Starting today, Zella Upshaw and Pamela Whitfield will be taking part in the Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship conference held in New York City. According to a V-WISE press release, Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management developed the program 10 years ago with the support of the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide “cutting-edge entrepreneurship training to women veterans from any branch or era of military service, any military component, female spouses or partners of active duty personnel and veterans looking to start a business venture.”
Upshaw, the owner and operator of BMG Life Solutions, and Whitfield, the president of Soul Sistas Run, have already gone through the first phase, which was a 15-day online course that prepared them for the conference. According to V-WISE’s website, the conference will include training modules designed for new business owners and others that support existing businesses.
“I’m a mental health counselor ... so with the entrepreneurship, that was what pulled me in. The conference was actually for women that [were] interested in entrepreneurship either are already in business or are considering starting some type of business, but would like more guidance on either putting the business together or to help you continue to — I won’t say expand your business — but help you with the business end of the business,” Upshaw said.
Upshaw believed the program had been “very helpful” for her so far, as it was educating her on how to handle the administrative aspects of her business, such as processing insurance paperwork and billing, while improving her skills outside of acting as a counselor. She discovered the V-WISE program while working with veterans in the course of her counseling business.
“When this one came across my desk I realized that I fit into the category, being the surviving spouse of a veteran. As I looked at it — and I’m definitely always into having to do with making my business better and being able to provide better services for my clients that come in — and I thought, well, this would be really interesting to do this,” she said. “... Even though I’m in the health care field I still have to do that business end. That administrative end has to be done. I find so many people that are in the field that I’m in, who are in the health care [industry], who have private practices, they are able to do the service provision and do that great, but it’s the business end where they lack.”
Once the conference is over, the program shifts into its third phase, where participants are connected to support organizations, such as the SBA.
As she prepared to head to New York City, Upshaw said she would recommend the program to other women who meet the criteria.
“I always look at my clients that come in as well, anything that ... I can learn more about that I am able to refer the female veterans that are coming in that I am able to send them — this is something you might like to look into, because there will be other conferences held in other areas around the United States ... for other veterans and family members of military men and women to become involved,” she said.
According to the V-WISE website, www.whitman.syr.edu/vwise, the next conference will be held Jan. 16-18, 2015. There is a $75 application fee and all participants are responsible for their own transportation costs. Participants may attend the conference only once, though additional education and training programs are offered through the Institute for Veterans and Military Families.