Sanctuary for Veterans

MBA New Venture Challenge project

In 1999 Joe O’Connor, whose 15-year service career had included seven and a half years in the regular army, broke his neck after falling 400 feet on a Special Forces training exercise. The long and painful process of rehabilitation highlighted for him the need for greater provision of ongoing support not just for injured veterans themselves but also for their families.

The result is Sanctuary for Veterans, a newly established charity whose residential centres will provide respite, plus some counselling, education and training, for veterans from all three forces.

“It’s not just about holiday,” Joe explains. “We want to re-engage and empower the veterans and their families, to help them reach their true potential.″ During their stay – typically one week – veterans will choose from a selection of bite-sized workshops on areas such as interview skills or CV writing, helping them demonstrate to employers the skills and qualities acquired through their time in the forces.

Time-saving through MBA consultancy

With pressure on to meet project deadlines and dedicate time to securing corporate sponsors and patrons, Joe seized on the opportunity offered by the Department of Entrepreneurship, Strategy and Innovation to bring in a team of Lancaster MBA students for a short consultancy project. 

The New Venture Challenge project enables companies to have a full strategic business plan drawn up by experienced MBAs, for which companies pay only any travel costs involved. Additional support from the department includes free one-day introductory workshop, plus an action planning session on completion of the project to help take ideas forward.

“I’d worked with Lancaster University before, and had taken part in the LEAD programme, so I knew of the Management’s School’s reputation,″ Joe says.

“I was interested not just in getting the business plan but in having the background information. What the students were able to do was to get me information that I really didn’t have time to acquire myself – like costings on everything and statistics on injured veterans.″

One of the three-strong team of students visited the proposed site in Tarporley, Cheshire, to get a feel for where the first centre will be built. The students then developed a full-scale business plan, with a level of energy and commitment which clearly impressed Joe:

“They embraced my enthusiasm and delivered on time. They were excellent – and I’d recommend them to anyone, for their enthusiasm and the time they put in.

“Using the information they gave me, I’ve now revamped the business plan. They set me up with issues that I needed to consider, so it’s been a very useful exercise.″

To find out more about how we might be able to work with your organisation, contact the business engagement team on 01524 510723 or email