Starting a company takes courage, energy, and determination — all qualities that many servicemen and women display on a daily basis.
John Panaccione served as an 82nd Airborne paratrooper and then started a software company, LogicBay, in Wilmington, North Carolina. He’s convinced that other vets have what it takes to start their own businesses. Through VetToCEO, the nonprofit he co-founded, he’s showing them just how to do it.
VetToCEO enrolls former servicemen and women in an eight-to-10-week program that groups them with other vets who are at different stages along the road to launching their businesses. Together, they learn to craft a business plan, find potential investors, deliver presentations, connect with mentors, and potentially find a business partner that also happens to be a fellow vet. The organization also offers the in-person and online classes to reach more participants, and the course is free to all vets, funded by donations and corporate grants.
“Statistically, there are thousands of veterans all over that have an interest in entrepreneurship — and many of them are outside the U.S.,” Panaccione told Ben Brown of Port City Daily. Veterans and service members stationed as far away as Kuwait are participating in the program.
Brown spoke to one of VetToCEO’s successful graduates, army veteran Joel Damin, who started his own restaurant and pub in Sanford, North Carolina. Damin said that the skills he learned in the military immediately transferred to his busy career as a restaurateur. “You’re always reacting, you’re always adapting, and you can’t just throw your hands up and go, ‘I don’t know, this isn’t what I wanted to do,’ and just stomp your feet. You can’t do that, because there are lives on the line and you have to complete the mission.”
Now that there are just tasty dinners on the line instead of lives, Damin is thriving.