Project OpportunitySM - Logo
Beth Goldberg, Safeway Eastern Division Senior Manager for Community and Public Affairs, presenting Safeway Foundation Grant in support of Project Opportunity<sup><p id=SM to Gregory Padgham, Director Tri County Council for Lower Eastern Shore and Joe Giordano, Founder Project Opportunity” width=”450″ height=”539″ /> Beth Goldberg, Safeway Eastern Division Senior Manager for Community and Public Affairs, presenting Safeway Foundation Grant in support of Project OpportunitySM to Gregory Padgham, Director Tri County Council for Lower Eastern Shore and Joe Giordano, Founder Project Opportunity

Project OpportunitySM was awarded a grant, as one of the seventeen finalists from the Safeway Foundation. The grant award will assist Project OpportunitySM in offering two classes during 2019.

$321,000 in Safeway Foundation grants will support seventeen local organizations that provide area veterans with assistance in career training, stress counseling, social activities and rehab programs, and support to the families of fallen soldiers. Funds were raised during the month of October at stores in DC, VA, MD and DE, where customers were asked to “Support Our Veterans.”

Safeway Foundation and Safeway believe our veterans’ sacrifice and service should be honored”, said Tom Lofland, Safeway Eastern Division President. “We are proud to help support their transition back into civilian life.”

Veterans organizations receiving grants included: American Humane, Blue Star Families, Inc., Central Union Mission, Easter Seals Serving DC/MD/VA, Goodwill Industries of The Chesapeake, Inc., Hero Dogs, Home Away Transitional Services, Hylton Performing Arts Center, Maryland Center for Veteran Employment & Training, Project OpportunitySM (Tri-County Council Foundation, Inc.), Rebuilding Together DC/Alexandria, Sekhem Health Healing, The Mission Continues, The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, U.S. Veteran Initiative (USVETS), United Way of Central Maryland and USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore.

Project OpportunitySM is a free entrepreneurship training program which has been designed solely for veterans who want to start their own business. The prerequisite for veterans who wish to be considered to participate is they must have a solid idea of what business venture they want to start because the course is designed to develop and complete a comprehensive business plan instead of just exploring the possibility of entrepreneurship. The program is a 10 week (30 hour) intensive course designed to prepare participants to research and complete a business plan.

Safeway Foundation Mission

Our Foundation supports causes that impact our customers’ lives. Our stores provide the opportunity to mobilize funding and create awareness in our neighborhoods through our employees’ passion, partnerships with our vendors and the generous contributions by our customers.

Carefully directing contributions, we work in collaboration with local organizations and seek to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve.  We take pride in ensuring that the vast majority of the funds we raise stays in local communities and reflects what is important to our customers and employees.

Project OpportunitySM - Logo

Andrea Garris Jackson, Co-Founder of the Maryland Military and Veteran Women Business Conference presenting Certificate of Appreciation after discussing Project OpportunitySM with attendees.


The conference is designed to provide information and resources to active duty military personnel, transitioning soldiers, military spouses and veterans in order to grow their businesses successfully.


Our mission is to ignite entrepreneurial synergy by bringing together military personnel, business owners, emerging entrepreneurs, organizations, government agencies and private sector representatives to share best practices and provide resources on how to do business together.

For more information please go to:

Project OpportunitySM - Logo

Project OpportunitySM is pleased to announce that we have had three graduates selected for the Initial Global Good Fund Veterans Leadership Program.  Congratulations Fred Barnes, Phillip Scott, and Enrique Young.

Fred Barnes

Fred Barnes is a graduate of the Columbia Fall 2013 Class.  His business is TAC Integrated Solutions (  TAC Integrated Solutions specializes in protecting Critical Information and empowering Information Discovery in support of the Defense, Intelligence, National Security and Federal Civilian missions. We leverage developed technology coupled with subject matter expertise to apply towards solving complex challenges in the following areas:  Advanced Analysis, Enterprise/IT Security, and Cyber Solutions.

