EBV PROGRAM: CELEBRATING 10
YEARS, 10 UNIVERSITIES IN 2016
A GRADUATE SPOTLIGHT ON …
Kari Brizius truly believes that the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) program was the starting point for her entrepreneurial journey. “At EBV, not only did I make great connections, but the coursework helped me understand what I needed as a business owner, where I lacked knowledge, what questions I had, and where to find the information I needed,” recalls Brizius. “As a veteran, I knew I had strengths in leadership, communication, organization, and time management; now I needed to figure out how to use those skills.”
A U.S. Army veteran from Orange County, CA, Brizius had a vision for the Minnesota-based company that she and her mother bought in 2011, and that was to help organizations become part of a greener landscape. She enrolled in the EBV program at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, committed to the rigor of the EBV program because she needed to identify her strengths and weaknesses as a business owner and develop a stronger skill set for managing her company.
Today, Relan is dedicated to telling a company’s sustainable story through unique, branded products created from upcycled and recycled components, and was recently named to the GameChangers500 list as one of the world’s top For-Benefit companies. Brizius’ company partners with organizations like major league sports teams to engage customers and fans in new ways, and promote their sustainability efforts. Working with material including vinyl, mesh, old jerseys, and t-shirts, Relan has helped its partners keep over 300,000 square feet of material out of landfills.
Prior to perusing an entrepreneurial career, Brizius graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2000 with a degree in environmental engineering. After that, she served as a transportation officer in the Army and was deployed to Iraq in 2003.
Brizius’s advice to other aspiring veteran entrepreneurs is three-fold. First, she says to follow your passion and the business will come in time. Second, don’t be afraid to ask questions. “We don’t know everything and it’s best to learn from those who are already successful,” Brizius says. Lastly, she advises others to find a role model or mentor, and that EBV is a fantastic resource for such a task. Brizius says that the EBV program at UCLA has helped her make invaluable connections in her industry and has made her more aware of areas of improvement she can work on as a business owner.
“EBV has helped me learn how to use the skills gained in the military and apply them to my entrepreneurial journey.”