Institute for Veterans and Military Families Hosts First-Ever Woman Veteran, Military Spouse National Conference for V-WISE Program Alumni

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Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship National Graduate Training Conference is made possible through the generous support of Sam’s Club

The Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) program will host its first-ever National Conference in San Antonio, Texas, from November 1 – 3, 2014. More than 300 V-WISE alumni will continue to develop their entrepreneurial skills.

The National Conference will be the first-ever that brings together graduates from each of the ten V-WISE programs held to date across the country. An experienced group of business leaders, educators, military leaders, and resource providers will join together at The Westin Riverwalk, San Antonio, where women veterans, transitioning female service members, and military wives and partners will network and learn effective strategies to grow their businesses. Successful alumni will speak at the conference to share their stories and sessions will include everything from harnessing e-commerce to becoming a “social media ninja”.

“We know that women-owned firms are more likely to reach their full potential when given access to training and financial literacy that prepares them to start and grow a business,” said Heather Mayo, senior vice president of operations at Sam’s Club. “The women veteran graduates of V-WISE are passionate and determined to achieve their dreams. Sam's Club is thrilled to pave the way to success for these women who have given so much to their country."

V-WISE was developed by Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management with support from the U.S. Small Business Administration, and provides cutting-edge entrepreneurship training to women veterans from any branch or era of military service, any military component, female spouses or partners of active duty personnel, and veterans looking to start a business venture.

The V-WISE program is a part of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), which leverages higher education to design, develop and deliver world-class educational programs for veterans, their families and community stakeholders. The institute’s educational programs are designed to provide veterans and their families with the skills needed to be successful in education, work and life.

The National Conference will be full of firsts for V-WISE graduates. Here are a few event highlights:

  • Pitch Competition: Ten talented V-WISE graduates have made it to the semi-finals of the highly competitive V-WISE Business Pitch Competition. Generously sponsored by Newman’s Own Foundation, the competition will allow these V-WISE graduate business owners the exclusive opportunity to win up to $20,000 to take their business to the next level. Graduates have already submitted their entries online, but the semi-finals and finals will happen during the conference, with cash prizes announced on the final day of the conference.
  • Graduate Presentation: For the first time ever, a keynote will be delivered by a V-WISE graduate voted on by her fellow graduates. Twenty bold leaders competed, and Team SOAR was selected.
  • FIRST Leadership Panel: Select leaders honored as ‘FIRSTS’ during previous events will join together on a panel focusing on how military culture prepares small business owners to lead from the front.
  • Business Expo and Graduate Directory: Thirty graduates will showcase their businesses during registration. National Conference attendees will also receive a directory with contact info for more than 120 graduates’ successful businesses.

The V-WISE program empowers women to learn business skills and turn their dreams of small business ownership into real ventures. V-WISE builds on the leadership, integrity, focus, and drive instilled by the military experience through premier educational training led by accomplished entrepreneurs and educators from across the country. Both growth and startup training tracks are offered to serve the spectrum of business owners and their business development stages.

According to survey results from program alumni, from 2012 - 2014, V-WISE has impacted more than 1,300 female veterans and military spouses in over 40 states and across all service branches and eras, with more than 56 percent of V-WISE graduates starting or growing a venture after attending the conference.

Media members are welcome to attend the conference and meet with attendees, speakers, and organizers. Contact Kalen Arreola, kalen(at)starsandstripesmkt(dot)com or 858-525-2498 for more information.
The IVMF is the first national center in higher education focused on the social, economic, education and policy issues impacting veterans and their families post-service. Through our focus on veteran-facing programming, research and policy, employment and employer support, and community engagement, the institute provides in-depth analysis of the challenges facing the veteran community; best practices and serves as a forum to facilitate new partnerships and strong relationships between individuals and organizations committed to making a difference for veterans and military families. Learn more about IVMF at For questions about V-WISE contact James Schmeling: jschmeli(at)syr(dot)edu.

Sam’s Club, the nation’s eighth largest retailer and a leading U.S. membership club, offers savings and surprises to millions of members in 643 U.S. club locations and at The Sam’s Club Giving Program, established by the Walmart Foundation in 2008, is dedicated to micro- and small business prosperity, investing more than $11 million in national and local programs dedicated to improved training, education and increased access to capital for small business owners. For more information on national or local giving, visit


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