EBV Alumni Spotlight | Lawrence Dapo, EBV ’15

CCEI’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) program continues our quarterly Alumni Spotlight series, with Lawrence Dapo. Lawrence is the proud owner and operator of a Small Disabled Veteran Owned Business, Jackson Ryan Construction Services, Inc. The construction company works on projects for the federal government, often tied to VA Hospitals, and most recently at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven.

Mehgan Williams, Program Coordinator for our EBV program, had a chance to talk with Lawrence last month and learn more about his mission and passion to hire and support veterans every step of the way.

If you have inquiries about our Alumni Spotlight series, please reach out to mehgan.williams@uconn.edu to learn more.

The company’s recent renovations to the West Haven VA Medical Center Blind Rehab.

Lawrence’s nearly 10-year military career began at the age of 17, when he enlisted into the United States Marine Corps. His first duty station was 3rd Marines, Communications Platoon, Kaneohe Bay, HI. His final assignment was as a Communications System Operator (CSO) for HMX-1 (Marine One). Lawrence provided worldwide communications and logistical support to the President of the United States and senior White House staff members. He served in that role for four years, including the day of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

After the military, Lawrence worked in the private industry, culminating in his position as a Vice President of a general contracting firm. He directly managed over 40 projects totaling over 35 million dollars, helping the company grow into an industry leader in the construction field. At this point, it was time to open his own business. However, Lawrence’s passion and aptitude for business were only part of his drive to take this leap. He wanted to give back to his veteran community.

“I did not see much effort to hire veterans, especially disabled veterans,” he said. “And when veterans were hired, they were being used by non-veteran entrepreneurs.”

Lawrence bootstrapped his business, liquidating his IRAs and not taking a paycheck for nearly a year. He was all in. And so was his devoted family.

“I named my company after my wife and son; their sacrifice and support helped get my venture off the ground.”

Lawrence also received support from the UConn EBV during his entrepreneurial journey. He met a Warrant Officer at an SDVOB conference who then introduced him to the late director, Michael Zacchea.

“Within 10 minutes of talking to Mike, I had to go through this program. And once I was there, I got something out of every presentation.”

“There were others along the way who also stepped in and believed in me,” Lawrence said. “But you must know your business inside and out if you are ever going to get others to believe in it, too. Both a bonding agent and an insurance agent believed in me in 2011, and I am still working with these individuals today.”

Lawrence also emphasizes the importance of having a tight business plan and doing your research.

“You must be prepared when an opportunity presents itself. I had a friend who introduced me to the Vice President of a bank, but I never would have been able to establish a line of credit if I had not been prepared.” He also stresses the value in having mentors but to also stay true to yourself. At the end of the day this is your name and livelihood on the line.

Larry Dapo being recently acknowledged by the Connecticut senator regarding his fourth HIRE Vets Gold Medallion Award, for hiring and maintaining veterans.

“Listen to people who are smarter than you, but do not rely solely on the advice of others, make your own decisions, because you are the one who has to live with those decisions.”

Lawrence’s definition of success goes far beyond bidding and winning prestigious contracts in the construction industry. When asked about his goals, he immediately said, “to mitigate the 22 per day suicide rate.”

Lawrence is a recipient of the HIRE Vets Gold Medallion Award. The Medallion Award is the only federal-level veterans’ employment award that recognizes a company or organization’s commitment to veteran hiring, retention, and professional development. He was also awarded the inaugural Michael J. Zacchea Veterans Impact Award in 2022 which recognized his impact on other military veterans.

Lawrence has participated as a speaker and a donor for the UConn EBV program every year since he graduated in 2015. We are grateful for his ongoing support and for taking the time to speak with us for this interview.