New UConn EBV Program Manager: ‘We’re Like a Family…Helping Accomplish Each Other’s Missions’

'The appeal for military veterans is to have the chance to promote their interests and passions, and tell the world, Look what I've accomplished'

Nicholas Martinelli, director of the Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans.

Nicholas Martinelli, director of the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (Nathan Oldham / UConn School of Business Photo).

“I am excited to have the ability to help people realize their dreams.”

That’s how Nicholas Martinelli, a U.S. Army veteran who was part of a team that operated land-based defense systems against enemy rocket and mortar attacks in Iran and Afghanistan, sees his role as the new program manager of the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV).

“When I retired from the Army, after 22 years, I knew I was going to miss teaching, coaching, and mentoring,’’ says Martinelli, who retired from the Army in June 2022 with the rank of 1st Sergeant. “Then I saw the posting for the EBV job, I thought ‘This is the best of both worlds, a perfect match.’’’

The highly regarded UConn EBV program, founded in 2009, has produced 253 graduates. The next cohort of veterans-turned-entrepreneurs will arrive on campus in early August.

Assignments Required Teamwork, Precision, Competence

One of the highlights of Martinelli’s military career was working on counter rocket, artillery and mortar (C-RAM) missions both in Iraq and Afghanistan. His unit was the first to use land-based defense systems against enemy attacks in Iraq.

“Those missions required four or five soldiers, and you had to be quick to respond to threats. It was a lot of pressure and you had to be 100 percent involved and attentive to your surroundings,’’ he says. “The enemy tries all different ways to penetrate your command and that’s when things get very interesting.’’

“It was very rewarding work and everyone had a sense of ownership,’’ he says. “We were protecting thousands of lives in-theater.’’ In fact, his unit was selected as the Knox Award winner, which presented to the top performing Air Defense Artillery unit in the Army.

Martinelli, a West Hartford native, didn’t grow up in a military family, and his parents tried to discourage him from enlisting.

“My Mom said she would never have a child in the military, but both my parents fell in love with the military opportunities,’’ he says. “In high school, I was a bit of a goofball. The Army helped me grow up. It gave me a sense of direction. I met my wife in the military, I got my education through the military, and I grew into the person my parents hoped I would be.’’

Martinelli earned a bachelor’s degree in business management and human resources management and an MBA, both from Columbia College in Missouri. He also earned a master’s degree in higher education administration from the University of Louisville in 2018.

He has also completed many advanced leadership courses through the military. He served as the Senior Small Group Instructor for the Advanced Leader Course at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for two years.

EBV Ready for Next Level Growth

The EBV program is open to veterans who have served in the military since 9/11 and have service-related disabilities. It draws heavily from Connecticut but also welcomes veterans from across the country.

After months of preparatory work, the 2023 cohort will come to UConn in August to take part in an intense course on growing a business, taught by School of Business faculty and other experts.

The program is now under the umbrella of the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (CCEI) and Executive Director Jennifer Mathieu said she and her team have been strategizing for months about new initiatives to help the EBV grow.

“With Nick coming onboard we are going to have the capacity to take the EBV program to the next level,’’ she says. “He brings a lot of energy, excitement, and experience to CCEI and we are eager to have him make an impact.’’

Martinelli says he’d like to see the program get more publicity from the military as it helps people transition to civilian life.

“I’ve met so many people with great ideas for businesses, but they didn’t know where to start,’’ he says. “I hope we can grow the program and serve even more veterans.’’

‘Look What I’ve Accomplished!’

Martinelli believes that the military prepares individuals to become successful business owners because of its emphasis on developing and executing plans.

“I think the appeal for military veterans is to have the chance to promote their interests and passions, and tell the world, ‘Look what I’ve accomplished! Look what I’ve done,’’’ he says.

Martinelli knows that the EBV program will be lifechanging for most, if not all, of the veterans who participate.

“For those on the outside looking in, they don’t necessarily appreciate the camaraderie of the military. We’re like a family. We have shared experiences. I’ve met some of the best people in my life through my service. Our EBV students will arrive with hopes and dreams and rely on us to help them achieve it. We’re all out here, a team, helping accomplish each other’s missions. I have big shoes to fill, but I’m ready for the challenge.”