Business boot camp gives veterans confidence to chase their entrepreneurial dreams
Posted: August 22, 2019 10:15 a.m.
Trevor Stoddard, an alumnus of Prince's Operation Entrepreneur, is the owner of TAFF's food truck in Saskatoon. He credits POE with instilling in him the confidence to pursue his entrepreneurial dream. Photo courtesy of Trevor Stoddard
Prince's Operation Entrepreneur (POE) is taking place this week at the University of Regina. The annual week-long business boot camp, in partnership with Prince's Trust Canada, Enactus Regina, and the Paul J. Hill School of Business, brings transitioning Canadian Armed Forces veterans from across the country to Regina to learn the skills necessary to launch their own businesses. University of Regina professors volunteer their time to lead sessions on topics including competitive advantage, market research, business planning, and financing. Now in its seventh year, the University of Regina is honoured to host the only POE business boot camp of its kind west of Quebec, and has more than 120 graduates.
One successful alumnus of the program is Trevor Stoddard, a Saskatoon-based entrepreneur who completed the program in 2016. After being medically released from the military, having served 29 years as a supply technician, Trevor decided to pursue his passion for culinary arts and his interest in food trucks. He completed the culinary arts program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, but needed further guidance and mentorship to see his entrepreneurial dream become a reality. This past April, Trevor launched TAFF's, an all-keto food truck in his native Saskatoon - thanks in part to many of the skills he learned during his time with POE.
We caught up with Trevor to chat about his experience with POE and launching his own business.
Tell us about your passion for culinary arts come from.
My passion for culinary arts came from my mother. She always loved to bake and cook, and I always really enjoyed it. When I joined the military at age 18, I wanted to be a cook, but there were no openings. About seven or eight years ago, I started to get curious about food trucks and did a ton of research. I talked about food trucks so much that all of my coworkers knew that is the business that I would end up starting! As soon as I was released from the military, I went back to school to study culinary arts.
How did you get involved with POE?
When I finished my culinary arts program, I started to seriously consider how I could get my food truck idea off the ground. Through some military friends, I had heard about POE and applied. More than 300 veterans applied, and I ended up being one of the lucky ones to get in that year.
Describe your boot camp experience.
It was very unique. We would often joke that we were learning "by firehose" as it is such an intensive program. Most days we were in the classroom from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. - after not being in this type of classroom setting in years. Going into the program, I didn't know any of my fellow classmates but it was really interesting to meet people with such similar experiences from all across the country. As we went through the program, with the support we received from each other, from our mentors, and through the knowledge we gained, there was a collective "I can do this". It really gave all of us the confidence to chase after our dreams, and I can truly say that I would not be where I am today without POE. The continued support has also been tremendous. We have a Facebook group to stay connected to our classmates and teachers where we regularly ask questions. I am still in contact with my mentors who are available to give me advice. It is a really amazing community they have created.
Where did the idea for a keto food truck come from?
I had experienced tremendous health benefits after switching to a keto lifestyle. I had lost more than 50 pounds and got my diabetes on track. A couple of years ago, I was at a Winnipeg Jets playoff game that had dozens of food trucks, but not one had keto options. After the game, on my drive back to Saskatoon, I formulated the idea for an all-keto truck, and haven't looked back. To the best of my knowledge, we are the only fully keto food truck in Western Canada, and have attracted a devoted fan base of people who follow a keto lifestyle, and others who just come for good food!
What have you gained from your time with POE?
It really instills a sense of purpose. There are a lot of ex-military members who finish their service and don't know where to go. This program helps veterans to realize that they matter and are still valuable as people. So many of the skills learned in the military are transferrable to the business world. The bottom line is that POE provided me with the skills I needed, the confidence to chase after my idea, and to see how I could accomplish my dreams!
Learn more about Prince's Trust Operation Entrepreneur
Read about 2018's edition of POE at the University of Regina
Follow TAFF's on Facebook