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Continuing to serve

Business boot camp helps ex-military forge second careers

By Susan White

A business boot camp held recently at Memorial University helps retired members of the Canadian military continue to serve, says one participant.

Jason Coady, originally from Garnish, N.L., but now living in Paradise, N.L., was one of 20 participants in Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur held July 23-29 at the Gardiner Centre.

Jason Coady, left, and Ben Brake were participants in Prince's Operation Entrepreneur recently at the Gardiner Centre.
From left are Jason Coady and Ben Brake, participants in Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur.
Photo: Karen Roche

The program provides business education to veterans and transitioning members of the Canadian Forces so they can start new careers as entrepreneurs.

‘I would still be serving if I could’

“I would still be serving if I could,” said Mr. Coady, who was medically released from the navy in 2014 after being diagnosed with a spinal condition.

“I joined for the purpose of serving in the Forces, serving my country, and I would still be there if I could. Because I can’t, this is the only way that I know how to keep on helping out the people in the service.”

Mr. Coady served in the navy for 14 years, including a combined total of seven years on ships such as the HMCS Halifax, HMCS Charlottetown, HMCS Montréal and HMCS Ville-de-Québec.

“They give you the quick and dirty of what you need to know and then they support it afterwards with a slower pace.” — Jason Coady

He currently works as an electrical engineer in St. John’s but started his own business, MEE Consulting Inc., in the spring of 2017 to help former members of the military find employment.

Mr. Coady applied for the boot camp to develop his entrepreneurial skills and further grow his business.

“Knowledge is just coming at you very fast-paced,” he said during a break from the program. “They give you the quick and dirty of what you need to know and then they support it afterwards with a slower pace. Coming here I thought would be a great help on starting my business.”

Project of Enactus Memorial

Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur was initially developed by Enactus Memorial as a project called Based in Business.

An intensive seven-day boot camp, it teaches business skills, provides networking opportunities and offers one-on-one mentoring and business planning development with student volunteers from Enactus Memorial.

The volunteer instructors are primarily from Memorial’s Faculty of Business Administration and members of the community provide support by speaking about their experiences as business owners and offering sponsorship to help cover the program’s costs.

In 2011 Enactus Memorial partnered with the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, now called Futurpreneur, to develop Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur, a program of Prince’s Charities Canada. Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur is the only program of its kind in Canada and has helped 330 graduates start more than 200 businesses since 2012.

‘Tools at our fingertips’

Ben Brake, originally from Codroy Valley, N.L., but now living in Wasaga Beach, Ont., also took part in the boot camp this year.

“It’s exceeded everything that I’ve expected so far. I really enjoy it,” said Mr. Brake during the program in St. John’s. “Just the available tools, right at our fingertips and the amount of information that I didn’t know that I do know after four days of being here is pretty incredible.”

Mr. Brake completed tours in Afghanistan as a materials technician with the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment.

“Coming from 17 years in the military, I looked at a week-long course as nobody’s really going to be taking it seriously,” he said. “However, it’s the absolute complete opposite.”

“Coming here was a huge leap out of my comfort zone . . . The positivity just flows.” – Ben Brake

Mr. Brake is in the process of being medically released from the military. He plans to complete a course at Georgian College in the near future to become a renovations technician, following which he wants to start a renovation company.

He intends to use the skills and knowledge he’s gained from the boot camp to work on his business plan while in school.

“I was in a pretty dark place in my life. Medical release kind of forces your hand to start making decisions,” he said. “Coming here was a huge leap out of my comfort zone. I absolutely despise group settings, especially when I need to speak in them, but the atmosphere here compared to the military environment makes it way easier. The positivity just flows.”

Many graduates of Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur programs are listed in the Canadian Veteran Business Directory, an online searchable directory of veteran-owned businesses in Canada.

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