Dan Shafer

VETransfer named White House “Champion of Change”

By - Mar 7th, 2012 04:00 am
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A Milwaukee organization that fosters entrepreneurship among veterans is being honored at the White House.

VETransfer, a first-of-its-kind business incubator/accelerator, is being honored as a “Champion of Change,” part of President Obama’s “Win The Future” initiative. The event will be streamed live on the White House video channel, whitehouse.gov/live, at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 7.

“It’s such an honor,” said Ted Lasser, co-founder and Executive Director of VETransfer, who made the trip to the nation’s capital for the event. “You look at 300 million people in this country, and here we are among 11 who are awarded for entrepreneurship.”

“Champions of Change” is part of President Obama’s “Win The Future” initiative, which aims to “out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” Champions are honored weekly; each week focuses on a different area, and VETransfer will be honored for mentoring and entrepreneurship.

“We’re still the only veteran-centric accelerator in the country,” said Wichert. “Which is exciting just because we’re able to write the book on how that’s done.”

The news comes at a good time for VETransfer, which is looking to expand its operation to other cities and could benefit from the added exposure through the White House event, said Lasser. St. Paul was named as one possible location in an earlier ThirdCoast Digest video profile.

Screen shot from WhiteHouse.gov/champions

“All the vets that come in here are taking a risk with us,” said Director of Business Development Nick Wichert. “They’re putting some of their business fate in our hands by letting us mentor them, and being awarded this kind of honor solidifies the fact that what we’re doing here is really, truly having an impact. So it brings a sense of accomplishment and validation to those who were in our program already that this is something that works; this is a program that should be spread to other cities.”

News of the honor is exciting for those in the VETransfer offices in the Plankinton Building at the Shops of Grand Avenue, as well as other veterans in the program.

“[The veterans] have been super-excited, sending us letters of congratulations,” said Communications Manager Jodi Elias. “This is huge for them, too. This recognition means we’ll be able to be here and provide support for them.”

Nick Wichert, VETransfer Director of Business Development

The news came as a surprise to the VETransfer staff, who were not expecting an invitation to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“We don’t know who nominated us,” said Wichert. “Ted got an email one day saying we were nominated and that there would be a follow up conference call to confirm that we’re going. There was a logistics call, and now they’re out in DC. So there’s three easy steps to getting into the White House.”

Ted Lasser, co-founder and Executive Director of VETransfer

At Wednesday’s event, Lasser, along with co-founder and director Greg Meier, will have a personal tour of the White House, then convene at the Eisenhower office building where they will receive their awards. The event will be followed by a question and answer session and a one-on-one meeting with a number of key personnel in government, said Lasser.

Lasser and Meier were in Washington DC on Tuesday afternoon, where they met with the Department of Veterans Affairs and with the office of Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan.

VETransfer has a positive outlook for their second year in Milwaukee and plans to build on the momentum from being honored at the White House.

“The vets have been great and have lived with us through the growing pains so now it’s time to put the burners on and accelerate the program even more,” said Wichert.

Take a look back at ThirdCoast Digest’s past stories on VETransfer, including two “Backstage with Mark Metcalf” podcasts from our series on veterans in Milwaukee, featuring conversations with Ted Lasser and VETransfer’s Sam Stein, and a Know Milwaukee video story from our series on the new businesses in the Shops of Grand Avenue. For more information on VETransfer, visit their website.

Categories: Business, News, News & Views

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