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Ex-soldiers learn marketing, and more, at weeklong boot camp

Friday, August 26, 2016

CBC Regina: After serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, many veterans are faced with a new mission: finding a career.

A course at the University of Regina is helping ex-soldiers become entrepreneurs. It's a weeklong business boot camp.

The Prince's Operation Entrepreneur program teaches military members how to start and build their own business after their service.

One of the people in the program, Casey Wall, said that after several years of service, he felt it was time for him to move on.

"I served for 17 years," Wall, who is from Ottawa, said. "I've loved every day — every moment of it — through the ups and downs."

Now Wall has plans to enter the family company, based in Parkhill, Ont., called Qwick Wick. The company is rebuilding following a devastating fire in the spring. Qwick Wick makes a fire starter product for camping and other situations.

'I'm kind of going out into the world of a thousand sharks.'- Casey Wall

"My father started [the company] over 25 years ago," Wall explained. "He's done all the hard work and I'm just kind of coming in and riding on his coattails."

In addition to learning all he can from his father, Wall said he hopes the extra training will give him other perspectives on business.

"It's been phenomenal," he said of the course, supported by the U of R and a number of local and national sponsors. "It's early mornings and long days, but the information they give you is outstanding."

Twenty participants of the program in Regina have been learning about marketing and taxes, among other things, from instructors and professionals who have donated their time and expertise.

A special program helps people move from military service to the business world. (Submitted to CBC)

One thing that Wall noticed was the enthusiasm conveyed by the teachers.

"It's all people that have a passion [for business]," he said. "And that's what I've taken out of it. Everybody has a passion and I'm realizing that if you want to be successful in business you really need to have that passion."

The program included tours of some Regina businesses. At one, a family-run operation, Wall talked to the owner who spoke about the commitment to family and the importance of the business to the family. Wall said that talk further inspired him to continue the work his father started.

"My father started this and he's put all his heart and sweat into it and I want to carry on that legacy," he said.

"I'm extremely nervous," Wall added, talking about the next steps to entering the business world. "I've had a structure for the last 17 years [where] I know what to do, I know when my next paycheque is coming in. And now I'm kind of going out into the world of a thousand sharks."

Casey Wells hopes to join an Ontario-based family business that makes a fire starting product called Qwick Wick. (Quick Wick/Facebook)

The Prince's Operation Entrepreneur (POE) is a program of Prince's Charities Canada. It is described as a "made-in-Canada program" that combines two of HRH The Prince of Wales' lifelong interests of encouraging entrepreneurship and support for the Canadian Armed Forces.

According to people from the program, since its inception in 2012, there have been 161 businesses started by 250 boot camp graduates.

With files from CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition

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