(BPT) - What skills do veterans bring with them from their military service? Leadership, planning and problem-solving are just a few of the important abilities that military experience provides — and those skills are vital for successful entrepreneurship. That means many veterans are drawn to start and run their own businesses. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there’s one veteran-owned company for every 10 veterans, and current veteran-owned firms employ around 5.8 million people in the U.S.
Bob Evans Farms celebrates and supports America’s service members, veterans and their families through its “Our Farm Salutes” program. To support veteran entrepreneurs specifically, Our Farm Salutes launched “Heroes to CEOs,” which offers an annual grant contest to boost veteran-owned businesses around the country.
This February 17 through March 20, applications will be accepted for the fourth annual Heroes to CEOs grant program. Three veteran-owned businesses will be selected as finalists to attend a pitching event at Bob Evans Farms’ headquarters in New Albany, Ohio. One grand prize-winning veteran-owned business will be awarded a $30,000 business grant, plus an all-expense-paid trip to New York for a two-hour mentoring session with world-renowned businessman Daymond John. The other two finalists will also each receive a $10,000 business grant.
The Heroes to CEOs grant contest is open to any veteran of one of the U.S. military branches who is a legal resident of the United States, with their own independent registered business — or who has a plan for an independent business.
Eligible entries will be scored based on the business presentation, the feasibility of the business, opportunity for the future success of the business or submitted plan. For a business to be considered, veteran entrepreneurs must submit a plan demonstrating a solid business concept, with multimedia assets in video format, and be able to answer a series of questions about their business.
2017 Heroes to CEOs grant winter Charlynda Scales is an Air Force vet who took the initiative to transform her grandfather’s amazing sauce recipe into a thriving business: Mutt’s Sauce, known as "the sauce for every meal." With a $30,000 grant from Heroes to CEOs, Scales was able to expand distribution of her product, and to introduce new products and flavors to her line of condiments.
“Heroes to CEOs is a program that allows veteran entrepreneurs to pitch their business to an esteemed panel of executives with a reputable corporate background for a chance to win a business grant,” said Mark Delahanty, president and CEO, Bob Evans Farms. “Not only have the former grant winners successfully furthered their businesses, but they have created a community with ongoing relationships and mentorships with one another and our partners.”
Other past winners include:
- Jonathan Norton of Peak Safety Systems, which creates and deploys safety products for military and first responders
- James Reynolds, whose company BeneFIT Medical Apparel develops athletically engineered medical scrubs
- Oliver Noteware of Street Smarts VR, which provides immersive virtual reality simulations to train law enforcement
- Jessica Harris, who started K9 Salute to make all-natural, wholesome dog treats while also helping purchase protective vests for police K-9 and providing service dogs for vets
Thanks to the Heroes to CEOs grants, these and other veteran-owned businesses have been able to meet and exceed their business goals — including growing into new markets, expanding production and sales plus reaching new target audiences.
The Heroes to CEOs program also continues its two-year partnership with Bunker Labs, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping new veteran entrepreneurs start their own businesses. Bob Evans Farms is giving $15,000 to Bunker Labs to support its mission of helping veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs achieve business success.
If you’re a veteran entrepreneur or know someone who might qualify, visit OurFarmSalutes.com for more information and to apply beginning February 17.