Baylor doctoral student receives research grant to study entrepreneurial veterans

By Randy Fiedler

Michael Lotspeich-Yadao

A Baylor doctoral candidate in sociology has been selected to receive grant money through an annual national program that supports research into real-world problems facing entrepreneurs and their communities.

Michael Lotspeich-Yadao received a Knowledge Challenge grant of $18,802 from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to support his research into “entrepreneurship outcomes of military veterans in rural entrepreneurship ecosystems.” He is one of only 10 students nationwide to receive funding through the Kauffman Knowledge Challenge in 2020.

Lotspeich-Yadao’s research, done in collaboration with his advisor, Dr. Charles M. Tolbert II, professor of sociology, investigates how entrepreneurial ecosystems affect the ability of military veterans in rural America to start and grow their own businesses. The new grant will allow Lotspeich-Yadao and Tolbert to expand that research.

“Transitional assistance programs provide veterans with the tools and resources for entrepreneurship,” Lotspeich-Yadao said. “But a limitation of those systems we have identified is their broad focus on rural entrepreneurial ecosystems, without considering spatial dynamics, as well as rural women and veterans of color. Rural ecosystems are unique in their limited access to capital and labor, and their distance from infrastructure. Our past research has also found that the most common challenges for military veteran entrepreneurs in these ecosystems is the inability to form social networks and find adequate mentorship.”

Lotspeich-Yadao said that if rural small and mid-size enterprise (SME) businesses created by veterans are to succeed, they must be able to successfully integrate into thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems that will support them.

“If a veteran-owned SME is established in an area with a weak ecosystem or fails to integrate into the necessary networks, this SME will likely not persevere,” he said. “Thanks to the Kauffman Foundation, we can connect a broader body of literature in rural SME development with the current literature in veteran studies to create programming, as well as benchmarks to set the conditions for homegrown entrepreneurial activity among veterans.”

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, based in Kansas City, Missouri, describes itself as “a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to increase opportunities that allow all people to learn, to take risks, and to own their success.” The Foundation uses its $2 billion in assets to “collaboratively help people be self-sufficient, productive citizens.” 

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