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By Debbie Gregory.

The 2018 Military Influencer Conference hosted in Orlando was the setting for the announcement of the three finalists of the StreetShares Foundation Veteran Small Business Award – Food & Beverage Edition.

More than 100 veterans and military spouses applied for the award before the field was wittled down to 14 finalists. Then the power shifted from the StreetShares team to the public, with over 11,000 online voters choosing the final top three contestants.

The audience at the Military Influencer Conference, comprised of veterans, current service members, military spouses, and their supporters heard the four-minute pitches of the top three finalists and then cast their votes via text messages for the product or service they believed had the greatest chance of success in the market.

Tasty sweets are the order of the day from military spouse Olandria Hudson’s Henny Penny’s Patisserie. The company is focused on providing high-quality baked goods, catering services and classes to everyone from busy parents, senior citizens, and luxury vacation rentals to the new military service members in the area.

Former U.S. Army helicopter pilot Keith Sherrill of Haint Blue Brewing Company introduced his company as the “Front Porch Beer of Choice.” In addition to his company’s 69 craft beers, Sherrill is proud his company has had the opportunity to collaborate with other veteran-owned businesses. Sherrill stated, “At the end of the day, we’re not building a brewery and making a great product, we’re building a platform and making a difference.”

And the Winner is…

Mark Mhley’s Re4ormed Organics, born from the Marine Corps’ search for a deployable, renewable energy system to recycle food waste. Re4ormed Organics’ anaerobic digester technology addresses the urgent and complex challenges of food and farm waste management. As the winner, Mhley took home the grand prize of $15,000.

StreetShares CEO Mark Rockefeller joked that this might be the first time in history that a garbage product has beaten out beer or cake in a popularity contest!

All three of the entrepreneur finalists took home a cash prize and a year of mentorship from the Boston Beer Team.

By Debbie Gregory.

As post-9/11 veterans re-enter civilian life and begin transitioning to new careers, many find they’re perfectly suited to becoming a veteran entrepreneur. Here’s a list of some free resources to help start or grow a business:

Bunker in a Box was created by The Bunker, and it’s the ultimate source of thought leadership from top entrepreneurs and veterans around the U.S. The short and simple online mini-course in veterans entrepreneurship is divided into 14 “missions” created around the themes of INSPIRE, EDUCATE and CONNECTION The missions include topics such as confidence to be an entrepreneur, thinking like an entrepreneur, testing hypotheses, and working on a venture as a team, plus many more. Each lesson has a short video from the Bunker team, as well as relevant third-party articles, interviews, podcasts and presentations from prominent entrepreneurs and experts.

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) is a free training program for post-9/11 veterans with a service-connected disability. Offered by Cornell, Syracuse, Florida State, UCLA, Texas A&M, Purdue, UConn, LSU, Saint Joseph’s, and the University of Missouri, the program is sponsored by Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University. The novel, one-of-a-kind initiative is designed to leverage the skills, resources and infrastructure of higher education to offer cutting-edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management. The 30-day, instructor-led curriculum is taught online, followed by a 9-day in-residence session at the university. Participants also receive follow-up support and mentoring after the program. The program runs from March through November each year. While all of the costs are covered for qualified participants, the opportunity is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Since 2012, Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) has been on a mission to assemble and activate an inclusive community that advances veterans and military spouses in their mission to become creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs leading the new economy. PBC’s core program is an intensive 3-day technology entrepreneurship boot camp modeled after the Techstars accelerator to provide educational training and 1:1 mentoring to inspire and advance startup founders. PBC runs this program twice per year, in Texas and Colorado, for cohorts of 50 tech entrepreneurs.

The StreetShares Foundation mission is to inspire, educate and support veteran small business owners. The non-profit foundation gives away $10,000 in veteran business grants to veteran or military spouse entrepreneurs each month. First, second, and third-place awards of $5,000, $3,000, and $2,000 are awarded, and applications may be submitted at any time.

VetToCEO offers a free 7-week online program called “Entrepreneurship for Transitioning Warriors” through a series of modules that cover everything you need to start your business. Lessons are recorded for later viewing in case you miss one. A full course outline can be found here. Veterans can join the program at any time through a simple registration process in a rolling enrollment model. Enrollment is free for veterans and transitioning military members.

Your local Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) is a good resource for training, counseling and mentoring, and also provides transition assistance programs via Boots to Business Program.

The Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP) is hosted by the VA and offers resources on starting, financing, and growing a business, in addition to government contracting opportunities. VEP makes it easier for small businesses to access federal services, regardless of its source—and quickly connects Veteran entrepreneurs to relevant ‘best-practices’ and information.

streetsharesfoundation

By Debbie Gregory

StreetShares, Inc., one of VAMBOA’s strategic partners, is a lending and investing community for veterans and their supporters. StreetShares’ principals have announced the formation of the StreetShares Foundation.

The goal of the StreetShares Foundation is to inspire, educate, and support veteran small business owners. The foundation is partnering with JPMorgan Chase & Co. to provide up to $10,000 each month in Veteran Small Business Awards.

Both StreetShares Foundation and StreetShares, Inc. are veteran-operated..

Iraq War veteran Mark L. Rockefeller, CEO/Co-Founder of StreetShares, said, “Veteran business ownership has been the backbone of the United States economy since World War II. The goal of the StreetShares Foundation is to provide a new generation of veteran and military-spouse small business owners the support they need to thrive.”

The Foundation plans to give three Veteran Small Business Awards each month. Small businesses owned by military veterans, current reserve or active duty members, and qualified military spouses are eligible to apply. The awards are $2,000 for third place, $3,000 for second place, and $5,000 for the first place winner.

Award applications and educational material can be found on the foundation’s website at StreetShares.com/Foundation.

StreetShares had previously conducted a small award program. Last year’s winners collectively reported increasing revenues by over $1 million, hiring 24 new employees, and scoring a “Shark Tank” TV show appearance. With sponsorship from JPMorgan Chase and others, the StreetShares Foundation has plans to substantially expand the award program.

The Veteran Small Business Award program encourages everyone who supports veterans and entrepreneurship to participate in voting for their favorite veteran business at StreetShares.com/Foundation. Finalists will be presented for public vote each month.

We at VAMBOA are proud to partner with StreetShares and further the opportunities they present to military owned and veteran owned businesses.

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