HOLIDAY — U.S. Army Maj. Bill Puopolo had just completed his tour during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006 when he decided to follow his dream of starting his own small business.
A native of the Boston area, Puopolo joined the Vermont National Guard and followed his sister and mother to Pasco County. He decided the Tampa Bay area was a good place to utilize the knowledge he had gained in the military and tap other veterans with similar expertise. So he launched Verrisomo Global, a communications and networking company.
Then his unit got activated. Puopolo had to put his business on a shelf while he deployed to Afghanistan for most of 2010. He was injured during both campaigns and received a Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge.
Now his sacrifice is being rewarded. Puopolo was named the recipient of a $30,000 Veterans’ Pathway to Business Success grant this summer. The nonprofit organization awards grants – that have no fees, no interest and no payback requirements – to combat veterans of the war in Afghanistan or Iraq, who wish to start or grow their own business in Florida.
Puopolo has a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Massachusetts, and he completed Florida State University’s Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities.
“They gave me a great deal of knowledge,” he said. “They taught us about marketing, human resources, accounting. And the networking opportunity — the ability to connect with other disabled vets was inspirational and very helpful.”
Puopolo said the funding will allow him and his staff — all disabled veterans like himself — to gain professional certifications that are critical to the company’s success.
“Bill distinguished himself at the EBV program,” FSU’s Randy Blass said. “He engaged fellow students and instructors on a wide range of topics and was more than willing to share his knowledge with other student veterans. Many EBV participants sought Bill’s consideration and still refer to him today for advice and motivation. He is a wonderful example of what we are trying to accomplish with our entrepreneurial training.”
Puopolo still serves as a reserve officer in the Vermont National Guard and teaches an online course once a week in Information Operations.