When Ezekiel Jones’s doctor diagnosed him with pre-diabetes and warned him of the serious health risks he could be facing, the former military serviceman took action and lost more than 50 pounds. In an effort to help others live a healthier lifestyle, Jones is working on his idea to create a gym geared especially toward senior citizens in this summer’s UTC Veterans Entrepreneurship (VEP) program.
“When I was trying to lose weight, I was intimidated to go to a gym. At 63-years-old, I knew there was no way I could measure up to the younger people working out there and that made me feel ashamed. Because of my experience, I want to create a fitness facility for people age 55 and over who want to work out and get healthy together in a fun, supportive atmosphere,” he said.
Jones has been working and finessing his idea this summer in the VEP program. The University has partnered with Oklahoma State’s School of Entrepreneurship in the delivery and development of this successful program, a series of training modules designed by UTC and OSU faculty and successful entrepreneurs to provide participating veterans with the nuts and bolts of small business start-up and leadership.
The program is offered entirely free to qualified, disabled veterans who have been accepted into the program. This year, the program has engaged 16 veteran delegates in its eight-day boot camp and 10-month mentoring program.
Jones has enjoyed the friendships he’s made with other program participants.
“This is the first time I’ve been around so many others who were in the military since I was on active duty in the 1960s. It feels like a homecoming. It’s nice to be with people who’ve gone through similar experiences. We can share stories and inside jokes,” he said.
Jones hopes his fitness facility will rely on the same type of camaraderie.
“I want my facility to become a community where members feel comfortable and support each other. That way, they can start living a healthier lifestyle. I feel better at 63 than I did twenty years ago. I want others to have that too,” he said.
Since the beginning of the program, Jones, who has been involved in previous business ventures, has gained new knowledge on how to run a successful business.
“In the past, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in business. If I had known then what I know now, I am certain I would have been more successful. This program has been fantastic at helping me identify what I did wrong and how to do better. It feels good to have a network of people who want us to succeed. It feels like everyone at UTC is behind us,” he said.
Jones is getting behind Mocs Football this fall. His grandson, Terrell Robinson, plays quarterback for the Mocs.
“I’m so proud of him. He’s a great quarterback. I can’t wait for the upcoming football season,” he said.