In a classroom at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, a professor is running through the calculations needed to figure out "the IRR". That's the internal rate of return. A group of 20 men and women take notes. "The cash flow I get in year one needs to be brought back by some rate of return," he tells them, scribbling on a whiteboard.
The students listening intently are not aspiring Wall Street titans. They are disabled veterans who have either started small businesses, or hope to.
They're here for a 9-day "Entrepreneurship Boot Camp", and UCLA isn't charging them a dime.
"I was injured in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan," says Army combat veteran Edward Ruvalcaba. He joined the military right out of high school and says he's witnessed "the History Channel" up close: Panama when Noriega lost power, Berlin when the wall came down, Gulf War I and II. Somewhere in the first Gulf War he contracted serious respiratory and skin problems (remember the oil field fires?) which require him to be on several medications. "I'm working through it," he says, without an ounce of self-pity.
Last year Ruvalcaba started a janitorial company called Guaranteed Cleaning Services, in Brea, California. "I've been somewhat successful," he says, adding, "this boot camp here has really shed a lot of light on some of the errors I've made." He's learned that his pricing isn't competitive. He isn't charging too much, but too little. "That's in my nature of serving my country and believing that I'm just being humble, and I'm learning here that if you're not profitable, then you shouldn't be in that type of business."
The "boot camp" for disabled vets started at Syracuse University, and has since spread to four other universities: UCLA, Purdue, Texas A&M, and Florida State. If you had to pay for this education, it would probably cost $10,000. But donations cover all expenses.