Veterans across Florida looking to reinvent their careers have another free resource to tap into. Hillsborough Community College is about to offer courses on how to start their own businesses. One local veteran has been tasked in helping to lead the way.
"For me personally, I had no interest in being an entrepreneur when I got out of the Army," said Valerie Ellis, Army veteran and entrepreneur.
Ellis retired from the Army about a year and a half ago. She was a First Sergeant in intelligence. She now owns her own business; a staffing agency called Veterans 2 Corporate.
"I help companies hire veterans," she said. "Veterans come with a very unique skill set with being disciplined, being able to work under pressure."
The idea for the company blossomed while going through HCC's entrepreneurship program. Now, HCC has recruited her to help veterans start their own businesses. She, along with several other people at the college are in the process of kick-starting the Veteran's Entrepreneurship Program.
It's a not-for-credit training that's absolutely free. A veteran starts the program with an idea, then they're taught how to get it off the ground and how to make sure it's successful.
HCC is one of 5 institutions across the state participating through a grant from the Veterans Florida organization.
"This is all about access," said Beth Kerly, HCC business professor.
Kerly explains the program is built into three phases.
"The first phase of the training is online," she said.
That phase covers the basics. The second phase is on campus and is more detailed. But travel, lodging and meals are all covered.
The final phase is ongoing mentorship and follow-up support.
"Therefore, we're helping support the entrepreneur after the training so a business can be viable and very, very productive," she added.
Applications for the program will be accepted through the website, which will be launched in early February. Interested veterans should contact Valerie Ellis at 813-259-6024 or send an email to ICCE@HCCFL.org.