Dozens of businesses submitted their applications for the Veteran Small Business Award. They were graded on: their business idea; how they plan to use the award; product-market fit; company history and their influence on the military community.
We've made our decision, now it's time to tell us who you think should win this month's awards.
Awards are as follows:
Please choose one business owner. The Foundation will tally the points for the top three applicants and they will be awarded first, second and third place.
Serenity is a non-profit organization based in Syracuse, NY. Our mission is to enhance, enrich, and empower the lives of women. Cindy Seymour created Serenity in 2010 and it has been her focus to support and help women veterans.
The intent of this venture is to provide temporary housing and supportive programs for homeless women veterans while safely transitioning them back into the day to day routine of civilian living. This collaborative effort will be achieved through the innovativeness of the Rescue Mission’s (RM) Willing to Work program; a comprehensive proven, successful plan for individual safety, emotional support, skills building, and employment training model and in conjunction with Serenity Women’s Center (SWC), who will lead the construction of two new homes that will be turnkey for the participants. The tiny homes will be built on a property in the Hawley Green neighborhood in Syracuse, NY. The homes will be fully equipped with all necessities of a fully functioning home.
Sustainability is very important to us and we intend to install solar panels, a water tower and a community garden on the property. We would like to be considered for the Veterans Small Business Award to help pay for the solar panel that will provide energy to each home. Our goal is to break ground this month and welcome the first two women veterans into their homes by Veteran’s Day 2017. Over time, we plan to expand the number of homes to serve more women and create a larger community of peer support.
The Warrior Gaming League (WGL) is a non-profit organization which will produce eSport tournaments and solicit donations to fund support and financial assistance programs for soldiers struggling with transitioning back to civilian life. The WGL was founded by former serviceman and Purple Heart recipient Steven Giddings, who overcame his PTSD and extreme depression through his involvement in Video Gaming and the eSport community. Steven served just over 5 years in the US Army as an 11B, Infantryman. He was deployed twice to Iraq, OIF 2006-2007 and OIF 2008 with Bravo Company 122 4th Infantry Division. On July 6, 2008 during Giddings’ second deployment to Baghdad Iraq, he was shot in the neck by a sniper and still to this day suffers many injuries. Like many veterans, Steven had difficulty transitioning to civilian life. He suffered chronic pain from his injuries, depression and PTSD. In 2010, Steve became drawn into video games and soon realized that gaming was the only thing that was able to distract him and help him cope with his injuries. Through playing “Call of Duty” with his wife, they rediscovered common ground, drew closer together and reconnected. He was soon strong and mentally healthy enough to enroll in college and by 2015 he had graduated from Austin Community College with a degree in Game Design and Visual Communication and a vision.
Feeling that gaming saved his life, founder Steven Giddings dedicated his life to applying his experiences to help other soldiers dealing with similar issues he had gone through. There is increasing evidence that video gaming can help individuals with PTSD and can be a useful part of therapy for soldiers suffering from the psychological effects of combat. Though gaming isn’t meant to be an easy fix for veterans, but it can encourage members of the military — regardless of rank — to enjoy camaraderie through a shared hobby, which helps them relax their minds. According to one recent study, many combat soldiers with PTSD are now experiencing a unique form of loneliness — labeled experiential loneliness — stemming from the isolation they feel upon returning home. In forming The Warrior Gaming League Steven teamed up with Ari and Ben Fox of Gameacon – the Video Gaming Convention held in both Atlantic City and Las Vegas – to enable him to produce live tournaments to both involve and benefit military personal. Ari and Ben Fox founded Gameacon to promote independent artists in game creation by providing a space for them to showcase their work, the opportunity to reach an audience who craves to see it, and a forum to learn from each other. It is grass roots, not corporate.
At Alpha Coffee a core part of our mission is to give back to the military community. We do this in three key ways: we send coffee to troops, we support charitable organizations that benefit the military community, and we try to work with and hire veterans and military spouses.
We were cofounded by Carl and Lori Churchill on Sept 11, 2010 and have grown from a military family owned business operating out of our basement to a successful company employing 12 full and part time employees.
