Veterans In Business Network National Conference is going virtual

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VIB Network signage for the virual conference

Join us from your desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone on October 12 &13. This virtual experience will allow more Veteran Businesses, Corporations, and Government Agencies to participate nationwide. Don’t miss this opportunity to connect, learn and share with an easy and engaging virtual conference platform.

Enjoy motivational speakers, business matchmaking sessions, informative seminars/panel discussions, opportunity exhibit, VIB virtual concert, networking, games…and more!

Why the VIB Network is Different…
One of the things that set us apart from other organizations is that we don’t charge the Veteran businesses a membership fee.

We believe their service to the country was payment enough. We also offer directory access, website, outreach events, webinars, Veteran Business Cohort programs, and our VIB App – all at no charge.

Sponsorship funds go to helping us offer these services and other innovative programs.

Don’t miss this amazing event – Register Today by clicking here.

USVM talks with Shawn Driscoll, Co-Founder of Loop Media, Inc., about his experience in the Military and more

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Shawn Driscoll smiling wearing a black and white t-shirt with the word Loop on it

USVM: What was your personal experience as a veteran, and how did the values you learned in the military influence the creation of Loop Media?

SD: Veterans have something that not everyone has the opportunity to experience. Discipline and commitment is the approach to life that we follow. The Marine Corps teaches you chain of command, commitment, discipline, and teamwork as core principles. The most important thing that the Marine Corps taught me is to never quit on your commitment. It’s critical to your success.

USVM: How has your collaboration with Billy Ray Cyrus led you to develop a passion for music videos?

SD: I was involved in the Achy Breaky Heart 2 music video, around when Mylie Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball was blowing up. It was done as somewhat of a joke but it was viewed millions of times. Popular music videos are seeing people tuning into them like never before. Videos have taken center stage, with 40% of YouTube traffic being music videos. Videos are a mainstay of entertainment globally, more so than in the U.S and it’s a powerful medium to entertain.

USVM: How can reopened businesses keep patrons engaged through streaming content, and what types of content do they respond to best?

SD: Content that is short form is responded to best. Content like movie trailers, music videos, viral videos, sports highlights, drone footage from around the world are the forms of entertainment that is consumed out of home. This will get people to move away from their phone and engage with their surroundings. The goal is to move them to engage with Loop’s platforms when out and about.

USVM: Why is the future of streaming outside the home, and how the streaming giants are missing a tremendous opportunity in that arena?

SD: Everyone is trying to find the secret formula. Loop is the only one aggressively going after the market of short-form content outside the home. Spotify is focused on mobile. Apple and Amazon on content creators. At Loop we believe that building a network outside of the home is an untapped market that no one is going after.

USVM: What advice would you give veterans who wish to start their own businesses, as well as entrepreneurs looking to break into the entertainment industry?

SD: You need commitment to see things through and achieve your dreams and goals. Loop grew from an idea that we wanted to build a competitor to VEVO. It has grown to so much more than that now but it all started with one idea. Have a vision and be prepared to grind. In the Marine Corps, you are taught to do this in a unique way. Work hard, and make sure someone notices the hard work. Tell your story, and make sure someone listens to it. You only get out of life what you demand so be passionate about it. You are the one that has the ability to make it happen.

Retired Air Force Master Sergeant Credits Military Skills as Foundation for His Pillar To Post Home Inspectors® Business

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Steven Cordova headshots side by side military uniform and business clothes

Steven Cordova, Modesto resident and veteran, recently launched operations as a franchisee with the No. 1 home inspection company in North America, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors.

The 43-year-old services California’s Central Valley which includes Modesto, Ceres, Turlock, Oakdale, Manteca, Tracy, Ripon, Stockton, Lodi, Merced, Atwater, Bridgeport, Sonora, Mariposa, Yosemite Valley and Los Banos.

Cordova was a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force for 24 years.  He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He was stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, Travis Air Force Base in California and Dyess Air Force Base in Texas. In addition, he was stationed internationally at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam, Lajes Field in Azores, Portugal and Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan.