Phillip Scott

Phillip Scott is a graduate of the Baltimore Spring 2017 Class.  He is the owner of Jetseal, Inc. (  They provide the following services:

  • Parking lot maintenance and repair
  • Driveway maintenance and repair
  • Sealcoating
  • Striping
  • Snow removal
  • Signage
  • Paving
  • Crack repair

Enrique Young

Enrique Young is a graduate of the Columbia Spring 2014 Class.  He is the Founder of FEBA, Inc (  FEBA has the experience to quickly mobilize personnel, management and assets to provide Protective Security and Event Staffing services to mitigate risk and enhance efficiency at various locations in the Country, to include MGM properties and specifically the Theater at National Harbor, Maryland. FEBA understands the possible nefarious threats that could befall the Theater at National Harbor and has taken every precaution to ensure that the security personnel assigned to the Back Stage areas in general and the theater in particular are professional and capable of preventing hostile acts and are proactive in apprehending and stopping those individuals bent on making a public statement or injuring Theater Patrons. Since February 1, 2017, FEBA has provided back stage event security support for more than 25 shows. FEBA is ready and has been responsive to Theater Management calls and in many cases were able to provide theater support with quality personnel with little notice.

The Global Good Fund

The Global Good Fund recognizes that Veterans have received leadership training throughout their military service.  While many military leadership traits translate well into business, Veteran entrepreneurs like all entrepreneurs face unique challenges in growing and scaling their businesses.  According to the Small Business Administration, there are 2.5 million Veteran owned businesses that employ over 5 million people.

In an effort to support the leadership needs of Veteran entrepreneurs, The Global Good Fund has partnered with the Smithfield Foundation to launch the Veterans Leadership Program to provide personalized leadership development, executive mentoring and $10,000 in targeted capital to invigorate the leadership growth of veteran entrepreneurs. In 2018, the Global Good Fund will select 5 Veteran entrepreneurs to participate in the program.

For more information about this program please visit their website:

Project OpportunitySM - Logo

This story originally appeared in the August 13 edition of the Laurel Star. is posted with permission and the original article can be read here: Tony Russon Digital Clips

Joe Giordano, Founder of Project Opportunity

Project OpportunitySM free entrepreneur training for vets will be offered this fall. There is an interest meeting beginning 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24, at the Wicomico Partnership, 408 Cole Circle in Salisbury.

Military service can give a person access to as much self-knowledge as it can intellectual knowledge. Training teaches them a skill, but it also teaches a lesson about limits and wherewithal. Increasingly, though, learning to translate military training into marketable private sector skills upon discharge can be difficult. This seems to be particularly true in Maryland, which has the highest unemployed veteran rate in the country.

Project OpportunitySM, a program aimed at walking vets through the entrepreneurial process, aims to change that. Founded by Army veteran Joe Giordano, Salisbury, Md., in 2010, Project OpportunitySM provides veterans from throughout the peninsula who have the will a way to focus their drive. Over the course of a little more than two months, participants will learn to create a solid business plan and then write that plan.

The ten-week course can be challenging, even for people who already have endured boot camp, but in the end, the successful participants have a document they can take to a bank, investors, or one of the other entrepreneurial support programs, like SCORE or the Salisbury Small Business Development Center.
Over the last five years, Giordano has held at least two sessions per year all over the middle of the state. He’s had a hand in helping successful entrepreneurs on the Eastern Shore, in Anne Arundel and Howard counties and throughout southern Maryland. Over the last five years, more than 140 people have graduated from the program, one-third of whom were on the Eastern Shore. Giordano said the program has an 87-percent completion rate.

When he started Project OpportunitySM, Giordano already had more than a decade of private sector experience in workforce development. Working with states, counties and municipalities as well as private industry, he was able to put his organizational experience from the military to good use in the private sector.
But experience is only part of the equation. Giordano knew he needed the right tools to accomplish his vision of establishing a free program to help veterans bring their ideas into the real world. To that end, he elected to follow the NxLevel Curriculum, a nationally recognized training program. Using the guidelines and course materials Giordano constructed the bones of the program.

As with any other project, it requires a lot of people with a lot of expertise to get all the work that needs to be done completed. Small business owners have to, at the very least, have a working knowledge of the financial, marketing and legal aspects of running a business. To this end, Giordano engages speakers who come in and do workshops with the students: bankers review their cash flow analyses, marketing professionals review their marketing plans, etc.
At the end, students know whether or not their plan needs more work or whether it might make sense to begin seeking finance immediately. In either case, the program already will have given them the tools they need to take the next step.

The training is intensive, so people are encouraged to have a working idea about the business they would like to start.

