Are you a veteran entrepreneur with a million-dollar idea? Get ready to step into the “Shark Tank” — sort of.
As part of the “Our Farm Salutes” program established to support active-duty service members, veterans, and military families in 2016,the top brand of refrigerated sides Bob Evans Farms announced on June 27 the establishment of the largest veterans-only grant program available to all vets.
“Veterans come from a world that’s very structured, with strict lines about how things are done,” Mike Townsley, CEO and president of Bob Evans Farms. “Being an entrepreneur, those lines tend to get blurred, requiring business owners to figure out things on their own. This can be extremely overwhelming to veterans new to the business world. But, because we know that there are veterans out there with innovative business ideas, we launched this program to help bring their ideas to life and to help them get some of the business coaching they’ll need to ultimately be successful.”
The Heroes to CEOS initiative, developed in partnership with national non-profit The Mission Continues, will provide grants $25,000 apiece to three veteran entrepreneurs who submit a video proposal “demonstrating a solid business concept.”
As with ABC’s beloved business reality series, these veteran entrepreneurs will find their business proposals scrutinized by an experienced five judge panel made up of Townsley, The Mission Continues’ Laura L’Esperance, retired Army intelligence officers Sword & Plough cofounder Emily Nunez, Sword & Plough COO Betsy Nunez, and Navy reservist and The Mission Continues executive director Tony Arendt.
“More than 2.5 million, or 10 percent, of all small businesses in the U.S. are owned by American military veterans,” said Spencer Kympton, president of The Mission Continues. “Yet a lack of funding options specifically for veterans can hinder progress in launching their creative and impactful ideas. Heroes to CEOs is an important resource to help veteran entrepreneurs either start a new business or grow an existing one.”
But after the crucible of the five-judge panel and snagging their hefty grant, those lucky veterans won’t have to go it alone. The three winners will receive a crash course in entrepreneurship from Daymond John, the founder and CEO of FUBU and investor on Shark Tank.
“I was fortunate to be named a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship, and got to meet visionaries and entrepreneurs throughout the globe. One of the greatest honors that allows me is to work with people directly and help cultivate their ideas,” said Daymond John. “It is truly an honor to be able to work with veterans and come together with The Mission Continues to help flush out the ideas, business plans and entrepreneurial future for the recipients of this grant.”
Sure, it’s not actually Shark Tank, but the Heroes to CEO initiatives has all ingredients to produce the next great generation of veteran entrepreneurs and business leaders. The only question remaining for potential contenders is simple: Do you have what it takes?
In order to participate, veteran entrepreneurs must submit their business plan to the Our Farm Salutes website, www.ourfarmsalutes.com, no later than Aug. 8, 11:59:59 pm EST, to be considered for the contest. Winners will be announced on Sept. 12, 2017.