“I always had the ambition to operate my own business and the military provided me with the tools and discipline necessary in business,” said Cordova. “With Pillar To Post Home Inspectors’ startup program and franchisee support system, I knew that achieving my goal was obtainable. I look forward to what the future brings and the challenges ahead because I know that with the foundation the military has given me and the corporate team at my side, I will be successful.”

Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is the brand to which more than three million families have turned to for more than 25 years to be their trusted advisor when buying or selling a home. Consistently ranked for 23 years on Entrepreneur Magazine’s annual Franchise500®, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is enjoying its eighth consecutive year as No. 1 in its category on that coveted ranking. In addition, the company has 5-Star status with VetFran, a program offered by the International Franchise Association that provides discounted franchise fees to veterans.

A professional evaluation both inside and outside the home is at the core of Pillar To Post Home Inspectors’ service. Pillar To Post Home Inspectors input data and digital photos into a computerized report. All information is provided to clients in a customized binder for easy reference, allowing homebuyers or sellers to make confident, informed decisions.

About Pillar To Post Home Inspectors®
Founded in 1994, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is the largest home inspection company in North America with home offices in Toronto and Tampa. There are more than 600 franchises located in 49 states and nine Canadian provinces. The company has ranked in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise500® for 23 years in a row, the past eight years as No.1 in Category. Long-term plans include adding 500 to 600 new franchisees over the next five years. For further information, please visit www.pillartopost.com. To inquire about a franchise, go to www.pillartopostfranchise.com

How Have You Used Your Military Crisis Skills During the Pandemic?

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three small business owners pictured in a collage

We at US Veterans Magazine asked the owners of three very different veteran-owned small businesses how their own military crisis skills have benefitted each of their businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what they had to say:

Cesar Nader, President & CEO, X Corp Solutions, Inc.

X Corp Solutions, Inc., is a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business that specializes in language training, culture immersion and regional knowledge. The company offers leadership workshops, workforce development and career transition seminars for professionals and organizations. X Corp has a diversified portfolio serving military, federal government, state and local, private sector and international clients in five states across the Unites States (HI, CA, NC, MD and VA) and is looking to expand into new markets. X Corp is also a Disadvantaged Minority Small Business Entity or 8(a), GSA certified schedule holder (MOBIS Schedule), Top Secret Facility Level Cleared (FLC) entity, ISO certified in 9001-2015-Quality Management Systems and 27000–Information Security Management. For more information, visit xcorpsolutions.com

Before the government declared any objectives or guidelines for the country, we put in place a three-phased plan with five levels of employee conditions. I would be happy to share that plan. Just as with any military crisis, we brought our “CORE-4” team together—which included our top managers—and began putting together a plan of how we could ensure that our customers would get their missions accomplished. We planned for every level of action and met daily for this pre-phase I implementation. We also planned to make sure we could keep each one of our employees on the payroll, even before there was any Payment Protection Program Loan or CARES Act in place. The swift and immediate implementation of our plan in early March allowed us to instill confidence and trust in our employees, and earned us the same from our customers. Our partners were also eager to learn about our plan and asked if we could share it so they could implement it. Our ability to draw on my military training to plan for contingencies and emergencies was critical in showing a calm and effective leadership posture, and allowed me to teach my team how to perform in the midst of chaos. The outcome has been remarkably effective in how our XMen, customers, partners and allies trust us to lead the way—and let them know that in the face of adversity and panic, we’ve got their backs.

Kathleen Ford, Co-Owner & CEO, scDataCom

scDataCom, LLC, a nationally-recognized small business specializing in the design, installation and service of physical and electronic security systems for public and private sector clients, was just certified by the State of New York as a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business (SDVOB). scDataCom is also recognized by the Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) for its service-disabled veteran-owned status.

