Veteran Women Igniting the Spirt of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE)
Veteran Women Igniting the Spirt of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) is more than just a program, it's a movement that empowers women veterans and military spouses to take charge of their business aspirations. When I learned that the D'Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) was hosting V-WISE conference in Jacksonville, I felt compelled to be a part of this transformative experience.
V-WISE Jacksonville not only promised, but also delivered, a weekend packed with learning, networking, and inspiration. Having worked alongside these remarkable ladies for three weeks during Phase I—taught by Crystal Wambeke, CEO of Wambeke & Associates, through a comprehensive online portion—it was exciting to finally meet them in person. This preparatory phase set the stage for a weekend that also featured many different speakers and instructors.
One particular standout was Merryl Tengesdal, a retired military officer and the first, and only, Black woman to pilot the United States Air Force's U-2 spy plane. She remains one of five women, and became only the fourth Black person in 2004, to join the U-2 program. Maureen Casey, COO of the IVMF, engaged her in a conversation about her journey through the Navy and Air Force. The session was nothing short of inspiring.
Another highlight was the panel titled "Lessons Learned in Veteran and Military-Connected Owned Business." It featured IVMF Alums Venus Quates, CEO of LaunchTech; Rachel Bellamy, Vice President of Time Systems LLC; and Erin Roth, CEO and Executive Chef of Mrs. Jo's Petite Eats Patisserie & Cafe. Moderated by Crystal Wambeke, the discussion centered on challenges faced and insights they wished to impart to other veteran and military-connected entrepreneurs. This panel was incredibly insightful.
Beyond the scheduled sessions, the sidelines of V-WISE Jacksonville were full of energy. I had the opportunity to connect with a large, diverse group of ladies who shared their entrepreneurial journey, and even their military journey. Interactions like these underscore the importance of community and networking in our entrepreneurial endeavors.
V-WISE Jacksonville was a treasure trove of insights. From understanding business planning to mastering the art of social media and marketing, the event equipped me with tools, resources, and a renewed spirit. I won't ever forget this experience, and I'm excited for my next IVMF endeavor. I highly recommend women who are eligible for the program, those who have served, or are the spouse of a service member, to check out all the IVMF has to offer to make the transition to post-service lives more successful.
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