REGINA – After serving in the Canadian Forces for years, some people opt to chase a different dream.
The transition to civilian life can be challenging, but a group in Regina aims to help military members launch their own businesses.
Erin Copeland got into the Canadian Air Force to become a pilot. She signed a 13-year contract to serve our country. In the end, she chose to become a logistics officer, working in human resources.
“I wanted something that I could transition to the civilian life easily,” she said.
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Copeland values the time she spent with the Canadian Forces, but now she’s switching gears and looking to open a bakery with her husband in Squamish, British Columbia.
“I don’t regret any of the 13 years that I’ve done. It’s all prepared me for this.”
However, she is nervous about taking on so much responsibility.
“It’s always risky. You’re coddled in the Canadian Forces. You’re given everything. Things like healthcare and benefits and stuff you don’t need to think about,” she said. “In the military you’re used to going to work, having people tell you what to do.”
Now, it will all be up to her. That’s where The Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur Program comes in. Held each year at the Paul J. Hill Business School, the one-week crash course gives military personnel advice on their business ventures.
More than 50 per cent of people at the boot camp have been medically released by the Canadian Forces, including 25-year Navy veteran, Rob Froher.
“What we have to contribute to society is more than just warfare. It’s more about what people are looking for in business,” he said.
Froher wants to become a personal trainer: “These people know something more than I do about business. I just came with an open mind to learn.”
Getting into the program isn’t easy. For every person accepted, two are rejected.
The information being given over the week of lectures and discussions has a wide focus.
“They’re going to get some accounting understanding, They’re going to get some marketing understanding. They’re going to understand how to position their business when they’re seeking financing,” said Brian Schumacher, associate dean at the business school.
The goal of the boot camp is simple: Help people succeed.
“We are a program about getting people to have revenues and hire people and really create economic benefits in their community,” said program manager, Janet McCausland.
Instructors know these individuals are up to the task.
“Starting up your own business and making it profitable for the long-term is a very formidable challenge,” said Schumacher. “We know that these folks are up to that. They’ve proven it in the past.”
There are four other Canadian universities offering the program: Laval, Dalhousie, Memorial and for the first time in 2016, Queen’s.