The pandemic of 2020 had a profound impact on the nation, with many small businesses suffering a fatal, unrecoverable blow. scDataCom fell within the “essential services” umbrella as our team supports critical infrastructure, so our trucks continued to roll, but not without considerable disruption, chaos, fear, and adaptation required to do old things in new ways. My military experience and that of our staff (over 50 percent of our team are veterans) trained us well for this one—changing plans is a military norm, and we are experts in the pivot. In the short term, scDataCom took the opportunity to provide security services for our small business customers who felt vulnerable leaving their vacant shops unmanned; we were able to set up cameras in a main business corridor and provide remote viewing for business owners to “watch the shop” while quarantined. As things are returning to the new normal, we are adapting our sales strategy, launching a subscription/lease service for cash-strapped businesses who need access control or video solutions, and pursuing additional work in sectors less affected by current economics, such as the federal and construction sectors.

Al Lopez, President & CEO, Alma Coffee

Al Lopez is the Veteran Business Owner (VBO) of Alma Coffee & Finca Terrerito, a coffee roastery and coffee farm focused on improving the lives of many, implementing sustainable practices in everything they do and the production of extraordinary coffee. As a 4th generation coffee farmer, Lopez sources coffee directly from his own farm in Honduras (@fincaterrerito) and from other farmers he knows directly (almadoptions). On the coffee roasting side (Alma Coffee), they expertly roast based on the natural properties inside the coffee and take pride roasting on an American-made Loring Smart Roaster, the most fuel-efficient coffee roaster on the market, emitting 80 percent less emissions than other conventional roasters. For more information, visit myalmacoffee.com

The answer is Plan, Simplify and Execute. As a military man, I plan for everything, but the pandemic was not one I had planned for—I missed it completely! Our business, Alma Coffee (@myalmacoffee) took a significant and direct hit. We went to zero revenue overnight; our café and wholesale customers shut down. Other coffee roasters who purchase green bean (coffee bean prior to roasting) from my Finca Terrerito farm were also operating at very low capacity levels and had paused on most purchases. Instead of panicking, the skills I acquired in the military kicked in. Comradery in the military creates a sense of invincibility, where nothing can ever hurt you, and this is the culture we want to create in all our businesses.

At Alma Coffee we followed and continue to follow the Infantry motto, ‘Forever Forward.’ When the pandemic hit, we gathered our team of six, shared ideas, decided on the next steps and gave each member the tools needed to succeed. We reached out to all of our friends and family, our community and all others in our network to ask for help. I did a video for the VIB (Veterans in Business – https://myalmacoffee.com/pages/supportvib) network and asked them to please purchase Alma Coffee. We were brutally honest and informed them that without their purchases, we would not survive. We pivoted and moved forward aggressively to develop our online business. With the pandemic, the majority of the world has continued to drink coffee, but where and who they purchase from has changed. We decided to execute a strategy of being within arms distance of the customer. For us, this meant contactless home delivery via online ordering. The online e-commerce world is fairly new to us so there has been a lot of trial and error, but we are quick to learn and passionate about doing things right and delighting the customer!  I am proud to say we have not missed a payroll check; we have paid all of our bills and are more motivated than ever to continue following the Infantry’s ‘Forever Forward’ motto. We are beyond blessed to work in the coffee industry, the second most traded commodity in the world.

Photos: pictured top; Al Lopez: Image credit: Clay Goswick Photography; bottom left, Kathleen Ford: Image credit: Apt. B Photography; bottom right, Cesar Nader, President & CEO, X Corp Solutions, Inc.

 

Iraq War Veteran Launches Luxury Fragrance Line for Men and Women

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bottle of triangle fragrance surrounded by rose petals

U.S. Army special operations military veteran Magda Khalifa recently launched Triangle Fragrance—a luxury fragrance line for men and women inspired by the Freedom Triangle Framework and introduced in her memoir, American DREAM: Discipline, Resilience, Endurance, Adaptability and Mentorship.

“Confidence” for women is an alluring floral and woody scent, featuring notes of lavender, rose, and whiskey. “Victory” for men is a very masculine scent created with notes of Cuban tobacco, Russian leather and bourbon.