“I need veterans who are focused, because we hit the ground running,” Giordano said.

The program includes 30 hours of classroom time (three hours per week for 10 weeks) and about 25 hours per week of homework.
The homework is for real. The Project OpportunitySM training assumes that people come to work. Giordano said that for many, the first week is the hardest, because even though the participants believe they know what it is like to have to do 25 hours of extra work every week, it isn’t until they are in the middle of it that the true implications hit home.

“When we tell them there’s 25 hours of outside work, a lot of times I don’t think they understand what that means,” Giordano said.

Before the classes start in September, there is an interest meeting, to give people a program overview.

“I call it the good the bad and the ugly of entrepreneurial training,” Giordano said.

During the two hour presentation, he lays out the course description and takes questions about procedures and opportunities. Even though the classes are free, class space is limited, so it is important that people who are interested are prepared to make the commitment. Commitment and dedication aren’t a real problem for veterans, but it is critical that they are informed about the entire project.

This session of classes will be split between Easton and Salisbury. The Easton classes will be held at the DLLR Workforce Center on Bay Street, and the Salisbury classes will be held at the Wicomico Partnership on Coles Circle.

Project OpportunitySM - Logo

Michael I. Kaplan author of “The Prior-Service Entrepreneur” conducted an interview with Project OpportunitySM Founder, Joe Giordano. The interview and article are used with permission and re-printed below.

Please feel free to connect with Michael I. Kaplan:

Phone: (912) 777-7500
Email: [email protected]


The success of “Project Opportunity” is an excellent model for veteran programs everywhere.

The economic and employment outlook for the next 24 months looks rather uninspiring. Real unemployment is in the double-digits, the new jobs being created are less than appealing, and veterans entering the civilian labor market are going to find it increasingly difficult to compete for positions despite their extraordinary value.

Do you want to ignore that reality, complain about it or do something to address the issue that actually makes a difference? If you’re like Joe Giordano, Director of Project OpportunitySM, failure is not an option and actions always speak louder than words.

Joe developed Project OpportunitySM, a free entrepreneurship training program for veterans who wish to start a small business or expand their current small business as an alternative to traditional employment and in response to the high unemployment rate among the veteran population. Project OpportunitySM started on the Eastern Shore of Maryland of 2010 and has continued as an annual training program. Over the past few years it has expanded to Annapolis, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Southern Maryland.

I had the pleasure of connecting with Joe in a professional capacity and becoming familiar with his work with aspiring veteran entrepreneurs. I was truly impressed with the programs’ mission, its successful outcomes and the ease of which the program can be replicated on state and national levels.

Those who know me understand that when I get excited about a program that’s helping veterans to succeed and prosper, I have to share that with the world. I had the opportunity to sit down with Joe Giordano recently and ask him a few questions about his program. His thoughtful answers should serve as a model for veteran entrepreneurship programs in every state in America.

Michael: What inspired you to develop Project OpportunitySM, and what do you hope to accomplish in the next 24 months?

Joe: Project OpportunitySM was developed to offer veterans an alternative to traditional employment and to assist in the high unemployment rate among veterans in 2010. Over the next 24 months I hope to be able to expand the program to other areas of Maryland, we currently have 115 veterans on the waiting list for future classes. I also am working on developing a stronger mentorship program for those who have completed the course.

Michael: At a time when the majority of Veteran Service Organizations are focused on getting veterans hired into conventional jobs, why did Project OpportunitySM choose to focus on entrepreneurial small business?

Joe: It just made sense. Veterans are excellent candidates for entrepreneurship because they already possess the four most important traits of successful small business owners: Self Discipline, Motivation, Problem Solving Skills, and the Ability to Multitask.

Michael: How long is the training program and what can veterans expect to take away from the course?

Joe: The course is 30 hours of classroom (3 hours a week for 10 weeks) utilizing the NxLevel Business Plan Basic curriculum. Each week there is approximately 20 hours of outside work (reading assignments, homework assignments, and research for business plan material). Each veteran should walk away with the knowledge and resources necessary to complete their business plan and be able to move forward to the next step in their business venture.

Michael: Once a veteran has completed the Project OpportunitySM training program, what type of support network do they have to give them the best chance for success?

