Veterans business summit continues organizer’s mission to serve

For Ricardo Garcia, helping set up a summit last year to bring veterans who owned businesses together was more than an exercise in providing entrepreneurs resources.

It was also a way that the U.S. Air Force veteran could continue on his mission to serve.

“We want to help veterans leverage the skills they have learned in the military but in a business setting,” said Garcia, who spent time in Afghanistan in 2008 in support of Operation: Enduring Freedom. “It’s sometimes hard to find support and the VEI fills that role. My new mission and purpose is to help veterans find their own new mission.”

The Veterans Entrepreneurship Initiative’s summit returns for its second year at 1 p.m. Thursday at GuideWell Innovation Center in Lake Nona.

The event will include panels of veterans who have successfully launched businesses, along with education for entrepreneurs.

“This is about fostering collaboration among the community,” Garcia said.

Ricardo Garcia

Garcia expects veteran entrepreneurs from as far away as the northeast United States and Austin, Texas, to attend.

Last year, the event drew more than 200.

That number, which Garcia expects to be surpassed this year, included established entrepreneurs, those looking to start their first business and everything in between.

“We want to inspire the next generation of veteran entrepreneurs,” he said.

The VEI’s board consists of Garcia, Rebecca Dobo and Rafael Camaaña.

Catalyst of homegrown companies I Entrepreneurship Center Management Certificate I Certified Facilitator I Certified B

U.S. Census data in 2021 showed that veterans owned more than 300,000 businesses in the U.S.

Those businesses employed more than 3.3 million workers and contributed $180 million in annual wages.

Central Florida has become a hub of veteran entrepreneurship because of its robust military ecosystem.

Entrepreneurship and Service

The connections between entrepreneurship and military training become clear when considered individually.


Attention to detail.



The skills that military training focuses on are also the skills business owners need to survive the challenge of entrepreneurship.

“This is about being a part of something much bigger than me,” Garcia said. “The military is all about an unsurpassed level of camaraderie. I know that anybody to the left or right of me while in action had my back.”

“You have to be resilient to any situation and be able to adapt (in the military) because it’s a life-or-death situation,” he said. “Those traits translate really well to entrepreneurship.”

The Summit will also welcome U.S. Marine Corps veteran Dr. Theresa Larson and DJ and local Orlando personality Carlos Navarro as keynote speakers.

You can learn more about who to expect at the summit’s website.