Newfoundland’s Memorial University Prince Charles Charity Help Canadian Ex-Soldiers Become Entrepreneurs

By: Sara Harowitz Special to The Star

It can be hard to transition back into regular Canadian life following a military career. There are many programs designed to help former military personnel make this shift, but Prince’s Charities Canada, an organization that supports Prince Charles’ charitable work, noticed that the country was missing something: support for troops looking to launch a business.

So they decided to fill the void.

The Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur is a program, entering its second year, designed to help former Canadian military members become entrepreneurs. Formed by Prince’s Charities Canada and the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF) in partnership with Newfoundland’s Memorial University (which already had a similar, smaller scale program), the project offers former Canadian Forces members a free week-long business boot camp that includes workshops, lectures, and meetings with professors, experts, and university students. Participants complete and present their business plan, and are then connected with a CYBF mentor in their communities who helps make the plan a reality.

“It fits what we do, which is help people start and run successful businesses,” says Beth Dea, CYBF’s Director of Programs. “It’s a really neat way for us to give back to members of Canadian Forces.”

CYBF came onboard last year to expand the program nationally, tripling its size this year by facilitating an additional 20 spots at the University of Regina and another 20 at Quebec’s Universite Laval. Applications for these positions opened on February 12th.

Scott Harrigan is a 38-year-old Canadian Forces officer from Halifax who participated in the project last year. He divides his time between the military and his businesses: Mariner Dog Products (which produces rope dog leashes and collars) and GloRope Canada (makers of glow-in-the-dark dog and military products). While Harrigan’s companies existed before he participated in Operation Entrepreneur, he says the program helped bolster his business plan.

“I learned a lot about social media: Pinterest, Reddit, Facebook, and Google ads,” he says. “Everybody’s going to take something different away from those lectures.”

According to Dea, the common feeling among last year’s participants was one of encouragement.

“A number of people said to me, ‘I never thought I could be good at anything else; I never thought what I learned in the military could translate into me being a good business owner,’” she says, adding that the organizational skills, risk tolerance, proactive planning, and discipline taught by the military translate perfectly into the world of entrepreneurship.

The program is not based off a new idea. Yuval Deustch, Associate Professor of Policy & Entrepreneurial Studies at York University’s Schulich School of Business, says the 2011 book Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle    by Dan Senor and Saul Singer is based on similar principals.

“A lot of people say Israel is a start-up country because of the resourcefulness from the rich military experience that young people there get,” he says. “Can it be suggested that’s also the case in Canada? Yes.”

Regardless of how military training helps ex-Canadian Forces members succeed in the world of business, those behind The Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur are confident they can help ex-military personnel find ongoing success.

“It’s an intense career in the Canadian Forces,” says Dea. “So it’s nice for them to come out feeling positive about being able to contribute to their communities after they leave service.”

And as for the troops?

“The program has afforded me some amazing opportunities,” says Harrigan, whose proud to say his dog leashes are owned by both Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth. “My spike in business has come not just through taking the course, but through taking what I learned in the course and actually applying it.”

The Toronto Star | Toronto, Ontario