Joe: The primary support network is for the veterans to maintain contact with myself and their course instructor. Additionally, resources introduced during the course such as SBTDC, SCORE, local bankers and marketing experts, and micro lending agencies and organizations serve as excellent support as they move forward with the business venture.

Michael: How many veterans are currently taking advantage of project opportunity, and what’s the graduation rate for those who choose to attend?

Joe: There have been a total of eleven classes with 114 veterans accepted and 96 who have completed the course, giving us a graduation rate of 84%. Reasons for not completing the course include relocation, medical issues, realization that the business concept not feasible, and not being able to commit time to course due to work conflicts.

Michael: In addition to the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship and the Walmart Foundation, what other supporters does Project OpportunitySM partner with to be able to offer this free program to veteran entrepreneurs?

Joe: We partner with the Annapolis Economic Development Corporation, the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation, the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation, the Tri County Council of Southern Maryland, the Lower Shore Workforce Alliance, TEDCO, Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, SCORE, SBA Baltimore District Office, local Maryland Department of Labor and Regulation Veterans Employment Representatives, local VA Vocational Rehabilitation Office, and the Small Business Technology and Development Center Offices.

Michael: In addition to business professionals from the private sector who serve as lecturers and mentors, how else does the community support your vision, mission and goals?

Joe: We have formed partnerships with regional government economic development agencies which have been an outstanding source of support, from offering classrooms for our courses to working with program graduates to assist them in launching their business ventures. Any time we approach an individual from the private sector or a public sector agency for assistance the response is always enthusiastic and a commitment is made almost immediately to provide the subject matter expertise and technical assistance necessary to be able to offer the veteran participants the best entrepreneurial education possible.

America’s veteran wage earners – a noble and good-hearted group of well-meaning individuals – are worried about claiming their “piece of the pie.” They work hard for it and they’re taking every step possible to protect it. That’s totally understandable. Good jobs are hard to come by in today’s economy and even harder to keep.

While they’re busy doing that, however, veteran entrepreneurs graduating from the Project OpportunitySM training program in Maryland are making more pies. We need more veterans with entrepreneurial mindsets to get involved who understand we don’t need to fiercely protect smaller pieces of an increasingly shrinking pie.

We need more pies, and only entrepreneurs can make that happen.

Most of us know that our military veterans are uniquely suited to that task. I encourage everyone to connect with Joe Giordano and learn more about Project OpportunitySM and the entrepreneurial spirit that is allowing our veterans in Maryland to become so successful.

Project OpportunitySM - Logo

Click here for a copy of the original press release.

Joe Giordano, with Project OpportunitySM was recently recognized and awarded the 2014 Maryland Small Business Week Award in the “Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year”. Congratulations Joe, and all of the other winners below.

BALTIMORE—The winners of the 2014 Maryland Small Business Week Awards Program were announced today by Stephen D. Umberger, District Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Baltimore District Office. Winners will be honored at the 30th Annual Maryland Small Business Week Awards Luncheon Thursday, May 15th at Martin’s West in Woodlawn, Md.

This year’s winners are:

  • Accountant Advocate of the Year: Donald Cunningham, Donald Cunningham, CPA LLC, Millersville
  • Attorney Advocate of the Year: Chad Malkus, Esq., Michael Hodes, LLC, Cambridge
  • District Director’s Unsung Hero Award: Rich Loeffler, Maryland Small Business & Technology Development Center, Wye Mills
  • Entrepreneurial Success of the Year: Danny Farrar & David Posin, Soldierfit, Frederick
  • Family Owned Small Business of the Year: Kim Lawson, Fishpaws Marketplace, Arnold
  • Financial Services Champion of the Year: Steve Primosch, Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., Annapolis
  • Home-Based Business Champion of the Year: Barbara Zimmer, B. Zimmer & Co., Pasadena
  • Insurance Advocate: Nancy Ann Nicklow, W. Ray Huff Insurance, Pasadena
  • Maryland Small Business Person of the Year: Stephanie Novak Hau, Chesapeake Environmental Management, Bel Air
  • Minority Small Business Champion of the Year: Charles Ramos, CR Dynamics, Baltimore
  • Small Business Exporter of the Year: John Doran, Centreville Trailers, Centreville
  • Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year: Joe Giordano, Project OpportunitySM, Salisbury
  • Women in Business Champion of the Year: Shabri Moore, Moore Wealth, Inc., Frederick
  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Matt Wyble, Champion Realty, Severna Park

Each year the President of the United States declares national small business week in celebration of the contributions of the small business community to the nation’s economy. The SBA holds the annual awards competition to recognize outstanding small business owners and their advocates. National Small Business Week activities will be held May 12-16, 2014 at various locations across the country.

