EBV veterans meet with UConn football team

Seven years removed from a tour of duty in Iraq just about seven months into a new business venture with his wife, Gulaid Ismail took a chance and called Mike Zacchea.
Zacchea is the academic specialist at UConn for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV), a program now in its fourth year at UConn. It’s designed to help disabled veterans work to make their business a success. And on Tuesday, Ismail and Pat Nelligan ate lunch and spoke to the members of the UConn football team has part of the EBV program.
“I’ve been in the military going on 32 years in the Army and Army Reserve,” said Nelligan, who lives in Bristol. “The EBV program is nothing more than taking a dream for these wounded warriors and hopefully making it a reality, with nine days of intense business boot camp. The program itself is amazing. UConn has embraced us. And everyone in the program has overcome adversity and won’t take no for an answer in their willingness to make their businesses a success.”
In 2010, UConn’s School of Business started doing the EBV program, one of seven universities across the country to commit to the program. The goal is to provide the veterans selected for the program with the education, skills, and connections to help make their passion for starting and owning their own businesses a reality.
This year, there are 24 veterans in the EBV program at UConn, including Ismail, who along with his wife, has started dribblebabies.com, an on-line infant and child clothing site.
“I heard of the program through word of mouth. I did some research, got an interview with Mike and got accepted,” Ismail said. “It’s been a huge eye-opener. We’ve changed our direction on how we’re doing business. How to market, how to sell to better service customers. It’s been wonderful.”
Ismail, a corporal, spent a year in Fallujah, Iraq as an infantryman. In addition to serving on countless foot patrols around the region, Ismail also serviced vehicles and was a team leader.
“My role was a little bit of everything,” he said. “We did a lot of peace-keeping missions across the country. We passed out toys, we spoke to the people. We faced a lot of fighting. We had moments where we had to deal with the enemy and attacks. Even when we lost people, we had to keep the mission going. We were always training for the unexpected.
“My experience in Iraq empowered me to work to start this business. Because eventually, my wife and I want to talk to other veterans and tell them that if we can do this, so can they.”