We have several channels that we are currently building at Alpha. The initial channel was online direct to consumer sales. That continues to grow and is a key component of our success. We have our first brick and mortar coffee shop that has been going strong for 4 months and is seeing tremendous success. And we would like to initiate a stronger focus on our wholesale program. We have a couple of large wholesale clients and are looking to significantly expand this channel.
With this grant money we would work with a military spouse owned agency to help us design a military spouse sales program and hire several military spouses to begin professionally representing Alpha Coffee’s wholesale program. These representatives would earn ongoing commissions for bringing us new wholesale business and can take this job with them wherever they are stationed. We see the launch of this program as win-win. Alpha Coffee continues to grow and can execute it’s mission to give back to the military community, and the military spouses we hire have well-paying, commission-based, portable jobs where they represent a cause based veteran and military spouse co-owned business providing a superior product.
I started Big Cedar Media four years ago to showcase the human condition through stories that inspire and motivate. I shoot and edit promotional videos, instructional videos, and short films, as well as, freelance as a camera operator for more established production companies.
I served seven years with the 1-163rd Infantry Battalion, an Army National Guard unit based out of Missoula, Montana and in 2004 I served one year in Iraq. I have a heart for my wounded brothers-in-arms who overcome combat injuries through outdoor activities. As a mission oriented bunch, we were taught to adapt and overcome when circumstances favored against us. Over the last five years, I have been fortunate to witness both men and women charge up mountains and down rivers with relentless attitudes.
Their sight taken but not their vision! Their limbs taken but never their tenacity! I have been working with veteran focused nonprofits, such as, Team River Runner, Peace of Adventure, and The Adaptive Sports Center of Crested Butte to raise awareness of their programs through motivational videos. My video service can help attract veterans to these outdoor organizations and help vets find a much needed community again. In September 2017, former Marine and double amputee, Aaron Howell, Army combat veteran Russell Davies, and blind Navy veteran Lonnie Bedwell will kayak 226 miles of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Climber and Producer Timmy O’Neill asked me to shoot and direct a short film about our memorable fourteen day river trip. To achieve the high standard I am striving for in this film and many more to come, I need to finish the set up to my Red Scarlet-W cinematic camera. This grant will allow me one step closer to acquiring the needed components to bring this camera to life. Thank you.
We are motivated by love and serving others, which inspired how we met, while serving in the military, and the development of rose + candy. Motherhood is full of challenges and we each experienced and met those challenges differently.
When we discussed our experiences adapting to life as mothers we regretted that there wasn't a better support network across geography, age and style of parenting that we could access to help us get through the hardest moments. When we had those moments in the military one of the things that lifted our spirits were care packages sent from home. We decided to start with what we knew, and send care packages with practical gifts for moms, to cheer them up when they needed it.
So we started a space that supports women who don’t always have a place to go (Mothers are always focused on others) and that allows Mothers to be more forgiving towards themselves. Currently we offer specific gifts geared towards experiences of Motherhood i.e. Birth, Newborn, and Back to the Bedroom but we want to be a place Mothers can come to seek out help with a group of people who understand and acknowledge it.
We name our beer after the Call Signs of fallen military aircraft as a tribute to the men and women that scarified their lives for this great Country. We are in the process of remodeling a building that looks like a hanger, building a 7 barrel brewery/tap room. We will tribute the fallen of all branches of military as well as fallen Police officers and Firefighters. We will start off with 8 taps and hope to have 16 by the end of our first year.
Once we are capable, we plan on giving back to the community by supporting "Battle Buddies" a local organization that provides service dogs to solders suffering with PTSD, as well as having counselors on hand so solders who need help, can reach out to us and get the assistance needed including suicide prevention.
There is no parallel to the loneliness felt by service members and their families when we send them to war... With exception to the loneliness felt upon their return. Barely into my twenties, after years behind the fraternal shield of protection and accountability granted by military life, I attempted transitioning back to the civilian world for the first time. Late adolescence is confusing for everyone and when mine ran in tandem with the dramatic shift from a tribe based community to a solitary existence: I failed very hard, very fast. I was depressed, anxious, and seemingly incompatible with, “normal” life.
Outside of the two-day transition course given by the military to all personnel before separation, in which you are inundated with impersonal and seemingly unimportant information; I had no idea who, where, or what I was supposed to be. Overwhelmed, I regressed back to the comfort of war, spending approximately 4 more years as a security contractor in violent parts of the world that to me seemed much less dangerous than the potential failures of reintegration with American life.
