Entrepreneur

Calling all Canadian military community entrepreneurs: Operation Entrepreneur offering on-line workshops

Founded in 2012 and a program of Prince’s Trust Canada, Operation Entrepreneur has become the hub of entrepreneurship and self-employment for the Canadian Military and veteran communities.

By engaging military, civilian, academic, and industry collaborators, along with hundreds of volunteers, the Operation Entrepreneur program offers training, tools, and resources that are needed to build confidence, develop networks and start successful businesses.

While the organization typically held workshops across the country, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has continued its programming on-line to help veteran entrepreneurs.

The idea of starting a new business can be daunting. Jacqueline Gilchrist, Program Assistant, Operation Entrepreneur, says that starting a new business is a great career option for many people in the military community, but having the knowledge and the resources to make that initial jump into self-employment can be challenging.

Gilchrist advised, “It is no longer possible to walk into a coffee shop and meet someone for a chat, or to go to a networking event with 20+ new people in the room. One of the key elements of our programs is that they give military entrepreneurs a chance to meet others who are in a similar situation as them, and our online workshops are no exception.”

Gilchrist expressed, “Many times, people ask themselves, ‘Can I do it? Is entrepreneurship right for me? For my family? How do I move forward?’ And our workshops seek to answer those questions.”

The online workshops’ goal is to provide tools and resources that help entrepreneurs in the military community take the next step and aim to give participants an open and honest look at what the process of starting a business looks like.

“Our hope is that by the end of an online workshop, people will have a better idea of what it takes to start a business, and if it is something that is right for them. If so, then they will also come out of the workshops knowing how to take the next step,” Gilchrist explained.

Military personnel and veterans networking at the Regina Boot camp 2017.

The Introduction to Entrepreneurship workshops started over five years ago at Prince’s Trust Canada as an in-person, one-day workshop. Gilchrist stated, long before someone has an idea for a business, they begin considering their options.

Gilchrist notes there are so many second career options when people transition out of the military, with veterans having the possibilities to retire or pursue more education or join the workforce and work for someone else.

“The question about entrepreneurship is not how to start a business, but do I even want to start a business? Is this a viable option? Operation Entrepreneur recognized the need to ‘test the waters’ of entrepreneurship, and thus created the Introduction to Entrepreneurship workshops,” Gilchrist informed.

The intent of these workshops is to reach people at an early stage to help them understand what owning a business would look like and show them the best ways to test their ideas and explore their options before diving in.

The organization hopes that anyone who wants to participate is able to do so. Gilchrist says they’re aware that many people within the military community have questions about entrepreneurship that they want answers to. The organization wanted to make these workshops as accessible and available as possible.

“Our society has benefitted from the service of those in the military community, and now it is our turn to help them in return,” she added.

Often the biggest challenge brought forward by people when starting a business is understanding all parts of a business (including those that may not be as exciting or interesting to you). To address this, they have created workshops that cover various subject areas that give a high-level idea of the different areas and elements of starting and running your own business.

“For those who are still evaluating whether entrepreneurship is right for them, these workshops will give them a chance to fully understand what is involved and determine how best to move forward. For people who are at the beginning stages of their business, the workshops help determine the next steps, validate the processes that they are following, and supplement their knowledge with resources and new perspectives,” Gilchrist commented.

She continued, “During the workshops, participants can expect a 3-hour session with one of our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, going over one of the fundamental elements of starting a small business.”

The workshops are broken down into six subjects:

      • The Entrepreneurial Mindset
      • Testing Your Business Idea
      • Business Planning
      • Marketing Strategies
      • Money and Finance
      • Sales & the Customer

The sessions share how best to plan for each of these areas of their business.

The workshops also give some next steps and resources relevant and important to each of the areas of business and will help participants explore their options to build and test their business plan.

Additionally, participants can expect to meet other military entrepreneurs and allow them to grow their network and make helpful and lasting connections within a supportive community.

The pandemic has decreased the ability to access many of the regular in-person resources that provide services for starting a business. Not only that, but the pandemic has also reduced the opportunity to network and to build connections.

Gilchrist advised, “It is no longer possible to walk into a coffee shop and meet someone for a chat, or to go to a networking event with 20+ new people in the room. One of the key elements of our programs is that they give military entrepreneurs a chance to meet others who are in a similar situation as them, and our online workshops are no exception.”

“We are hoping that by providing these workshops, military entrepreneurs, or those considering entrepreneurship, will be reminded that there is a community and a support system available to them and ready to provide resources, help build their network, and help them to plan and grow their business,” she concluded.

The program tries its best to provide attendees with a space to interact and introduce themselves to discuss common challenges, share success stories, and ask questions in a safe space.

Gilchrist stated that Operation Entrepreneur is committed to helping transitioning military personnel, veterans, and their partners and spouses learn about starting their own businesses, especially in the current global climate.

In relation to this, the workshops are being held via Zoom video conference. To register for any of the sessions, visit their website.

Gilchrist says their hope is for these workshops are to provide a space for the military community to explore entrepreneurship as a realistic option.

“We are hoping that by providing these workshops, military entrepreneurs, or those considering entrepreneurship, will be reminded that there is a community and a support system available to them and ready to provide resources, help build their network, and help them to plan and grow their business,” she concluded.

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Julia Lennips

Julia is a journalist who is an avid reader and an artist. She is living in North Bay, ON pursing her passion for reporting.

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