For more information contact Rachel Howard at (443) 848-7025 or at [email protected]. For information on the 2014 Maryland Small Business Week Awards Luncheon or for tickets, visit the event website at

Project OpportunitySM - Logo

Glen Burnie, MD (March 19, 2014) – The Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation (AAWDC) today announced that eight veterans have successfully completed the Project OpportunitySM training program and graduated in a ceremony at the Youth Employment Center in Glen Burnie on Tuesday, March 18. The graduates are: Howard Biddle, Janeen Birkhead, Patricia Buckley, Greg Coster, Chuck Davis, Regina Gillens, Jason Harris and Emma McClain.

An AAWDC-funded, 10-week veteran’s training program, Project OpportunitySM supports entrepreneurship through education, mentorship, loan opportunities and business development and planning.

“I founded Project OpportunitySM in the fall of 2010 and have since trained 100 veterans and graduated 81 in the state of Maryland,” explained Joe Giordano, founder of Project Opportunity. “This is the first time we have done training in collaboration with AAWDC and the results are excellent.”

“Not only are we giving veterans the knowledge and tools to create wealth by starting their own businesses, this program also has a positive effect on Anne Arundel County’s economy and creates employment opportunities for our residents,” said Kirkland Murray, CEO and President of AAWDC.

“I had the good fortune of working with Joe and Project OpportunitySM previously in Howard County, so I know firsthand the value of this program,” said County Executive Laura Neuman. “Congratulations to all of our graduates. I know that they are well-prepared to enter into this new phase of their careers and I hope they will pursue their dreams right here in Anne Arundel County.”

One of the graduates, Chuck Davis, has already started his window-cleaning business, Kiss My Glass of USA ( “This program, although rigorous, set me on a path for success,” explained Mr. Davis. “With the tools I learned, I can now develop and refine my business plan and prepare for anticipated growth in the future.”

The guest speaker was Anne Arundel Economic Development’s President/CEO Ed Rothstein and the sponsors were Mission BBQ and Alan I. Elkin, CEO of Advance.

To view pictures of the event, please visit AAWDC’s Facebook page:!/media/set/?set=a.276760182484293.1073741827.138670862959893&type=1

Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation (AAWDC) is a 501(c) (3) Corporation charged with providing workforce and training services to Anne Arundel County citizens and businesses. AAWDC operates seven One-Stop Career Centers that offer innovative workforce solutions to businesses and job seekers. Business services include customized recruitment assistance, job postings, business retention, training funds for incumbent workers, and workforce transportation solutions. Job seeker services include job search assistance, career guidance, career development and computer skills workshops, access to our resource center, training assistance, and supportive service referrals. Please visit for more information.

Media Contact: 

Theresa Downs
[email protected]

Project OpportunitySM - Logo

– Originally posted on November 24th, 2013 by SHANTEÉ WOODARDS for the Capital Gazette. You can read the original article here.

Tim Longmire wants to start a business that eventually provides 24-hour grooming and other services to dogs.

First, he needs a storefront. And financing. And a bunch of other things he wasn’t sure about until he entered Project Opportunity. The Navy veteran is part of the first Annapolis group to be involved in a 10-week program that teaches veterans how to become entrepreneurs. As a result, he and his wife plan to move forward with Bark, Bathe, Board & Beyond by 2015 at the latest.

“(The program) had very knowledgeable people in the field and you could ask them anything you wanted. You didn’t have to sit on the phone,” said Longmire, an Arnold resident who was once stationed at Pearl Harbor. He added that he thinks his military training prepared him for the entrepreneurial lifestyle.

“One of the key things that was always beaten in my head is details, details, details. You’ve got to pay attention to details and you’ve got to adapt.”

In 2010, Consulting, Training, and Development Services launched Project OpportunitySM as a way to help veterans who wanted to start a business on the Eastern Shore. Since then, 26 have completed the program.

