From Airman to entrepreneur

Story by Tech. Sgt. Jason Ketterer, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

Tech. Sgt. Ashlee Richards, 123rd Force Support Squadron Training Manager (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

FRANKFORT, Ky. – No more than a week after the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Louisville and the Kentucky National Guard, Tech Sgt. Ashlee Richards, 123rd Force Support Squadron Training Manager, began VetStart at the university’s College of Business. The Kentucky Veterans Program Trust Fund helps pays for a ten week class where veterans learn how to hone ideas, develop a business and strategic plan, and establish a network of others who can help as they move to start-up.

“We’re only about one week into it, but they’ve been more than helpful and I think it’s so great that programs like these are finally being established for veterans,” said Richards.  “Some of the guys who are in the class with me are veterans that were active duty, and when you come home, you don’t know exactly how to translate the skills that you’ve acquired over the years to the civilian marketplace. The programs that are being established are vital to their success on the civilian side.”

Richards, a Kentucky Guardsman with fifteen years of experience in the food service industry, plans to open a wine-tasting restaurant and bar in Louisville, Ky.  “I happened to visit a couple different wine-tasting bars over the past year and I think Louisville could really benefit from one. It would be a welcomed addition to our food and beverage scene here in the city,” added Richards.

Participants in the VetStart will receive up to $2,500 reimbursement toward valid start-up expenses and will have access to seasoned professionals for advice.

While the 123rd Airlift Wing starts its self-proclaimed “Year of Improvement,” the Force Support Squadron leadership knows that it starts with the individual. “There is a strong emphasis in Force Support in personal development. Not just on the military side but personally, physically and professionally. They’ve been very adamant about pushing ourselves,” added Richards.

Richards explains the other ways she has benefited from her enlistment with the Kentucky Air National Guard.

“They did pay for my college education first of all, [laughing] which is awesome. They’ve trained us on food services in Force Support, but on top of that, being a training manager I’ve learned the importance of communication skills, being detail-oriented and following through on everything. It’s given me the tenacity that is required to be an entrepreneur.”

Read more about U of L’S VetStart Program

About kentuckyguard