Veterans complete ETSU entrepreneurship program


Fifteen veterans graduated Tuesday from the East Tennessee State University STRIVE (Startup Training Resources to Inspire Veteran Entrepreneurship) program on the campus of the Mountain Home VA. The program, one of only two of its kind in the country (the other is at Syracuse University in New York), fills a niche in giving veterans much-needed expertise in starting and running their own businesses, said Ed Sheffey, owner of Rowan Tree Care and a graduate of the program. “When I went through the Transition Assistance Program (provided by the VA) in 2019, there were some great resources for polishing up you resume and finding a job. But, as far as entrepreneurship and starting a new business, there was almost nothing. So, this STRIVE program fills a huge need for service members transitioning from the military.”

Entrepreneur Mark Patton speaks at STRIVE graduation. Photo by Scott Robertson

The program was created by the ETSU College of Business and Technology and the Tennessee Small Business Development Center. During the course of the eight-week program, veterans receive training in everything from writing a business plan to conducting competitive analyses to acquiring funding. “I think the program is invaluable for veterans just getting out of the military and veterans overall,” said Mark Patton, who is looking to build a business supplying winter-grown barley for craft brewers. “I think this program is going to help them achieve in life what they want to achieve.”

David Golden, CEO of the ETSU Research Foundation, in the keynote address, told veterans they have exactly the skills needed to be successful entrepreneurs: vision, willingness to put in hard work, and a can-do spirit. “Entrepreneurship by definition requires creativity – the ability to see into the future and say, ‘if I do something different, the future will be different…but ideas don’t self-assemble, so it also takes effort…and the thing that bridges the vision and the effort is called attitude.”

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