David Bedenbaugh has retired after 20 years of service with the United States Armed Forces. With his wife, Bedenbaugh wants to begin a second career by opening a nonprofit that better connects public services, such as police and fire departments, hospitals and schools, to improve his community of Laurel, Md.
Last week, Bedenbaugh and 11 other veterans completed the first FastTrac course offered at Towson University, a program designed to prepare new entrepreneurs to successfully open their own business.
“I knew the classes would give me a good overview for getting started, but I got much more than I ever could have expected,” Bedenbaugh said. “My wife and I are now years ahead of where we would’ve been if we didn’t have this class.”
The program is run through the Center for Professional Studies in the Division of Innovation and Applied Research. The internationally renowned Kauffman Foundation, dedicated to entrepreneurship education, develops the FastTrac curriculum. The Kauffman Foundation provided scholarships for veterans to take the course for free.
“I wish someone had done this for me when I had my own business,” said State Sen. J.B. Jennings of District 7, which comprises parts of Baltimore and Harford counties. “Starting your own business is like going to school for the first time. It’s hard to succeed if you don’t know where to go or how to get things done. Programs like this help eliminate that learning curve.”
Jennings was a guest speaker at the last class of the program. An active member of the Maryland Air National Guard, Jennings once owned a start-up farm supply store in Harford County that he has since sold the controlling interest in. He attended the class with the intent of providing a quick, congratulatory message to the students, but spoke much longer and shared his experiences. He was moved by the excitement of the students and hopes to see them succeed with their new businesses.
“My business degree taught me a lot, but it still took me a long time to figure out how to actually turn a profit and make my business successful. You second guess yourself a lot,” Jennings said. “Once you know what you’re doing, though, you have confidence and move forward. These students looked confident when I met them.”
Jeff Beeson, the director for the Center for Professional Studies, says the FastTrac program aligns with a number of Towson University’s goals. By supporting entrepreneurs, the program develops talented leaders for the local and state workforce.
The program will expand beyond veterans for the fall semester, though veterans will still be offered the same scholarship as those enrolled in the inaugural class.
“We want to reach out to as many entrepreneurs as possible and give them the best shot at making their business work,” Beeson said. “We want to connect these students with others that will help make them successful. It’s not just about a class. We want to develop a community of entrepreneurship.”