“It’s never been about the organization,” says Rosie Lee, co-founder and executive director of Action Zone. “It’s about helping those who served find post-service success through a business of their own.”
Action Zone, an entrepreneur support organization (ESO) in Tampa, celebrated three years of entrepreneurial success for the military community members who have participated in their business startup programs. The party at veteran-owned Bad Monkey in Ybor on June 12th welcomed previous cohort members, local, regional, and state supporters, and drew a crowd of veterans who just heard about the organization and hope to join the program. The local nonprofit launched in May 2018 as the only ESO serving the military community exclusively, filling a gap in services for the under-represented veteran and military family member entrepreneurs in the Tampa Bay region.
Since 2018, approximately 140 veterans have attended a cohort-based program and most remain active in the Action Zone community. A recent survey to track their progress and needs, with approximately 43% responding, demonstrate the effectiveness of the programs, mentorship, and networking. The economic impact is evident.
George Zwierko, a 2020 cohort member, describes it from a veteran perspective:
Starting a business is one of the most important decisions a person could ever make. It is life changing. The same is true when a person pledges their service to our country. Transitioning to civilian life after time in the military isn't simple – veterans come out to encounter a different mindset, different attitudes, and a different set of rules. Action Zone has made the transition from a military mindset to an entrepreneurial mindset less arduous. For some, the military made them better people; Action Zone helps make them better business owners.
The results for the veterans participating in the program are pretty astounding. Action Zone Action Zone provides a series of programs for veterans to acquire practical business development skills.
“We intentionally keep our cohorts smaller to ensure we deliver focused and individualized support for everyone in the program, “says Valerie Lavin, co-founder and Board Chair. “In addition, our professional community across the state provides resources and subject matter expertise to help each business owner along the way.”
Carlos Garcia, Tampa Wellness and Counseling, cohort #2 member (2018), shared, “This was one of the most comprehensive entrepreneur programs I have attended. It was a great base from which to build on the skills necessary to run a successful business. “
Action Zone provides three distinct yet interrelated programs to assist entrepreneurs from the early ideation stage of their business journey or business reboot for existing owners, to post-launch incubation support and resources, to an innovative strategic growth and acceleration program for building successful businesses.
Action Zone Activate helps entrepreneurs get moving in the right direction, whether the business is in pre-launch, pivot, or no/slow-growth stage. The program includes
planned curriculum that provide the tools and resources needed to build a
structurally sound and validated business model.
Action Zone Incubate nurture the businesses with subject matter experts and peer-to-peer support as the businesses transitions from post-launch to early-stage startup.
Action Zone Accelerate provides a board of advisors who works with each business owner to develop strategic plans for growth and longevity and facilitate connections they need to grow strong.
“The facilitators at Action Zone provided me with the information needed to get my business efficiently up and running,” said Damon Pettaway, DPHA Solutions, cohort #5 member (2020). “They helped me avoid some major pitfalls and stayed with me on my entrepreneurship journey to this very day.”
The program is successful, in part, because the organization is run by, and classes are facilitated by, entrepreneurs just like the participants. Everyone in the Action Zone organization is a business owner and most are serial entrepreneurs with decades of business ownership experience.
“Business growth is based on more than what you learn in training,” says Action Zone Director of Education Dr Russ Barnes. “There is no substitute for experienced people who can guide you on your path."
Two workshops - August 12, 2021 and August 16, 2021 - are scheduled to help veterans explore the idea of a business of their own and to learn about the Action Zone program and resources. Upcoming cohorts will be delivered in person and simultaneously live-streamed, so any veteran in any location is welcome to attend.
The principals, board members, facilitators and ambassadors are committed to growth and longevity ensuring Action Zone is sustainable to help military community entrepreneurs succeed. Each year, as more veterans participate in Action Zone programs and launch their business, the network of veteran business owners grows larger, providing more support and resources for the next round of veterans aspiring to start a business. Growth plans include branch locations throughout Florida, and additional opportunities for all military community entrepreneurs.
If you want to know more about the programming and cohort schedules, please contact Rosie@actionzonetampa.com. If you are a professional or subject matter expert who would like to provide resources for the participants in our program, please contact Valerie@actionzonetampa.com. Action Zone is honored to be considered for your donations and sponsorships. Please contact Jeff Mong at firstname.lastname@example.org for more donation and sponsor information.