Maria Contreras-Sweet speaks at Whitman School’s WISE Conference and visits IVMF
Maria Contreras-Sweet, the 24th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and a member of President Obama’s Cabinet, traveled to Syracuse University yesterday to serve as the keynote speaker for the Whitman School’s annual WISE Conference.
During her visit, Contreras-Sweet made a stop at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF), where she held a press conference to announce that the SBA’s Boots to Business program has now trained 25,000 transitioning service members. For two years, Boots to Business—the entrepreneurship track of the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP)—has provided entrepreneurship and business planning training to members of America’s armed forces who are transitioning to civilian life, giving them the tools to start their own successful companies. The IVMF at Syracuse University operates portions of the Boots to Business program and employs three full-time staff to support the various operations of the program, nationally and internationally.
During her press conference, Contreras-Sweet praised Syracuse University and the IVMF for its commitment to providing veterans and their families with small business training and education through the numerous entrepreneurial programs offered in tandem with the SBA. She also referred to the SBA’s recent federal funding award to the Whitman School of Management to expand entrepreneurship outreach through a newly established Veterans Business Outreach Center at Syracuse University. “Our veterans deserve every chance at success, and our economic future requires that we help them acquire the skills necessary to start the next generation of great American businesses.”
“The U.S. Small Business Administration is a valued and trusted federal partner,” said Dr. Mike Haynie, vice chancellor for veteran and military affairs at Syracuse University as well as executive director of the IVMF. “We have realized considerable impact, scale and scope of our programs over the last five years with SBA’s support.”
Following the Administrator’s announcement, Contreras-Sweet convened a roundtable discussion with IVMF program managers, instructors and graduates to discuss their experiences and to ask how the SBA can improve the programs it offers to veterans. Program graduates who attended included Chris Dambach, a 2013 Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) grad; Kimberly Bischoff, a 2014 EBV grad; and Tricia Hax, a 2015 EBV graduate. Boots to Business program instructors John Torrens and Alexandra Kostakis, who are entrepreneurship professors at the Whitman School of Management, were also present at the roundtable.
Initiated as a pilot in 2012 and expanded nationally in 2013, Boots to Business utilizes SBA resource partners including the Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), Women’s Business Centers (WBC), SCORE, and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) to deliver entrepreneurship education and training to transitioning service members and their dependents who are exploring or pursuing small business ownership and self-employment.