Rakstang named Small Business Champion of the Year
September 6, 2012 1:52PM
Updated: October 10, 2012 6:04AM
Bob Rakstang, director of Governors State University’s CenterPoint Illinois Small Business Development Center, has been named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Illinois 2012 Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year.
Rakstang is the guiding force behind GSU CenterPoint’s Veterans Entrepreneurial Boot Camp program, which has offered training in entrepreneurial skills to more than 620 veterans in the last four years.
Rakstang recently was honored as an advocate for veteran-owned businesses at the SBA’s annual awards luncheon at the Union League Club in Chicago.
Since 2008, GSU CenterPoint has offered two Boot Camp events each year. Rakstang said the first Boot Camp attracted 40 veterans and a handful of speakers.
Now, Boot Camp events last all day and always draw the maximum number of participants and as many as 40 volunteer staff and presenters who share their knowledge about financing, marketing, technology and other entrepreneurial topics of interest.
Boot Camps attract veterans from across the Chicago area, from as far north as Milwaukee and as far south as Rantoul, Rakstang said. GSU CenterPoint’s Boot Camps are the only such events for veterans in the Chicago area, he said.
Rakstang and CenterPoint director Hillary Burkinshaw first came up with the idea for Boot Camps.
“We wanted to do something for returning veterans in the Chicago Southland region, and something that had never been done before,” he said.
For an agency like GSU CenterPoint, which specializes in small business creation, veterans have much to offer, Rakstang said. Veterans have received extensive training, are well-disciplined, and are increasingly tech-savvy, he said.
Veterans also are eligible for a number of loan and business creation incentive programs on the state and federal level, Rakstang said. He also said the Boot Camps are designed to put veterans with marketable skills in contact with professionals who can give them expert advice on how to turn their ideas into a solid business plan.
“We want to provide veterans with greater access to expert counseling, to increase their access to capital, and to provide more one-on-one technical counseling,” Rakstang said. “We will do whatever is possible to help veteran-owned businesses get started and grow.”
Information: (708) 534-4929 or www.centerpointgsu.com.
Provided to the SouthtownStar