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May 20, 2018 | Tom Ballard

National “Veterans in Residence” program expanding to Nashville

(EDITOR’S NOTE: There were two events in Nashville late last week that we could not spotlight on Thursday or Friday due to timing and the announcement of Charlie Brock’s pending departure from Launch Tennessee. One of those events – Wednesday night’s “Bunker Labs Nashville Muster” – will be featured today. The other – the “TennSMART Spring Meeting” – will be spotlighted tomorrow.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Last week’s annual “Bunker Labs Nashville Muster” was a celebration of some exciting things that have happened in Tennessee recently as well as a preview of new opportunities that are on the horizon for veteran entrepreneurs, better known as vetrepreneurs.

About 100 individuals packed the first floor of the WeWork East Nashville location to hear several speaker including FedEx Founder Fred Smith (see our story on this Tennessee entrepreneurial legend from last year’s “36|86 Conference”). His fireside chat was preceded by a two-hour marketplace that featured about two dozen new businesses started by veterans and several important announcements from Blake Hogan, Executive Director and Founder of Bunker Labs Nashville.

“We’re doubling down here in Nashville,” Hogan told the attendees in announcing that a national partnership launched with the WeWork organization last November will be expanded to Nashville. Music City becomes the 11th city participating in the “Veterans in Residence” (VIR) initiative.

The concept was pilot tested in Denver before being rolled out in Austin, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC. The VIR program was also spotlight on CBS This Morning; click here to watch the video.

Applications for Nashville’s first VIR cohort opened last week and will be accepted through July 15. The inaugural class will be selected by August 8 with the program beginning later that month. Interested veterans can find the application here. Those selected to participate receive complimentary workspace for six months at a WeWork location and full member benefits that include access to a robust network of individuals.

“Our goal is to give you the resources to succeed,” Scotty Coleman, Director of the two WeWork Nashville locations, told the attendees. In addition to the East Nashville site at 901 Woodland Street, there is also a downtown location at One Nashville Place, 150 Fourth Avenue North.

The “Bunker Labs Nashville Muster” also included a celebration of the organization’s expansion across the state, thanks in large measure to a grant from Launch Tennessee. There are now four affiliates, better known as chapters, which are located in Chattanooga, Clarksville, Knoxville, and Memphis.

Melissa Hart, Community Chapter Leader in the “Gig City,” is a stay-at-home mother married to a military spouse. In describing her experience in helping launch that group, she said that she first asked: “What can a stay-at-home mom tell you?” She clearly had several solid insights to share.

“It is the spouses that get things done,” Hart said in explaining how she sees her role as Community Chapter Leader and vetrepreneur advocate and supporter.

On the matter of entrepreneurship in general, her advice was simple – “Just get started. Don’t get bogged down in details. Stop comparing where you are to others. Surround yourself with Bunker-minded people.”

In picture below, Blake Hogan speaks at the beginning of the “Bunker Labs Nashville Muster.”

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