Operation Startup helping veterans start businesses

Applications open now for vets & business partners
Posted at 6:10 PM, Nov 02, 2016

Right now, more than 500 veterans are leaving the service every single day.  And for many, it can be tough to transition for the military to civilian life, and find a job.  That's why a new effort is focused on helping veterans be their own boss.

The rows of treats inside Bakery Boutique will make your mouth water.

"We have a chocolate cake. It's filled with a rich fudge," said Dianne Miller, co-owner of the bakery.

Miller's spent her career in sales and finance.

"We knew what we wanted to do, but getting there was a challenge," she said.

Her sister-in-law Lisa Mazza recently retired after 21 years in the US Army. Lisa's always loved making cakes, and went to culinary school. But even with Dianne's help, Lisa felt clueless when it came to turning her hobby into a business.

"Just the starting steps of even finding out who to get permits from or what departments to go," said Mazza.

Thankfully, the partners found Operation Startup. It's a fairly new program through Hillsborough Community College, and sponsored by the county.

"They kind of took us in and filled in all the blanks and helped us lay out a road map to where we needed to be," said Mazza.

Operation Startup offers free online and on-campus classes to veterans like Lisa, who want to start a business.

"We try to empower veterans through entrepreneurship to make that transition by providing them with a wide array of support and connectivity to other veterans that have successfully done this," said Andy Gold, HCC business faculty member.

It's important since veterans are 40 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-vets. Their discipline and can-do attitude, coupled with the training Operation Startup provides help make sure these small businesses work. 

Lisa Mazza's gone from freelancing to having a shop with three employees.

"I don't think we would've gotten to where we are now as quickly and efficiently without that program. It was amazing," Mazza said.

Lisa and Dianne are certainly hoping as others see they've found a recipe to success, thanks to this program, that other veterans will want to become entrepreneurs.

Vets can apply online now for the chance to be accepted into next year's program, and begin whipping up their own slice of the American dream.

Operation Startup is launching a brand new service center Monday in Ybor City at 2101 E. Palm Avenue, and an open house is planned there on November 10th from 9 to 11 a.m.  That facility will be open to any veteran looking for resources on starting a business, Monday through Friday each week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

To learn more about applying for the Operation Startup free training program head here or here.