Program Background

VetToCEO was founded in 2012 and is led by former SEAL Monty Heath and former Army Officers turned entrepreneurs Mike Horn and John Panaccione.

It originated in work with the Kauffman Foundation when Horn & Panaccione delivered six 10-week Kauffman FastTrac sessions as part of a 2012 grant, and included two separate blended online/classroom setting at Fort Bragg, N.C. Later, Entrepreneurship for Transitioning Warriors courses were provided to veterans at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, NC and to a private group in partnership with the US Special Operations Command’s Care Coalition.

Since then, ten online VetToCEO 7-week Entrepreneurship for Transitioning Warriors programs have been delivered to veterans and transitioning members of the military across the country (including active military deployed overseas), and today, the VetToCEO core program is a seven-week program.

You'll join a group of fellow qualified veterans (maybe some active duty military) who are either exploring entrepreneurship as a career path choice or aggressively completing their business plan. At the conclusion you'll have an understanding of whether entrepreneurship is for you, whether a start-up, franchise or purchase of an existing business best suits your goals and personality, and you'll have a fundable business concept.

You don't finish with VetToCEO’s program at the conclusion of the 7th session!

We're planning an exciting business plan competition for participants in this innovative session. Participants will compete for real cash to help them launch their business. Our competition will be held as part of an 8th session and will be judged by experienced entrepreneurs.

In addition, VetToCEO has a growing number of partnerships with funding sources focused on funding veteran-owned businesses, including StreetShares, Vet-Biz Network, Task Force X Capital Funding, and others.

Profile of Participants

Wondering if this is the right program for you? Fair question. There are lots of them out there - and the reality is you're busy. In general our participants are weighing their options. Some have committed to an entrepreneurial venture, but many are wondering whether that lifestyle is right for them; and if so, whether a start-up, franchise or business acquisition is most appropriate. A key step in that decision is to really understand the options and what's involved - and VetToCEO provides that context to help you decide what's best.

All our participants bring the valuable leadership, management, risk management and courage that are common to veterans. Some seek the purpose that they've found missing since they left the military while others, building on the discipline and self-reliance fostered during their service, seek to build a resilient lifestyle for themselves and their families.

Here are example profiles of our typical participants:

  • Transitioning vet leaving the service after 5-10 years
  • Active duty retiring after 20
  • National Guard and Reserve service members considering their options
  • Veterans retiring from one phase of a civilian career, wondering what's next
  • Veterans with MOSs which prepared them for in demand trades and technical careers who are eager to apply those in their own small business
  • Veterans who have already transitioned into a traditional civilian job....but feel like there's something missing and are looking for purpose and fulfillment

Wondering if you're a fit? We're happy to discuss the program with you one-on-one. Just contact us at

Instructors & Guest Speakers

The core program provides an important and proven handrail for a valuable learning experience. But during our time in the military we've all had seen first hand the difference between experienced, inspiring, capable leadership....and the alternative.

This VetToCEO session will be led and supported by an incredible lineup of instructors and guest speakers. They include:

Facilitators (with you every week)

Phil Thomas - Philip C. Thomas, founder and CEO of consulting firm Boston Business Group is a Navy Veteran who spent eight years as an intelligence officer. His subsequent business career includes 25+ years of high tech business leadership experience as a public and private company CEO, Phil has experienced many of the challenges inherent in navigating the difficult process of creating, growing, and sustaining a profitable enterprise. His business experience includes serving as the CEO and Founder of several successful high tech firms as well as CEO level leadership at a number of public companies. During his career, he was twice a finalist in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year program.

ed brzychcy to facilitate VetToCEO VFW veterans entrepreneurship trainingEd Brzychcy - Edward Brzychcy is a former Army SSG and Infantry squad leader with multiple War on Terror combat deployments. After medical retirement he earned an Entrepreneurial MBA from the highly respected Babson program, and launched the B2B consulting firm Blue Cord Management.

