One of the features people appreciate so much about the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) is the ability of the military-connected community to access resources they need when and where they need them. It’s more like a continuum than a one-and-done. Military life comes with a host of challenges to navigate that produce constantly changing circumstances, priority shifts, and evolving needs. The IVMF ensures that effective, data-informed programs and services are easily accessible at every stage along the way whether that journey will include a new civilian career, running your own business, pursuing higher education, or navigating resources in a community to which you return after service.
When it comes to professional development, the IVMF has programs including no-cost business training, certifications, and entrepreneurial instruction to support small business owners. Whatever your point of entry is into the IVMF, once you’re in you’ll find that one resource leads to another and continues to the next. You gain support from a team of professionals and peers dedicated to your ongoing success, and new doors will be opened providing lasting connections and new opportunities.
“It was a gamechanger,” she said. “Everything I’ve experienced since April 2020 has been a positive gamechanger that will affect my life greatly, forever. All the relationships and opportunities have been tremendous blessings.”
Griffin, a veteran, took virtual classes through Onward to Opportunity (O2O), an IVMF program that supports transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses with access to professional training and certifications for in-demand careers. Griffin earned a Professional in Human Resources certificate through O2O and started looking for a new career. Thanks to another connection she made through the IVMF, she met her future employer and was soon hired as a connection’s coordinator, helping veterans in the San Diego area access needed resources.
As one of only three employees, Griffin was busy for several months, until the job unfortunately ended. Again, faced with an uncertain future, Griffin returned to IVMF to develop a business opportunity with her son, who is also a veteran. The day after she left her job she got an email about the Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE), an IVMF entrepreneurship training program.
“That [timing] is how you know you’re on the right track,” she said. “So many amazing things have come out of my IVMF affiliation. It continues.”
Griffin attended the V-WISE cohort in Phoenix, Arizona in January 2022, where she connected with support, information in breakout sessions, and access to the building blocks of becoming a successful entrepreneur. She wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but she’s sure the intangibles she received well-surpassed anything she could have hoped. Now she and her son are building a transportation business, MaurVet Motor Carrier.
“When you think about the tribe of women we now have on our journey, it’s unbelievable. It changed my life, big time. We hold each other accountable and communicate enough to make sure we’re not going to fall off the cliff,” she said. “I’m always going to be team IVMF. You can’t get better support than from the IVMF family. The resources are there.”
Griffin’s IVMF journey is similar to what Stephanie McCluskey, a military spouse, also experienced. She also started with O2O, which she cites as critical in advancing her professional opportunities in her job in emergency management at Boeing. After finishing O2O, McCluskey applied to five different jobs at Boeing and was hired as a project manager at Boeing.
“I felt that it was no fluff,” she said. “After O2O, I could speak like an expert about things I’d already done in my job, and that’s what I needed. My ceiling just keeps climbing along with my opportunities.”
McCluskey also participated in the Phoenix V-WISE cohort as she still had that entrepreneurial pull, seeking help to develop a business idea she and her husband want to build. With V-WISE, she found access to high-functioning and successful individuals, both instructors and classmates. She appreciated that these professionals were willing to share their time, and she was motivated to earn it.
“The only thing that’s stopping you is yourself,” she said. “Being involved with the IVMF and graduating from its O2O program has changed my perspective: My self-worth and my belief in propelling myself forward and not feeling stagnant. If I want a position or want to start a business, then I completely can. And it’s not a stretch. It’s a mindset change.”
Starting a new business is also what brought Thong (T) Nguyen to IVMF, in pursuit of the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) program. In the intensive course, Nguyen found a program that was tailor-made for veterans like him. He’d always wanted to start a business, but life got in the way for a while until he realized there’s no time better than the present. He founded Leyden Solutions, Inc., a services and technology company that helps organizations mitigate security and intelligence challenges.
“EBV is the best entrepreneurship program I have had the privilege of attending,” he said. “The IVMF brings in an amazing bunch of speakers, and there’s a cadre that cares so much about veterans. I am so grateful for that program and the amazing people who work there.”
Nguyen was recently awarded a prestigious grant from the Shemin Micro-Grant Fund, an annual program where EBV alumni can submit a proposal to have different business needs funded to support the early stages of new venture creation. The grant will help his company attain certifications to deliver unique services and implement technology solutions to clients.
The unique power of IVMF programming is discovering how one opportunity links to the next. Experiences like these illustrate how every step along the journey is part of the holistic, relevant support participants can access to further their success. It’s all part of IVMF’s mission to advance the post-service lives of the nation’s military veterans and their families.