After two tours in Iraq, Khalifa struggled with transition and health issues. In the aftermath of exposure to toxic burn pits in the combat zone, Khalifa became very aware of toxicities in environments that affect people’s health.

“From the battlefield through my post war journey, I realized the power of smells and scents.

I set out to create unique, beautiful fragrances that correspond to the points of the Freedom Triangle,” said Khalifa, explaining that Confidence and Victory represent the first point, Time Freedom.

Features of Triangle Fragrances include:

– vegan-friendly, cruelty-free

– made with plant-based alcohol

– made without parabens, sulfates, triclosan, phthalates, mineral oil, or dyes

“It’s fundamental to my values and to the brand that the fragrances are made in America, and that ingredients and production reflect a very high quality,” Khalifa explained.

Triangle Fragrances are long-lasting eau de parfums, with 18 percent concentration of fragrance oils. The stunning packaging features an elegant collector’s card inside, offering written inspiration and motivation to its owner.

The brand showcases models from all walks of life on its social media, many of whom have never modeled before. “It is an honor to share the stories of many great Americans who literally embody the spirit of the fragrance they represent,” said Khalifa.

The next Triangle Fragrances, called the white line, was released in summer. These scents will represent Health Freedom in the Freedom Triangle. When the series is complete, the colors of the bottles and boxes will reveal red, white, and blue.

Retailers interested in carrying the next great American brand are encouraged to contact info@trianglefragrance.com.

Triangle Fragrance is available now, exclusively online at trianglefragrance.com.

Source: Triangle Fragrance

Recruit a Military Spouse: Gain a Force of Nature

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Caitlin Emmons pictured sitting on side of fountain with husband and two small children

By Caitlin Emmons

Honor. Courage. Commitment. When University of California, Irvine School of Law graduate Caitlin Emmons’ husband enlisted as a United States Marine, her family put these values above all others.

Military spouses do not attend boot camp, they do not put their lives on the line, and they do not have rank. They serve in a different capacity by placing their dreams on hold, by taking care of the home front, and by holding dear the same values that their spouses pledged their lives to uphold.

From being CEO of the home to being professionals across many industries, military spouses are an incredible powerhouse of strength across our nation. For those military spouses who are in professions requiring specialized licensing, they are faced with a never-ending patchwork of rules to overcome.

For those businesses and organizations that understand this potential, they unlock a determination to serve unlike any other when they recruit military spouses into their communities.

Military spouse and public interest attorney Caitlin Emmons decided to attend law school long before she became a military spouse.

When she married her Marine, she was challenged to deeply reflect on how she could realize her dream of being a loving wife and mother and still play her part in building a more just society as a lawyer. Given her USMC spouse’s military occupational specialty and it being their home of record, Caitlin hedged her bets and took the California Bar after graduating from UCI Law.

The bets did not pay off because afterwards, she and her husband were called to North Carolina. Once she accepted that she would not be a practicing attorney in California for the foreseeable future, she tackled the next major decision to create the strongest way forward.

Taking a bar exam is prohibitively expensive, especially when you are living on a military salary. With two children under two years old, Caitlin placed family first in true military spouse tradition. In Caitlin’s case, she sought alternatives that would keep her connected to the legal community but did not require a law license. While many employers see military spouses as a countdown clock, always a few years away from the next move, Caitlin eventually landed a position as a judicial assistant for the Honorable Charles Henry, who specifically hired military spouses.

Caitlin was incredibly grateful for the position since it was unique, especially for the area they were in.

After three years in North Carolina, Caitlin’s husband received orders back to California and she immediately connected with Veterans Legal Institute (VLI).

Caitlin found herself seeking to extend her family’s service by dedicating her life to public interest law directed at lifting up Veterans in need.

Veterans Legal Institute is a free law firm that is dedicated to low income and at-risk California Veterans. It serves close to 2,000 Veterans each year and during the COVID-19 pandemic, immediately adjusted its service to accommodate Veterans virtually. Further, in line with its mission, Veterans Legal Institute is always seeking to hire Veterans and military spouses.