Guest speakers

    • 11 Jan - Courtney WilsonFeatured in a recent Military Times article on life as a veteran entrepreneur, Courtney is the CEO of DropZone for Veterans, a free, online search directory where military veterans and their families can discover and connect with private businesses and organizations that want to support them. She is a former Army Engineer Captain, combat veteran and Bronze Star Medal recipient and has been profiled in the New York Times and interviewed by CNN and NPR for her experience in Afghanistan, as well as named a ‘Military Entrepreneur Making a Difference’ by Military Officers Association of America.
    • 18 Jan - Jack Derby: A graduate of BC and University of Chicago, Jack has been president and CEO of several companies, EVP of Becton Dickinson Medical Systems and founded his consulting firm Derby Management 25 years ago. The firm assists businesses with strategic management and revenue growth and has deep expertise in angel, venture and private equity financing. He’s a professor of Entrepreneurial Marketing at Tufts University’s School of Engineering which named him the 2015 “Teacher of the Year” and a guest lecturer at MIT. Additionally, he’s active in many area organizations and is a director at Associated Industries of Massachusetts and a few area companies including Reiser and Chase Corp.
    • 25 Jan - Marvin Pena: Founder and Owner of Calvary Flooring, Marvin is a well known North Shore advocate of veterans of all types and particularly energetic in his support of disabled veteran programs. He's an active networker and has grown awareness and business for his flooring business.
    • 1 Feb - Jay Tangney: Executive Vice President & General Counsel at Suffolk Construction, Jay is a Navy Veteran. After becoming a partner at Mintz Levin several years after leaving the Navy, Jay embarked on a business career which has included a progression of roles with Holcim.
    • 8 Feb - Tom Coakleya college hockey standout holds a BA degree in economics from Brown University. Severely injured while serving with the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam Tom came home to the amputee ward at Walter Reed Army Hospital.  After multiple surgeries and months of rehabilitation he went on to earn an MBA from the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania   Initially Tom embarked on a corporate career in Philadelphia but soon returned to his hometown roots with his family’s company in Canton, NY culminating in a 17 year term as Vice President for Administrative Operations at St. Lawrence University. Over the years Tom has been recognized by Brown University as well as many other organizations and institutions for contributions to his community.  In 2008 he received the American Hockey Coach’s Lamoriello Award which is given annually to the former college coach or player who has distinguished himself in his profession after college. He’s also Treasurer of the Amputee Coalition and was featured on “60 Minutes” and in Tom Brokaw’s book BOOM.
    • 22 Feb - Dave Gowel & Brendan English: Dave Gowell is CEO of RallyPoint. After graduating from West Point Dave held a number of Army roles and is a combat veteran of the Iraq campaign. He's board advisor to Vets in Tech and The Wounded Warrior Foundation, and is extensively involved in software and high tech. Brendan English joined the Air Force after graduating from UMass and served mutliple combat tours as a CSAR helicopter pilot. Following a stint at the US Department of Transportation he returned to MA and founded RailPod and won MassChallenge (ahead of 1,200 competitors) in 2013 and MassTLC in 2014.

We'll be adding more detail and links as more speakers are confirmed.

Logistics Detail

The modules will be delivered from 6:30-9pm each Wednesday night at VFW Post 1093, 110 County Road, Ipswich, MA (about 1 hour north of Boston and South of Portsmouth, NH.)

We'll provide chow beginning at 6 so that you can come directly from work without sacrificing the chance to eat a reasonable meal.

We'll provide self-paced materials, available on-line, for participants to use during the week to prepare for the following weeks session to maximize the value.

We may be able to provide child care at the Ipswich Family YMCA at no charge for participants for whom that makes the difference in participating or not. (VFW Post 1093 is collocated with the Ipswich Family YMCA and collaborates on a number of programs.) If that will be an important consideration for you please contact us ASAP to discuss.

EBSCO Business Plan Contest

The optional 8th session will be the business plan competition at which participants will present their plans to be judged by experienced entrepreneurs, community leaders and executives from key sponsors.

Through sponsorship by EBSCO we will offer $30,000 in funding awards as follows:

1st place - $15K + 2,500 to defray expenses incurred raising funds

2nd place - $7.5K

3rd place - $5K

We'll update this section frequently as sponsorship grows.

Meet the Award Winners