Heropreneur event

Al Macias: Hero-preneur is an event empowering veterans through employment, education and entrepreneurship. Try to say that easily. While celebrating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, coming right after Veterans Day this week, joining me to talk about this event is Ronnie Williams, president of the HeroZona foundation, thank you for join us on "Horizonte." What is hero-preneurship? I can’t get that word, I apologize.

Ronnie Williams: Hero-preneur. So the HeroZona foundation is the foundation that I work with. We -- this is our second year, and we are putting on, what we call, the hero-preneur national veteran business summit and it’s a summit that helps veterans on three tracks: entrepreneurship, education and employment.

Al Macias: So this is the second year. How did you get here? How did this come about?

Ronnie Williams: We got here because of a vision. Our founder Alan A.P. Powell, Desert Storm Veteran, like myself, and just wanted to do something for veterans. Talked about how when he got out of the military, couldn't find a job. And his progression to where he got through education and through entrepreneurship and he just had a vision that has come to fruition now. The organization here Herozona foundation has been open since 2011 and we have great programs that support veterans and underserved students.

Al Macias: So I guess three different elements and tomorrow it kicks off, right?

Ronnie Williams: Yeah. We actually kicked off today. We had a bridge forum. The first U.S. veteran edition of the bridge forum, we brought in police and community luminaries, the bridge forum was moderated by Colonel Wanda Wright, retired U.S. Air Force veteran who is director of veteran services down at the V.A. And so just a great program. We actually take that information from the forum, and police departments implement from that. Not just the conversation, to have a conversation, but we actually implement.

Al Macias: So what kind of information are you sharing with the police?

Ronnie Williams: So we brought in experts that work with veterans. We had the veteran’s court there. We had family services for veterans and we take that information so that they are equipped with information that can help serve veterans we know that many veterans have challenged with PTSD and so the veterans court equipped with the information and working with police because they are the first responders many times. To help them better deal with certain situations.

Al Macias: The issue of employment. Many veterans come out and they’ve learned skills in the military, those skills are not always applicable to civilian life. How -- what are you doing to help those veterans? Is it learning new skills or learning how to use those skills and make them applicable.

Ronnie Williams: Right. That's always a challenge. You know, Wanda Wright, the Colonel retired, talked about when she got out as an ‘06 Colonel and had a challenge finding a job. What we do is we work with the Arizona Corporate council along with a program called Skills Bridge so those programs help military veterans that are transitioning to how to transition those skills into the private workplace.

Al Macias: How many veterans, how many people are you expecting at the event then?

Ronnie Williams: Oh at the event which will be -- of course, we had the first kickoff event’s today. So tomorrow on the 15th and then the 16th, we are expecting anywhere from a thousand to 1500. We are -- although we are based in Arizona, the hero-preneur national veteran business summit will some day move to other parts of the state. So we have veterans coming in from out of state as well even though we have over 200,000 veterans in the State of Arizona as well as probably 4,000 veteran business owners.

Al Macias: Wow. I had no idea. So, when you get to the entrepreneurship, I assume you are starting there, at a small level and teaching them. What kind of programs or how do you get an entrepreneur started?

Ronnie Williams: Right. So we have some great workshops that we have for those that really want to get started from having an idea to starting that business, what it takes to start that business to actually funding that business, and then from there to how to build capacity through partnerships and joint ventures. So we have a full array of services.

Al Macias: So are you -- are you working with existing companies, or are you helping these men and women start from the ground up? How does that work?

Ronnie Williams: Well we actually have-- We work with existing companies as well but we are also helping those who are starting from the ground up. We have a gentlemen, U.S. Air Force like myself, Paul Smiley, he has a very successful business, like your brother, Steve, right? And, so, these guys have gone through it. And, some of them will be teaching some of our workshops. So, they have actual hands on experience to show them exactly where they need to be.

Al Macias: Well, it's a great thing. I -- I -- my father was a veteran. World War II. I certainly appreciate all that they have done. And, I just personally think it's a great thing that you are doing. We have done some stories in my news organization about the challenges they face and I think it's great. If you were -- what would be the one piece of advice that you would want to let people know about this program?

Ronnie Williams: Well this program, again, is all about the veteran community. We are mission focused. We’re laser mission focused on veterans. We know that veterans have, myself being a veteran, we put our lives on the line and many times some have come back home and not been able to find a job. So there’s a lot of great things I can say about veterans being goal-oriented, going to get the job done and so we are here to help them do that.

Al Macias: Well thank you. Thank you for your service and I would like to thank all of you for watching and I hope you have a good night. Thank you. ♪ ♪

Video: "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona PBS members of your PBS station.

The Heropreneur is an event empowering veterans through employment, education and entrepreneurship while celebrating the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI. Joining us to talk about this event is Ronnie Williams, president of the HeroZona Foundation.

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In this segment:

Ronnie Williams, president of the HeroZona Foundation

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