Veterans historically served as an entrepreneurial force in the U.S. with nearly 2 million veteran-owned businesses in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau; however, the number of veteran-owned businesses is declining with U.S. Veterans Magazine reporting only 4.5% post-9/11 veterans opening a business. The Center for Entrepreneurship looks to reverse the trend and empower the 1,600 military-connected students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to start or grow business endeavors.
Through a new program led by the National Veterans Leadership Foundation, Tutu Wah, a junior accounting major from Lincoln, Nebraska, serves as the center’s entrepreneurship military community advocate. He holds weekly office hours in the center each Wednesday, 4-5 p.m., plans events and connects military-affiliated students to entrepreneurship resources.
“Tutu helps us intentionally connect with and serve a segment of students who historically are very entrepreneurial. We are excited to foster relationships with military-connected students through outreach and valuable peer-to-peer interactions,” said Amanda Metcalf, program and external relations manager for the Center for Entrepreneurship.
A mechanic in the U.S. Army for four years, Wah currently serves in the Army Reserve while pursuing his bachelor’s degree at Nebraska. He took three entrepreneurship classes last year and looks forward to working with other students this year.
“I want to help connect people to build a culture that facilitates camaraderie, similar to what they had in the military, as they work toward their goals,” said Wah. “After taking the franchising class with Dr. Lindsay Thomsen, I decided my major project would be to help veterans pursue franchising opportunities. In addition to planning an event with franchise experts, I hope I can help the center solve common problems or barriers these students may be having.”
The course on Franchising (ENTR 425) is open to all majors because franchising can be found in every industry. Thomsen, assistant professor of practice in management and director of business development for the Center for Entrepreneurship, believes Wah’s focus on franchising opportunities for veterans makes sense for many reasons.
“Franchising is a valuable opportunity for veterans because they learned to become incredible leaders and teammates in the service. The franchise model requires both independent work and managing a close relationship with the franchisor. Investing in a franchise business comes with a full support team, including a business coach, so it can be more successful from the start. Additionally, veterans qualify for special loans through the Small Business Association, and many franchise brands offer discounts for veterans,” said Thomsen.
Wah is one of six military community advocates currently serving the university. The leadership position specializes in a college or focus area like entrepreneurship and reports to the university’s Military and Veteran Success Center.
“Our military community advocates help us better serve this group by building community, helping us understand common challenges and creating programming,” said Joe Brownell, Military and Veteran Success Center executive director. “This group of people tends to want to do things on their own and don’t often feel comfortable seeking help. If Tutu engages just one more student we haven’t yet reached and connects them to resources to help them succeed, it’s all worth it.”
Meet Wah and entrepreneurship faculty at an open house for military-connected students at the Center for Entrepreneurship on Monday, Nov. 13, 4 p.m. in Howard L. Hawks Hall room 315.
Published: November 9, 2023