All About Us
In 2013, military veterans Rafael Caamaño, Ricardo Garcia and Gordon Hogan recognized a need in the veteran business community: the need for business guidance specifically for veterans with the entrepreneurial spirit. The three set out to establish a veteran centered entrepreneurship program within the University of Central Florida’s Business Incubation Program.
Caamaño and Garcia, with direction from Hogan, quickly found themselves serving a population of eager veterans in Central Florida all wanting to launch and grow their businesses. This previously untapped entrepreneurial group of veteran men and women grew into its own thriving program, the Veterans Entrepreneurship Initiative, or VEI.
The mission of VEI became very clear early on: to empower and support veteran entrepreneurs through business guidance, education and mentorship. Since inception, Caamaño, Garcia and Hogan understood veterans are equipped with a powerful set of skills including leadership, attention to detail, teamwork, striving for excellence and completing the mission, all traits that entrepreneurs must have to succeed. The VEI team set out on a mission to help veterans realize and leverage their powerful skill sets in an entrepreneurial setting.
In 2016, VEI grew their team by bringing in Rebecca Hertz to help meet the needs of their program’s growing veteran entrepreneur population. Rafael, Ricardo and Rebecca continued to work on VEI and set goals for the program they were so passionate about from the beginning. From this point forward the program took off and the three “Rs'' watched as VEI became well known in the veteran business community and their program alumni continued to succeed and thrive in entrepreneurship. VEI has helped over 300 veteran entrepreneurs in supporting the launch and growth of their businesses.
In 2017, VEI joined the Veterans Florida state-wide network, giving veterans another opportunity to access programs to help them in entrepreneurship. The partnership with Veterans Florida enabled VEI to assist over 167 veterans throughout Central Florida via workshops, events and one-on-one coaching sessions. Additionally, VEI has graduated 60 veteran entrepreneurs from the advanced program enabling them to launch and grow their businesses.
In 2019, the three Rs realized VEI could be more than just a passion, but a leader in veteran entrepreneurship. With the goal of becoming a Veteran Center of Excellence, the team focused on the future of the program and set out to grow their partnerships and establish relationships with organizations and individuals with similar goals of helping and empowering veterans reach their full potential.
In 2021, VEI became its own non-profit organization with the same mission and drive to empower and support veteran entrepreneurs through business guidance, education and mentorship. VEI is more than ever now dedicated to helping empower veteran entrepreneurs explore, grow and succeed in business on a global scale. The VEI team strongly believes that by accomplishing the mission of empowering veteran entrepreneurs and creating an environment that fosters entrepreneurship and innovation, they will enable veteran led companies to grow sustainably. This will lead to sustainable job creation, revenue generation and a positive regional, and potentially global, economic output.