Founding Members

Veteran Business Connection, Founded 2020

VBC members next to table
Sean Rotolo
Sean Rotolo
Founding Member

Sean Rotolo, President

Sean Rotolo has proudly served his country in the United States Navy for 15 years and counting. He has a background in logistics, a deployment to Afghanistan, and 8 years in recruiting allowing him to grow his skills as Director of Production and Program Manager. No matter what his position was, he always led his sailors to achieve their best and to grow within their careers while putting family first.

Mr. Rotolo is currently the President and CEO of Rotolo Corp. under which he owns and runs Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning of Northeast Florida. Through the hurdles and challenges he has faced and overcome while starting his business, he quickly realized the value of having a strong diverse network of experience, knowledge, and resources.
As President and Cofounder of Veterans Business Connection Inc. he leads the organization to help connect, mentor, and provide resources to current and aspiring Veteran entrepreneurs.

Sean is a proud husband and father of two children. He strives to pave the way for his family by keeping his practices of Family First, Last, and Always. Leading by example and showing his children that nothing in life is free but if you work hard, stay focused, and have good mentors you can achieve your dreams.

Heidi
Heidi Simos
Founding Member

Heidi Simos, Vice President

Meet Heidi Simos, an award-winning Career Ownership Coach and franchise owner with The Entrepreneur’s Source. 

As a child, Heidi was inspired by the sacrifice, dedication and commitment of her three uncles who served in the military. After hearing their stories of courage and sacrifice, she wanted to give back and help returning warriors find their passion and re-integrate seamlessly into civilian life.

Through her no-cost coaching experience, she has helped many military men and women achieve their dream of business ownership. Heidi focuses on helping veterans identify their transferable skills, core strengths, personal interests and translates that information into entrepreneurship.

Heidi’s strong partnership with UNF’s Military and Veterans Resource Center, SCORE and the Small Business Administration, give her frequent opportunities to meet transitioning veterans and learn about their challenges. She has presented numerous seminars and webinars to help military personnel determine if a franchise is right for them.

Prior to becoming a Career Ownership Coach, Heidi was an esteemed multi-unit franchise owner in the education field. It was then that she discovered her passion in life involved helping others learn, grow, prosper and create the best version of themselves!

Debra
Debra Koehler
Founding Member

Debra Koehler, Secretary

Debra is a seasoned business professional with a passion for helping Veterans realize their full potential. She is married to an Army Veteran and has two children, ten grandchildren, and a beautiful dog named Cleo. Debra has had a long successful career in the Energy Generation business working for Southern Company and Mirant. She has partnered with Heidi Simos, The Entrepreneur’s Source, to provide business ownership coaching to individuals in search of their dream business. She is a graduate of Georgia State University.

Debra is also the owner of Debra Koehler’s Human Resource Consulting LLC which provides HR consulting to businesses who are searching for HR expertise in the more advanced HR processes such as strategic planning, organization design, organization effectiveness, change management, and mergers and acquisitions. She also provides HR generalist services to start-up businesses or those who don’t have an HR component in their business.

Geita
Geitta Hawkins
Founding Member

Geitta Hawkins, Treasurer

Geitta Hawkins is from New Iberia, LA. She graduated from Webster University with a Master of Business Administration and has worked for the Department of Navy for over 30 years. She served in United States Navy Reserve for 11 years as a Yeoman. She has been happily married for 28 years and is the proud parent/grandparent of 5 children and 11 grandchildren. Geitta is the Vice President / Chief Financial Officer of Home Helpers Home Care of Northeast Florida, providing exceptional home care to clients wherever they call home.

Geitta is dedicated to making a difference in the Jacksonville community. Her passion has always been helping others no matter what. Purchasing a franchise was a great way to start a new adventure in helping others on a broader scale. Providing exceptional care to seniors to live a more independent life in the comfort of their home and assisting Veterans is her main goal.

Carlos
Carlos Ramirez
Founding Member

Carlos Ramirez, Social Director

Carlos Ramirez is a New York native, born in Queens and raised in Manhattan and Yonkers. He enlisted in the US Navy in November 1989, where he served on 4 different ships, held 3 shore commands, spent 7 years overseas, and was sent on 5 deployments. Carlos received the “Bronze Star” during his last tour in Afghanistan. He completed 20 years of service and retired honorably in 2009.

Carlos earned two degrees in Criminal Justice and Business management. He was the Corporate Safety and Security Supervisor for one of the largest financial institutions in the United States, based out of Jacksonville, Florida until he founded Vets-Assisting-Vets LLC. He started the company to help Veterans by providing various services regardless of where they are in the world. As the CEO of the company, he has been able to grow the company from providing 1 service and helping 175 Veterans in 2018, to now offering 4 services and having helped approximately 1,300 Veterans. (2020 numbers). Carlos strives to provide Veterans with a one-stop-shop for all their needs.

Carlos is dedicated and blessed to have been married to his lovely wife for over 30 years who has helped him raise their son and daughter. Carlos sits on the board of the Veteran Business Connection (VBC), a nonprofit that focuses on helping Veterans with all of their entrepreneur aspirations. He strives to be an example in his community and a shining light for those to follow.

Edward
Edward Hawkins
Founding Member

Edward Hawkins, Mentor Director

Edward Hawkins was born in Immokalee, FL but grew up in Macon, MS. He served in the United States Navy for 20 years as a Radioman/Information Technology Specialist. Edward has been happily married for 28 years and is the proud parent/grandparent of 5 children and 11 grandchildren. He worked in Corporate America in the Information Technology industry before becoming an Entrepreneur. Edward has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia College and three Master of Art degrees from Webster University in Human Resources Development, Information Technology Management, and Management and Leadership.

The idea of being an Entrepreneur came to light when Edward attended the Veteran Entrepreneurship workshop at UNF in October 2018. He said “If they can do it, so can I”.  Home Helpers Home Care offers exceptional care to seniors to live a more independent life in the comfort of their home, wherever that may be. They offer services that help with the basic activities of daily living, including hygiene and nutritional needs, so your love one can stay in their homes living enriched, engaged and independent lives.

 

Bob
Bob Buehn
Founding Member

Bob Buehn, Resource Director

Bob Buehn is a retired Navy Captain and is Director of the University of North Florida’s Military and Veterans Resource Center. He is an adjunct professor for the US Naval War College and teaches a graduate seminar in National Security Affairs.

He was formerly Chief of Military Affairs for the City of Jacksonville in the administration of Mayor John Peyton. He was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011 as Florida Commissioner to the Interstate Compact regarding educational opportunity for military children.

He retired from a 30-year career in the US Navy in March, 2008. His career included command of VS-32, at NAS Cecil Field, and command of US Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Capt Buehn also served as Chief of Staff for the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) Strike Group during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He had previously deployed aboard USS Forrestal (CV-59) in support of Desert Storm, and also served as Executive Officer of USS Constellation (CV-64).

As a Naval Aviator he flew more than 5,000 hours in Navy aircraft, primarily the S-3 Viking, and logged nearly 900 carrier landings.

He is Chairman of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum board and chairman of the Community Hospice Veterans Council. He is vice-chair of the Cecil Field POWMIA Memorial, a member of the Operation New Uniform Board and past chair of the Greater Jacksonville Area USO.

Capt. Buehn is a graduate of the University of Florida and the US Naval War College.