The first weekend of June I had the privileged of attending V-Wise (Veteran Women Ignite The Spirit of Entrepreneurship) in Pittsburgh, PA. This intense event is hosted by Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, and designed to prepare women veterans for small business ownership in 3 phases. Below is brief overview of the program. However, if you are interested in my experience, scroll down and listen to the podcast Episode 15: My Experience At V-Wise And Why You Should Attend.
Eligible applicants are either active duty or reserve women service members, honorably discharge service women, or spouse/life partners of honorably discharge, active duty or reserves service women. The application process is relatively easy and quick. Applicants fill out a brief online application via the website, submit their supporting documents and await a final decision. Once approved, applicants receive email correspondence about the next upcoming event. If by any chance they aren’t able to attend the upcoming event, their name is placed on a list for later dates. Each year several events are held on both the East and West Coasts, offering plenty of opportunities for attendees to participate. Attendees are responsible for covering their transportation and a $75 fee. IVMF covers the cost of meals, lodging and event activities.
Phase I begins 3 weeks prior to the 3 day event and consists of online networking and 21 days of homework. Attendees are provided with reading materials, homework assignments, a virtual community and video. Study topics include market research, small business principles, marketing, and other topics what will prepare you for the event. Assignment completion is mandatory for Phase II attendance.
Phase II is the actual 3 day event itself. Students arrive on Friday and leave Sunday shortly after lunch. Opening ceremonies begin around 4pm with food, music and excitement. No time is wasted as attendees quickly fill their plates and cups with gourmet food and drinks and take their seats in the main conference room. The following 1-2 hours is filled with key note speakers, music and motivation. The excitement is followed by an opportunity to take free professional head shots and network with fellow conference members. All of this is accompanied with a wide array of rich deserts.
Saturday morning starts bright and early with a working breakfast. The remainder of the day is filled with classes that cover marketing, funding, business plans, and so much more. Attendees may go to any classe of their choosing. Lunch and dinner are filled with gourmet rich meals and more motivating speeches.
Sunday morning starts early with a hardy breakfast and an opportunity to network with new friends and future partners. Final classes are provided with an abundance of delicious snacks. The last activity is the closing ceremony and a farewell lunch.
A week after the program, V-Wise graduates receive web links with their head shots and other supportive services. Services include funding, mentorship and other like opportunities. Graduates also receive a V-Wise Graduate logo for their websites and continued access to both Neale Godfrey’s online community and the V-Wise virtual community established in Phase II.
My Impressions And Advice
I absolutely loved it. The food was plentiful and delicious. The topics were appropriate and empowering. V-Wise was well organized and operated smoothly.
My advise is to go with a plan. It is easy to become overwhelmed with all of the information provided. Review the list of classes prior to your arrival and strategically plan your class attendance. 101 classes provide a brief overview of a particular topic. For instance, Business Plan 101 discusses what a business plan is and does. It doesn’t go into the details of the components of a business plan. Business Plan 201 discusses the most important components of a business plan.
Next, if possible, bring your business plan, capability statements, and specific questions. Instructors and keynote speakers offer assistance during office hours on Saturday evening. Being prepared will help you make the most of the short period of time you have with them.
Last, if you are running a thriving business, prepare yourself to level up at this event. A graduate provided her capability statement to a panelist during the Contracting With Fortune 500 class. There is a good possibility that she will land a contract with the panelist because she came prepared. There are a wealth of business opportunities if you are prepared and open to explore.
For details of my personal experience, listen to Episode 15: My Experience At V-Wise And Why You Should Attend on the Life After Service: Transitioning From The Military To Entrepreneurship Podcast.