This year, the Annapolis Economic Development Corp. partnered with Consulting, Training, and Development Services and the state Technology Development Corp. to offer the free program locally. Eighty veterans applied and that was later whittled down to the 11 who completed the courses. Two more events are being planned in the county, and they will launch in the winter and spring.

Statistics show that veteran-owned firms have annual sales of $1.2 trillion, nearly 6 million employees and a payroll of about $210 billion. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2012 report on veteran-owned firms found that veterans represented 9 percent of all companies in the country in 2007, the latest statistics available. That included roughly 54,000 firms in Maryland with $25 million in sales, according to the report.

At last week’s graduation ceremony at Loews Annapolis, Project OpportunitySM veterans were encouraged to look to Marine Maj. Rob Dyer for inspiration.

The Annapolis resident launched RuckPack — a vitamin and energy shot — with his military friends. After a series of challenges, he landed on ABC’s Shark Tank last year. He gained a $150,000 deal with Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec getting a 20 percent stake in the company.

Since then, the company has made $500,000 and has signed a national deal with Walgreens.

Still, his sleepless nights have not ended, and he encouraged Project OpportunitySM participants not to give up their day jobs immediately. He continues to teach at the Naval Academy.

“You stay flexible and you grind. You grind like nobody else can because nobody else knows what veteran life is like,” said Dyer, who was the keynote speaker at Project Opportunity’s graduation ceremony.

“If somebody says ‘Man, this is tough,’ this isn’t boot camp tough. … It’s not that bad. I didn’t even get shot at today, yet. When that becomes your fallback matrix, you figure out you can do anything.”

Brenda Dilts led the Project OpportunitySM sessions, which were held on Tuesday evenings at Maryland Hall. Each night included a guest speaker, as well as information on marketing, financing and management. The goal was to get participants to apply what they learned to their own business plan.

Their final project was to whittle their goals down to a three- to five-minute pitch speech, which they delivered at the graduation ceremony. In front of family and friends, they pitched plans that included nanny services, cellular phones, technical consultation and diabetes research.

Navy veteran Jimmie Bell’s signature phrase “Fluck It” is being sold on T-shirts, jackets and other apparel through his website. He aims to use it to encourage positive thinking among teenagers and other young people.

“My message to them is ‘fluck it,’?” Bell said in his pitch speech. “You control your destiny. You control what happens to you. If you want to do something, say you’re going to do it. Put the ball in motion and start making it happen. Fluck it, no matter what somebody tells you.”

Project OpportunitySM - Logo

– Originally posted on August 11th, 2013 by SHANTEÉ WOODARDS for the Capital Gazette. You can read the original article here.

There was a time when post-traumatic stress disorder limited Tracy Hoover’s speech and mobility.

But the retired U.S. Air Force veteran slowly turned his life around and is now co-owner of an Edgewater auto repair shop. His work at Premier Collision & Customs is a stress reliever, but he realizes veterans need a variety of services ranging from healthcare to job training.

So he is in the early stages of creating a veterans transition center to link them to those services. Many veterans join the armed services as young as 18 and return home with limited training, he said.

“They come back and they don’t know what to do — they never had to interview for a job and in some cases they don’t have the skills to transfer back to their civilian lives,” said Hoover, who retired from the U.S. Air Force and helped launch Premiere Collision & Customs. “There has got to be somebody who grabs the hand of the veteran and walks them through the process.”

There are also veterans who want to launch their own businesses, and that is a network the Annapolis Economic Development Corp. hopes to attract in its newest effort. The organization is partnering with Consulting, Training, and Development Services and the state Technology Development Corp. to provide a 10-week program to veterans who want to be entrepreneurs.

Called Project OpportunitySM, the evening classes will be held at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts through November. Eighty veterans wanted to sign up for the program, so a second session will be offered in the spring.

“We knew there were a number of veterans in the Annapolis area, we just weren’t sure how many wanted to be entrepreneurs,” AEDC CEO Lara Fritts said. “The great thing about veterans is that we know that they’re hard working and they have an amazing work ethic.”

Statistics show the unemployment rate for post-Sept. 11 veterans declined to just under 10 percent last year. Those figures vary based on where they were stationed and the type of service.

Recent veterans who were in the National Guard or Reserves had an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent in August 2012, compared to 13.7 percent for those who were not members.