With a small grant from the Starcare Foundation, Veterans Legal Institute was able to secure Caitlin a part-time position so that she could pursue her passion of serving Veterans.

When asked why she pursues public interest work at Veterans Legal Institute, Caitlin states: “As a military spouse, I have seen firsthand what service can do to a person. I can testify to the pride that service members feel. Working with Veterans, I can also confirm that so many are returning home to restart their lives, forever changed by their military experience. Our nation collectively owes them a debt. Military spouses are uniquely positioned to fill the needs faced by our Veterans because of our military cultural competence. The fight to restore the honor of their service is a righteous one, and it is one I am prepared to continue with honor, courage, and commitment.”

Are you seeking to stand with our Veterans of today and tomorrow? Become a champion for public interest law. Help eradicate barriers to housing, employment, education, and healthcare.

To learn more about Veterans Legal Institute, please visit www.vetslegal.org.

Amazon Helps Veterans Start Their Own Delivery Business

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Smiling delivery man holding a paper box

Amazon’s Delivery Service Partner program empowers entrepreneurs to build their own small businesses delivering Amazon packages in their local communities.

Delivery Service Partners (DSPs) and their drivers are an integral partof what Amazon refers to as the last mile – transporting packages from their delivery stations to their customer’s front door.

DSPs generally grow to have between 40–100 employees and a fleet of delivery vehicles (which Amazon assists with leasing), ensuring packages get delivered safely and on time.

Like many small businesses, operating a DSP business is challenging. In fact, because of these challenges, Amazon is constantly looking for leaders – such as Veterans – because of their drive, leadership skills, hustle, and mission-first attitude. About one third of Amazon’s DSPs are Veterans.

“In the military, it is all about the team effort, and it is mission orientated. You’ll do well as a leader and as a commander if you are able to bring out the best in people or play to people’s strengths,” said Will Boyd, U.S. Army Veteran and owner of Alpha Zulu Logistics, an Amazon DSP “Amazon has got logistics figured out – what you can bring to the table is really the people aspect, interacting with people – hiring the people, training them, engaging with them, and bringing them along as safe and effective drivers.”

Amazon has committed $5 million toward funding the startup costs for Veterans, offering $10,000 reimbursements to qualified candidates to build their own businesses.

DSPs also have access to Amazon technology and resources, which includes hands-on training, on-demand support, and access to branded vans, uniforms, insurance and more. Amazon also provides DSPs with the package volume they need to grow their business while building a great team and managing the operations.

All Veterans with a drive to succeed are invited to apply. Logistical experience is not required.

Apply at: amazon.com/DSP-VA

The application process can take as little as one month, depending on your area’s needs. Learn more about the process and regional opportunities at: https://logistics. amazon.com/marketing/getting started

Source: blogs.va.gov

Air Force Vet’s Business Franchises Take Flight

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Headshot of Don Stone

By Rhonda Sanderson

Don Stone’s entrepreneurial spirit first began when he learned to fly while serving in the Air Force. After leaving the service, Stone took his flight knowledge and chose to open his first business as a fixed-based operation, which is basically a gas station for planes, at a small airport in Colorado.

While it was a fun business overall, he faced challenges with the city and county governments that owned the airport. This experience helped him immensely for his next endeavor—owning and operating a franchise.

Stone’s first franchise was part of a 216-location hair salon company near Texas. After selling that business in 2000, he was immediately interested in purchasing another.

“My experience with franchising was what made me pursue future opportunities,” Stone shared. “I spoke to someone in Dallas about a mobile pet grooming business that wanted to expand and start franchising. Because of my experience with the hair salon franchise, I thought of using that same model to expand it, but instead ended up buying the business outright.”

After much due diligence, Stone realized it would be complicated to turn the mobile grooming business into a franchise. He was surprised to learn that mobile pet grooming salons are more complicated than the average person would expect, so instead of franchising, he kept the business as it was and it has since grown significantly. Stone now operates over 50 mobile grooming salons in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

As time went on, Stone continued to watch for a complementary business to purchase.

