years of experience in corporate finance and as a consumer, I understand the pain of buying insurance. What I am proposing is to fix the complexity and lack of knowledge consumers face when purchasing insurance,” Montoya explained.

These veterans arrived at the 2nd annual Florida Startup Summit event to pitch their ideas and to potentially earn a $5,000 check from the organizer of the event, South Florida Tech Hub led by CEO Nikki Cabus. 

“A lot of veterans have a problem reintegrating back into the community and finding opportunities. So we like to do something special just for the veterans to let them know that we are here for them and doing so in partnership with the Veterans Adams Center and with Veterans Florida,” Cabus said.

Jason Steinfeld is a staff writer for University Press. For more information about this article or others, you can reach him via Instagram @jasonsteinfeld221 or email him at [email protected].


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