Those who served in Iraq, Afghanistan or both had an unemployment rate just under 11 percent, while those who served elsewhere had a rate of 11.3 percent in August 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With Project OpportunitySM, participants will have weekly sessions that teach them about developing marketing plans, funding, networking and social media. The plan is for them to start out with their own business plans and fine tune them over the course of the program.

By their completion in November, they will be able to move onto the next stages of launching their venture.

“Hopefully this will translate into new business for the good ole City of Annapolis. As pleased as we are to do this, there is a selfish motive,” said Bob Sammis, Jr., the AEDC business recruitment, retention and expansion coordinator. “At the end of the day you need the same stuff — you need the business plan, funding, some sense of motivation — and all of those things have to fall into place regardless of if you’re a vet or not. But there may be some subtle differences (from other entrepreneurs).”

For more information about the AEDC’s Project OpportunitySM program, call 410-280-2712

Project OpportunitySM - Logo

The following article was originally written by Emilie Eastman on Monday, March 4, 2013, For The Capital. The original article can be found online here: Capital Gazette – Article on Project Opportunity.

Joe Giordano says it’s a no brainer.

The retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant started Project OpportunitySM to provide military veterans free business startup training. Through a 10-week program based off the NxLeveL for Entrepreneurs business program, Maryland veterans will research, develop and eventually create their own businesses.

“I think it’s something they’ve earned,” Giordano said.

Giordano launched his entrepreneur program three years ago and has 35 graduates. This spring, Project OpportunitySM is expanding from the nine counties of the Eastern Shore where it began to Columbia and Southern Maryland, reaching Annapolis by the end of the summer.

Annapolis Economic Development Corp. is partnering with Project Opportunity’s Annapolis branch. She said the program could make a significant impact on the city that is home to the U.S. Naval Academy and scores of retired veterans.

“I hope to see every veteran who goes through Project OpportunitySM in Annapolis ultimately start their own business,” said AEDC CEO Lara Fritts. “We hope they’ll be able to grow here.”

Fritts, whose husband and father are veterans, said her group “really liked the veteran component to this, and knowing Joe was a veteran himself made it a great opportunity.”

Giordano owns Consulting, Training, and Development Services . When he started Project OpportunitySM, he was looking for veterans who were “focused and knew what type of business they would like to start,” he said.

He wanted to give them the tools they needed to succeed because, “you can’t start a business without a business plan,” he said.

Giordano is expanding his program beyond the Bay Bridge after veterans across the state requested classes closer to their homes, he said. The three new programs are already funded, including textbooks for the participants.

The graduates of Project OpportunitySM have developed or expanded business plans that run the gamut, including a website development company, a clothing design business, a private investigation and security company, a bakery and a dog-breeding business, Giordano said. Participants range in age from 20 to 60 and are split almost evenly between male and female, he said.

Adrian Holmes said Giordano’s program is rigorous. The 50-year-old Ridgely resident served in the Air Force for 15 years. She said Project OpportunitySM is challenging but rewarding.

“When I met Joe … he was very tough,” she said. “He wouldn’t even send us classwork until we went to the first class.”

Holmes partnered with another Project OpportunitySM participant, Jermaine Anderson, 40, of Cambridge. They merged their businesses to create TNT Moving and Cleaning by Design

The firm offers moving and interior design services. The merger gives clients more bang for their buck because people who are moving often need help designing or re-designing, Holmes said.

TNT currently provides services across Maryland and has even been as far as Connecticut, Texas and Florida, she said.

Holmes said the program sends an important message.

“I think this program epitomizes who veterans are as citizens — their creativity and their camaraderie,” she said. “When we … run our businesses, we go to it like we’re going to Iraq. That’s just how we roll.”

Anderson said the program is based on universal principles and forces participants to adopt an entrepreneurial outlook.

“I think [Project Opportunity] should be a national program,” he said.

Graduating is not a simple feat. The programs requiring about 15 hours of homework per week. Before entering, Giordano gives interested veterans a 45-minute screening assessment.

Then, he chooses the best candidates. While some candidates are put on a waiting list, Giordano said they can re-apply.

Giordano has high standards for enrollees.

“They call me a drill sergeant because I work them hard,” he said. “But I think by the end of 10 weeks, when they see their business plan come together, they appreciate the time and effort they put into it.”