It isn’t a coincidence that you see veterans among the ranks of top executives for Fortune 500 companies or sitting on the boards of successful firms. The military creates a base foundation for success that directly translates into the professional world through leadership, discipline, and teamwork skills. It comes as no surprise to see veterans rise to the top or choose the life of entrepreneurship.

Starting a new journey is a challenge that starts with a dream and ideas scribbled on a notepad. It’s a confusing path chasing the correct paperwork, licenses, legal advice, and permits. The Second Service Foundation is a nonprofit organization that aims to bridge the gap to streamline veterans, military spouses, and Gold Star Family members into entrepreneurship through coaching, resources, and capital. 

Founded by United States Air Force JAG veteran Mark L. Rockefeller, Second Service is backed by authenticity. They are specifically and uniquely qualified to help take small veteran businesses to the next level not only because of their proven record but because they also started as a small business run by veterans and military spouses. 

Recently, Second Service has launched its free online executive coaching program for military-owned and affiliated small businesses and nonprofits. Following the successful launch in September, over 275 hours of coaching and education have been provided. The executive coaching program is a high-level course that veterans and military spouses can access during any stage of their entrepreneurship. Led by coaches Matthew and Corie Weathers, the free training is provided to remove barriers of cost for the military community opting to invest in themselves to set up a successful company after their military service, whether as a service member in uniform or a spouse standing beside them as they served. 

The Second Service Foundation’s impact on the military community is a testament to understanding the veteran, and what it takes to get their business to the next level. With over 100,000 individual community members who’ve attended over 200 coaching sessions, and over 10k members trained and educated through their programs, Second Service cultivates the Military American Dream™ for both those who put on the uniform and the ones who hold down the fort back home.

Three of the most common challenges identified by a study from Syracuse University were that veterans lacked access to capital, connection to qualified mentors, and had very limited networks. The study also showed that military veterans were more likely to own businesses than civilians, and vets tended to out-earn their civilian counterparts in entrepreneurship.

Second Service Foundation gives the military entrepreneur community an opportunity to win start-up capital and in-kind legal services through their Military Entrepreneur Challenge™ (MEC) pitch competition. Over $400,000 in start-up capital has been given out since 2016, while Holland & Knight LLP gives out over $175,000 annually in pro-bono legal services at the national MEC pitch competition. 

At MEC, you have the chance to pitch yourself and your company to win. After quarter and semi-final rounds, judges choose their top three finalists, as well as one wild card chosen by audience vote. 

The grand prize/first place is a $15,000 capital grant awarded by their partner, Sam Adams: Brewing the American Dream, and $50,000 in-kind legal services. The legal services are provided by their partner, Holland & Knight LLP. Second place wins a $6,000 capital grant and $25,000 in-kind legal services while third place wins a $4,000 capital grant and $25,000 in-kind legal services. As a surprise to all, the Second Service also awarded the fourth finalist a $2,000 grant and $15,000 of in-kind legal services as well. 

Through these competitions, they have given away over $275,000 in grants and legal services this year. This year’s regional grant recipients for 2023 were 59% military veterans (33% of those were disabled veterans), 48% military spouses, and 51% female entrepreneurs. 

Second Service Foundation is looking to help veterans and military spouses take their new adventure to the next level. The social impact of the Military Entrepreneur Challenge™ has helped previous grant recipients develop their businesses and nonprofits to change their communities that address issues such as mental health, military PCS, finding a sense of community, and food security. 

It isn’t uncommon for the winners of the MEC competition to reach back out to Second Service to share their expertise with other small business owners. Participants say that it has become more than just a program designed to help get business launched, but that Second Service has become a family. The importance of fellowship, bonding, and togetherness is strong within the military. While service members are deployed, their families can count on each other for updates, support, and care during the long, worry-filled months of deployment, and navigating through big changes or small things of everyday life. 

Second Service provides that same support and care through the journey of getting small businesses off the ground. According to Washington, DC’s regional MEC overall winner Monica Bassett, she truly felt the care and support she received. 

“Second Service Foundation has positively impacted Stronghold Food Pantry by allowing us the space and the platform to share new ideas and allow collaborative opportunities with other investors and partners…we were given resources like media and legal assistance. Those resources are hard to come by, and the opportunity that Second Service gave to Stronghold was invaluable…It is a pivotal point in an organization to have something like support from Second Service—but again, I want to stress that it is not Second Service the organization. It is Second Service the team,” Bassett said. 

“I’ll never forget looking at Monica Bassett after she pitched our pitch competition at Military Spouse of the Year®. She was so scared to even enter the contest, but she pushed herself into a place where she could grow—then she received the highest score that we’ve ever had as a pitch competitor,” said Lauren Hope, Executive Director of the Second Service Foundation. “To share that news with her was incredible because she did a really hard thing, and she nailed it. I truly love watching people from our pitch classes grow.”

For more information on Second Service Foundation and how you can pitch your company, please visit