Written By: Jane Gardner, V-WISE San Diego Graduate, IVMF Intern, SU Student
Discharged from the U.S. Navy in 1981, like many other service women, I completely disregarded anything having to do with my military service. I just wanted to forget about it.
I was married, divorced and raised two sons as a single mom. For the better part of my career I held upper management positions. I began working for Culligan Water in 1994 and in 2007 fell through a ceiling at work. Realizing that I did not want to continue working in outside sales, I went back to school.
I started at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management in June 2007, after having been out of school for almost 30 years. School went well until September 2010, when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I continued in school while going through treatment, thinking that I could continue as I always had, not stopping. This proved to be a mistake. After chemo, I realized that I was sicker than I thought and decided to take a semester off.
I returned to school in spring 2012 and enrolled in Professor John Torrens’ Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises Capstone Class. It was during this class that my new business venture, Life Choice Meals, was born.
After class, my teammates chose not to continue with Life Choice Meals and I was forced to look at continuing on my own. I can’t begin to tell you how frightening this was for me, there were many tears. It was at this time that I shared my thoughts with Professor Torrens. He recommended I contact Meghan Florkowski (program manager) and Tina Kapral (director of education programs) at the IVMF about an upcoming V-WISE female veteran entrepreneurship training program that was to be held in San Diego. I was given a scholarship to attend and made my reservations.
It was during this weekend of attending V-WISE that my life changed. I was availed the opportunity to work with entrepreneurs, mentors and instructors and to speak with other women veterans and entrepreneurs who gave me encouragement, love and the support I needed to move ahead. I am sure that I would have given up if it had not been for V-WISE!
Life Choice Meals is a complete line of chef-designed frozen meals delivered to the home. These meals have been developed to meet doctors’ dietary guidelines for those with diabetes, heart conditions and pre/post bariatric surgery. It is my intention to market through the medical community.
Since my V-WISE experience, I am graduating this May from SU with a B.S. in accounting. I recently won the Whitman School’s Panasci Business Plan Competition, which awarded me a grand prize of $25,000 to use for my business. Life Choice Meals is now an LLC and I will begin production this summer.
I cannot thank the instructors, mentors, staff and V-WISE attendees enough for their unending support. In particular, Tina and Meghan—it weren’t for you ladies, V-WISE would not be as powerful and life changing. You truly give everything that you have to this program and I see it every day working with you.
In closing, I would like to personally thank the IVMF’s Mike Haynie, if it weren’t for your vision none of this would be possible. God bless you all!