A network of veteran small business incubators is launching a 12-city tour to help veteran entrepreneurs develop their ideas.

A nonprofit created in 2014, Bunker Labs aims to connect budding business owners with resources to grow their companies. Headquartered in Chicago, new chapters are popping up across the country.

Bunker Labs locations offer options for veterans in different stages of their entrepreneurship. For early-stage companies, Bunker Labs provides space for six months with access to fellow entrepreneurs, mentoring and capital.

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Aspiring entrepreneurs can apply to become entrepreneurs in residence and intern at one of the Bunker Labs-supported companies.

"In response to this demand, we created a toolkit for people to launch Bunker Labs chapters with our approval and support," CEO and Navy veteran Todd Connor said.

He then realized they needed a way to organize and nationalize the activity happening in other cities.

"Let's have big events in all the cities where we're launching chapters and bring together the community of veteran entrepreneurs," he said.

Navy veteran and Bunker Labs CEO Todd Connor said JPMorgan Chase agreed to a $1.5 million commitment to Bunker Labs, which allowed the creation of the 10-month series of events. The first two events were in Columbus, Ohio, and Chicago. The upcoming stops are:

  • June 28: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Sept. 21: Kansas City, Missouri
  • Sept. 23: Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
  • Sept. 30: Madison, Wisconsin
  • Oct. 7: Austin, Texas
  • Nov. 10: Philadelphia
  • Nov. 17: Jacksonville, Florida
  • Dec. 8: Washington, D.C.
  • Feb. 23, 2017: Seattle/Tacoma, Washington
  • March 23, 2017: Los Angeles

The Seattle/Tacoma and Los Angeles stops are at new Bunker Labs chapters in those areas.

Each stop is a free, daylong event where vets can pitch ideas to an audience of investors, local leaders and the community at large, Connor said. There are also leaders in the business community and panel discussions throughout the day.

Connor said he hopes this will bring "a new community of military veterans and friends who are also interested in being innovators."

"Entrepreneurship is not a single-player sport," Connor said. "You need people, you need community, you need friends, you need customers, you need employees."

The veteran community has those things, he said, and the issue is connecting it them.

"Organizations like Bunker Labs pull together community and give them a place to show up both online and in person," he said.

Connor encourages participants to download the Bunker Labs app that allows users to create a profile and connect with others before, during and after the events.

Bunker Labs locations offer options for veterans in different stages of their entrepreneurship. For early-stage companies, Bunker Labs provides space for six months with access to fellow entrepreneurs, mentoring and capital.

Aspiring entrepreneurs can apply to become entrepreneurs in residence and intern at one of the Bunker Labs-supported companies.

He said entrepreneurship doesn't happen in a day or a year.

"It's probably a thought that begins while you're still on active duty, and it lingers for a long time," he said. "Until you figure out how to manifest that, we want to honor that process."

Charlsy Panzino covers veterans education, employment and transition issues, as well as travel, entertainment and fitness. Email her at cpanzino@militarytimes.com.