Know Milwaukee: VETransfer
In TCD’s continuing series on the people places and ideas that define our city, we visit six businesses in the Shops of Grand Avenue participating in the “Creativity Works Here” program. This is Part One.
Who: VETransfer is the first organization of its kind in the nation that assists U.S. war veterans to start their own businesses and succeed as entrepreneurs.
What: In late March of this year, VETransfer received a grant for just over $3.1 million from the Department of Veterans Affairs as part of the VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2). The funds are used to “build a physical and virtual incubator for veterans in Milwaukee,” said Nick Wichert, Director of Business Development at VETransfer. Wichert said VETransfer is working closely with the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment to bring the self-employment option to veterans, and help them hone their entrepreneurial and leadership skills. Through programs are tailored to each individual accepted into the program, lead advisors walk veterans through a holistic process of how to start a business, dealing with all aspects such as customer discovery, costumer hypothesis and product development.
Where: Currently located in the Shops of Grand Avenue, under the “Creativity Works Here” program, VETransfer occupies what used to be Grand Avenue’s Old Navy store. The large space serves the organization well, accommodating several conference rooms, veterans work areas and plenty of white board space for business brainstorming. If the program is successful in the first year the organization plans to expand to St. Paul, Minn.
Why: VETransfer’s mission statement is to improve veteran outcomes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in March 2010, the unemployment rate of Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans was 14.7 percent. VETransfer is working right now to strengthen the program through the Patriot Partners Charitable Fund and are currently in the paperwork stages to be able to solicit individual and corporate funds to continue supporting Milwaukee veterans in their business goals.
Video by Kenyatta Pugh.