Vets to TrepsVery shortly, we will be having a flood of vets returning to our country. Many have disabilities suffered in the line of duty. What will become of them? Will there be enough jobs? Can disabled post 9/11 veterans become successful entrepreneurs?

Dr. Mike Haynie, of Syracuse University in New York, has taken a proactive approach to attack this daunting challenge head on. Before Syracuse, he was a US Air Force Academy professor at Colorado Springs and served 10 years as an Air Force officer. Shortly after arriving at SU, Haynie established the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) program. This groundbreaking initiative is designed to offer world-class training in entrepreneurship and small business management to post 9/11 veterans disabled as a result of their military service. He is a leader in veteran’s affairs and an expert on entrepreneurial thinking.

His concept is quite simple actually. Why not prepare qualified veterans for self-employment as entrepreneurs? Through the EVP they can get world-class entrepreneurial training. It wasn’t long before the program expanded from Syracuse to Cornell, Connecticut, Florida State, LSU, Texas A&M, UCLA, and Purdue.

Purdue joined the EBV consortium in 2009, and has had a total of 77 vets through the program (including the 26-2012 Graduates). Students are accepted into the program based on the quality of their proposals for starting their own business. In 2009, the Department of the Army named the EBV a national “best practice” for programs serving soldiers and their families.

Last week, we got an email from Mellissa Evens of Purdue University who heard us speak on entrepreneurship in San Francisco last January at the United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) conference. She asked us to come to Purdue in November to engage and coach over 30 veterans with disabilities and 200 Purdue students enrolled in the program. The veterans attend the program at no charge – they have paid the price with their service.

We were sincerely honored and agreed to donate our time on the spot. What a great opportunity to share our experience with this incredible group! Successful entrepreneurship requires guts, determination and sacrifice, the attributes these heroes have already demonstrated. The guiding principles we learned the hard way building the Barefoot Wine brand are applicable to most business ventures and many are not taught in school. We hope to give them a head start in the real world of business and entrepreneurship and perhaps save them some of the hard knocks we experienced.

The idea of a whole new generation of disabled veteran entrepreneurs to lift the economy with all the jobs that they will surely create is a very creative and exciting proposition. Welcome home! Now let’s get back to work!

Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact