shutterstock_107607836This week we were honored to be keynote speakers for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families (EBV-F) at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University in Upstate New York.

Unlike EBV (Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities), the group we addressed last year that was made up of disabled veterans aspiring to become entrepreneurs, this group was predominantly made up of the wives of veterans who aspire to become entrepreneurs. These women are supporting their disabled husbands physically, emotionally, and in many cases financially. Many of them have husbands who returned home with post-traumatic stress or severe brain injuries. By therapeutically focusing on their new passion (their entrepreneurial venture), many disabled veterans are more able to cope with their new circumstances and develop a sense of pride.

But who runs the back office and the front office? Who keeps the books, collects the receivables and pays the bills? Who makes the sales? Who researches and fights to get the benefits to which their family is entitled? Who fills out the endless forms and jumps through the time-consuming bureaucratic hoops necessary to receive them? And who raises a family at the same time? Most of the time, it’s the wives of the returning disabled veterans. This is demanding triple duty few ordinary people could survive, let along excel at.

EBV and EBV-F are a part of The Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF). On their website, it reads: IVMF depends on support from people like you to help carry out our mission, “In service to those who have served.”

This non-profit organization is primarily made up of former military folks who recognize the need for entrepreneurial education for families of disabled vets who want to start their own businesses or support the disabled vet’s business. This one-week intensive “boot camp” of how-to’s and tips from successful entrepreneurs is sandwiched between a month of online support and a year of mentoring to help these students become successful.

The students stay on the Syracuse University campus and attend educational events from 7am to 10pm daily. Beyond the education, however, we witnessed an additional and significant benefit. The attendees met folks with similar challenges and found out that they were not alone. They not only had a forum but found a support group. Emotions flowed as we heard over and over the demands under which these women have been placed that they never signed up for, or ever expected. Their lives have been drastically changed by the human costs of war.  They have been called into duty and have risen to the occasion, loyal to their husbands and doing what they have to do for their families. These wives and families are the true unsung heroes of the war.

We went to encourage, empower and inspire these brave folks, but they inspired us. Their stories really bring home the price our veterans paid, but also the price that their families continue to pay.

Since the end of conscription that drafted our young people into the military, often against their will, we have had an all-volunteer army. Many families were relieved that the dreaded draft had finally ended and that their children were finally safe from being drafted into the war. For most of us, since the end of the draft, war and its casualties seem less close to home.

But now they are coming home and we all have a responsibility to help these brave soldiers and their families become successful and productive civilians. One way we can show our appreciation to these veterans and their families is to support their businesses in our communities. What better way to say “Thank you for your service to our country.”

To learn how you can become involved, contact Raymond Toenniessen, IVMF director of new initiatives & external relations, at 315.443.0256 or

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