Program helps veteran entrepreneurs learn to grow businesses

World War II was over. The Allies emerged victorious, and more than 3 million veterans were returning to America to start families and resume civilian life.

It was a prosperous time for the country, and veterans were major contributors to America building on its post-war status as the most powerful and wealthy country in the world as 50% of the veterans returning from the war started businesses of their own.

Veteran helps others find success after military service

These days, the percentage of veterans starting businesses has decreased dramatically to 5%, according to Alex McKindra, the managing director and co-head of Veterans Initiatives for JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking. While the sheer influx of veterans returning to civilian life in such dramatic numbers in such a short time is nowhere close to it was after World War II, McKindra wants to help raise that 5% dramatically.

“I just believe there aren’t enough resources out there for the veteran community to help themselves be more successful in entrepreneurship,” said McKindra, who graduated from West Point in 1993 and then completed a tour of duty serving as captain in the Air Force. He earned his MBA from the University of Southern California while serving at the Los Angeles Air Force Base.

McKindra and Army veteran Terry Hill are leading JPMorgan Chase’s efforts to develop CEOcircle with Bunker Labs, a national nonprofit that helps veteran small business owners. CEOcircle is a 13-month peer accountability program where veteran business owners and their families can take advantage of guidance and resources including networking and financial mentoring from JPMorgan Chase advisors.

The mentorship program launched nationally last year to help mid-size, military connected companies grow. Last year, 43 veterans participated. The second cohort has expanded to almost 71 business owners, of which 43% are minorities and 70% are disabled veterans.

“We want to encourage more vets to follow the path of entrepreneurship and help tip the scales in their favor through mentorship and education so they can succeed, first and foremost, and then come back and hire more vets themselves,” McKindra said.

CEOcircle is the latest program for veterans from JPMorgan Chase. Its Military Pathways Development Program is a two-year rotational program that recruits top-rated military veterans for leadership positions within the company. According to the company’s website, 81 veterans have been hired to the company since 2013, with a goal of eventually bringing in 30 new veterans each year.