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January 23, 2015

Veteran Women Ignited the Spirit of Entrepreneurship in New Orleans

Veteran Women Ignited the Spirit of Entrepreneurship in New Orleans

VWISE_webLast weekend, nearly 200 women veterans and military spouses who own small businesses or aspire to be entrepreneurs flocked to New Orleans to network and learn business basics at the Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Conference (V-WISE).

During the conference, organized by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) and sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co., attendees gained valuable business advice from professional speakers, successful entrepreneurs, and professors from top universities.

The Twitter hashtag #VWISENOLA was liberally used by attendees to share their thoughts and capture their favorite moments. We thought we’d let these amazing women help tell the tale of the weekend that was #VWISENOLA.

The conference kicked off on January 17 with speeches from successful women such as Barbara Carson, Acting Associate Administrator for the Office of Veterans Business Development at the U.S. Small Business Administration, Coast Guard LCDR Kate Higgins-Bloom from the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative and Julia Hubble, CEO of The Hub Factor. Attendees like Josie Beets, a military spouse and public service advocate, were inspired during the kickoff.

After the kickoff, attendees watched 2012 V-WISE graduate Kristina Guerrero, CEO of TurboPUP, compete on ABC’s Shark Tank, while Guerrero watched with friends and family in a hotel room. The audience broke out in cheers when Guerrero walked away from the judges with a $100,000 investment.

Early the next morning, speaker and entrepreneurship coach Nell Merlino asked three women to stand up give their best business pitches. Madeline Monday, CEO of Shift Technologies, bravely accepted the challenge and received positive feedback from Merlino and the audience.

Later in the day, attendees broke up into smaller groups for breakout sessions. Madeline again learned valuable business lessons; this time from Neil Tarallo, a senior lecturer at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration.

Following a day packed with breakout sessions, Kristina Guerrero gave a surprise speech and presented a special video message to the V-WISE New Orleans women from her Shark Tank investor, FUBU founder Daymond John.

V-WISE New Orleans participants left the conference that night feeling encouraged and confident in their new set of skills and network of women entrepreneurs.

V-WISE women even inspired followers who weren’t at the conference, like James Dalman, a veteran and entrepreneur.

The final day of V-WISE NOLA consisted of breakout sessions where women learned basics of everything from marketing to finance to business law.

V-WISE ended with a touching speech by Maureen Casey, managing director of JPMorgan Chase & Co., IVMF’s founding partner and supporter. Her speech left the V-WISE audience knowing that they could accomplish anything they put their mind to.

As the women prepared for their journeys home, many continued the #VWISENOLA conversation and reflected on their experiences.

Even after the conference, the spirit of V-WISE New Orleans lives on. Women like Michelle Matthews are using their new skills to take next steps in their businesses such as applying to the Citi Salutes: Realizing Your Dream Business Plan Competition that they are now eligible for.

V-WISE is the nation’s leading entrepreneurship training program for women veterans, active duty military and military spouses. 61 percent of reporting conference attendees start businesses after participating in the program and 95 percent of those created remain successfully in business today.

For more information about V-WISE and other IVMF programs, or to apply, visit www.vets.syr.edu.

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