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UND hosts business 'boot camp' for disabled veterans

It wasn't long after Brandi Jude started her nonprofit when she needed more guidance. Jude, a Bismarck native and Army veteran, had started an organization called Invisible Innocence, which provides a shelter for those affected by sex trafficking...

Dennis Elbert, dean of the UND College of Business and Public Administration, discusses a team decision simulation Thursday with veterans (from left) Tom Stone, James Griffith and Frank Greene at an entrepreneurial workshop for disabled veterans at the UND Center for Innovation. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Dennis Elbert, dean of the UND College of Business and Public Administration, discusses a team decision simulation Thursday with veterans (from left) Tom Stone, James Griffith and Frank Greene at an entrepreneurial workshop for disabled veterans at the UND Center for Innovation. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

It wasn't long after Brandi Jude started her nonprofit when she needed more guidance.

Jude, a Bismarck native and Army veteran, had started an organization called Invisible Innocence, which provides a shelter for those affected by sex trafficking.

"I was at a point where I needed a little more guidance to articulate how I want to pitch it to the community and investors to really support what I'm doing," Jude said.

She needed more advice, so she enrolled in the Veterans Entrepreneurship Program.

Jude is one of 24 disabled veterans in Grand Forks this week to take part in the program, which helps veterans learn the ins and outs of starting and growing their own business.

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In an intensive, seven-day "boot camp," veterans took a multitude of college courses on everything from human resources to entrepreneurship law to accounting and everything in between.

"We are basically giving them all the tools that we can to help exercise their mind and how they're going to think out in the business world," said Tyler Okerlund, program director.

The VEP is a national program offered at just three other campuses around the nation - Oklahoma State University, the University of Florida and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. This year, UND joined the fold, after Okerlund, a disabled veteran himself, was challenged by Bruce Gjovig, the director of UND's Center for Innovation, to find a program that involved veterans.

The program is free to selected veterans, with all expenses paid by private donations and grants.

The 24 veterans in Grand Forks this week came from 10 different states. To participate, veterans had to have been separated or in the process of separating from active duty, honorably discharged from the military and have an "intense" motivation to succeed, the latter of which Okerlund said is the most important quality.

"With this program, it gives them the opportunity to give back to other veterans," Okerlund said. "They're going to know what to do and how to do it by going to this weeklong program."

The program is offered through the UND School of Entrepreneurship and the UND Center for Innovation,

The "boot camp" is the second of the three-phase program. Phase one was a five-week online self-study seminar, and phase three is up to eight months of comprehensive mentoring from successful entrepreneurs in the area starting in November.

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The "boot camp," which concludes today, has already left a lasting impression on its students. Jude said the class has helped her more than she could have imagined.

"It was an opportunity given to me," Jude said. "Why would I not take it? I didn't come up here with much of an expectation because I didn't want to limit what I was going to learn. But it's been incredible and very inspiring."

Brandi Jude (left), a veteran from Bismarck, discusses a team decision simulation with Timothy Jones (center), Pensacola, Fla., and Keith Homstad, East Grand Forks, on Thursday at a entrepreneurial workshop for disabled veterans. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Brandi Jude (left), a veteran from Bismarck, discusses a team decision simulation with Timothy Jones (center), Pensacola, Fla., and Keith Homstad, East Grand Forks, on Thursday at a entrepreneurial workshop for disabled veterans. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Related Topics: UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA
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