Determined to build a modern solution to this old problem, in 2015 I returned and created, Victor. Victor is a bridge across the military-civilian gap that aims to make life after service less complicated and more socially empowered by connecting veterans and their families with the people, places, and information they need to smooth their transition and ease stress. In return for a community being veteran friendly, Victor gives local businesses in that community the opportunity to market products, discounts, and jobs directly to a well-respected and widely known but elusive and not well understood demographic. If awarded a grant from StreetShares, the funding would be used for marketing materials, IT equipment, and PR campaign to help boost are launch.
SoCal Hot Sauce® launched in September, 2016. This veteran owned company is now a multi-award winning company on the national level. We are testing many different revenue streams to see what the most effective strategy is. With many “irons in the fire” we still work methodically and with as little risk as possible. While the perfect revenue stream may not be crystal clear yet, one thing is. The need to give back to the military community. Currently, we send a free pack of hot sauce to a service member that is away from home, every month. This is gesture is a way for us to give the service member a taste of home.
As our business grows, so will the ability to give back to the military community. I always make time to talk to fellow veterans who are interested in starting a small business. I feel compelled to share the knowledge that I’ve learned so that they can have a running start. I have taken so much pleasure in mentoring veterans as they transition, that it is now my goal to support the best charities that enable mentoring and coaching to other veterans as they start new business ventures. Another way I would like to impact the military community is to develop an honest, straight forward direct sales and affiliate program to help military spouses earn extra income. In the execution of this program I would take pride in only taking enough retained earnings to keep the program running, and let the spouses have the rest.
The military is what taught me the work ethic needed to succeed. It was my military brethren that pushed me to start this company. Even after 11 years of service, it is the military that I am in great debt to.
Red Raven Meadery is a start-up company created for the manufacture and sales of Mead, a wine like drink which, while ancient, is rapidly regaining mainstream popularity. Mead is the fastest growing adult beverage on the market today with many new Meaderies opening all over America.
The manufacture of Mead is similar to that of wine, however no fruits are used. Mead is made from Honey, water and a hint of acid, usually Lemon Juice, for stabilization. When mixed with specific yeasts a potable alcoholic beverage is produced which is slightly sweet while simultaneously dry in nature. While this seems a contradiction, and would be in wines, it is not in Mead.
This grant will be utilized for the purchase of more honey, bottles, kegs, labels and other ingredients needed to stock our new Meadery. Mead is a very profitable product, with $2.50 worth of ingredients a $17.95 bottle of Mead is made. We also intend to have a large wholesale market with sales direct to restaurant chains and other distribution channels. Our team is small at the moment as we are just starting out and consist of me and my two sons. We will add staffing as needed.
While overseas on our 2015 deployment, my roommate and now partner (Jose Morales), and I knew that when we came back home, we would have to strive for something great but we didn't know exactly how. We just knew that we wanted to continue giving back to our country and the selfless heroes that put their lives on the line every day. Being passionate about fitness, we decided to start a clothing line that would support our heroes and give back to them. We want to promote a healthy active lifestyle and at the same time encourage other Veterans and customers to take action on their dreams.
Every time anyone is wearing our apparel and they read the name, we want them to remember what FRAGO stands for. We are humbled to have a partnership with Operation Homefront, and be able to donate a portion of our sales to that charity. We recently launched in Sept 11, 2017, but if FRAGO Apparel wins, we would use that award money to purchase more products and boost our marketing so more customers can learn about us.
I make and sell beard balms, oils and accessories such as combs and brushes. I started 133 Beard Company to help raise money to support a brother in arms Non-Profit "Anglers Anonymous of America". AAOA takes veterans with PTSD on fully funded fishing trips (completely free to the veteran or active duty member). Anglers Anonymous is the sole recipient of the proceeds of 133 Beard Company.
133 Beard Company is not my primary source of income however. I still work for the DOD supporting the warfighter as a federal employee. I continue to use 133 as a way to share God's love and help out my fellow brothers and sisters in arms. I also currently co-chair a Veterans Ministry through my local church where we focus on healing through spiritual channels and frequently visit the CALVET home in Saticoy hosting monthly bible studies.