“I knew one of the founders of Pet Butler,” he said. “I watched the business as it grew and franchised.”

Once the Dallas/Fort Worth market opened, he jumped at the chance to diversify by adding a Pet Butler franchise to his current business model.

“It was easy for me to add on because we had the back-office services in place already,” Stone explained. “It was a great way to acquire a much-needed service, popular in the pet specialty services group.”

Stone was able to keep his focus on the same great services for pets in people’s homes or offices. He has a full-time manager and six scoopers—four having been a part of his organization for more than 10 years. And when Pet Butler was acquired by Spring-Green Enterprises in 2017, franchisees of Pet Butler received not only digital marketing help, but also back-office support—a huge advantage Stone says because he’s not tied to a desk.

The company’s National Call Center answers all calls from would be and existing customers, and provides immediate information to the franchise owner.

“Within minutes, we are on the phone with the customer solving any issues or schedule changes.” Stone said.

The back-office support team also handles customer billing and processes payments. Stone has also gotten his son involved with the Pet Butler end of the business, which, frankly, involves the back end of a dog! Stone has a dedicated, full-time Pet Butler manager, but he, too, scoops poop, and his son is learning to become a manager for the business by scooping poop as well.

“He will learn the business by doing, not by taking over,” Stone says.

In fact, all of Stone’s children are involved in both his Pet Butler and mobile grooming businesses. They came to them on their own, which was very important to Stone.

“It is interesting to get a different perspective from my kids,” said Stone, who is proud to build his businesses alongside his kids.

His advice to those veterans thinking about purchasing a Pet Butler franchise?

“You must have an entrepreneurial spirit, but you also need to follow the program,” Stone said, “The franchisor spends a lot of time and money on what works and what does not. A good franchisee will learn from that so they don’t repeat costly mistakes.”

Stone added, “If you’re in the pet business already or are looking for a business in a booming industry, take a serious look at this. Ninety percent of the things you need to know and do are already figured out for you. It’s a great business.”

Pet Butler was acquired in 2017 by Spring-Green Enterprises, the parent company of 43-year-old Spring-Green Lawn Care and SGE Marketing Services. They currently have 30 franchisees located in 26 states with plans to open 60 more within the next 5 years.

To learn more about how Pet Butler serves pets and their people, visit their website here.

To inquire about a franchise, call (844) 777-8608 or visit their website here.

Virtual Events Take Center Stage

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A woman in a military outfit looking at her laptop

By Innovate Marketing Group

As the live events industry awaits COVID-19 regulations, guidelines, and phase rollouts; innovations and digital opportunities arise, virtual events take center stage, and the importance of an events agency and planner sustains.

Why go virtual? Virtual events have proven to be an effective and efficient way to convey content and engage attendees. Experts shared that future events will incorporate a digital aspect as a hybrid-type model as the events industry seeks to widen their audience and maintain contingency plans. Events will see more virtual aspects embedded into their programs moving forward.

Going virtual also brings market share and new opportunities.
“Some companies that were previously on hold to wait out COVID-19 have either pivoted to virtual or seriously considering since the recovery is so uncertain. Business still needs to go on. Leadership conferences, educational and training are still vital for companies,” said Amanda Ma, chief experience officer of Innovate Marketing Group.

All of the different elements of a virtual event need to be coordinated into one impactful and engaging experience. The event agency’s role includes helping guiding businesses to pivot to the new normal, advising and adjusting contract changes, applying event strategies to help meet goals, vendor coordination and recommendations, program management and managing multiple tracks, marketing and communication, incorporating sponsors and stakeholders and the guest experience.

Some of the many benefits of pivoting to virtual include:

  •  Cost savings and lower cost per guest attending
  •  Access to a wider audience and reach, and not limited by location
  • Replay capabilities and reusable on demand content
  • Lower carbon footprint and less impact on the environment
  •  Attendee engagement
  •  Opportunity to get creative and engage viewers in new ways
  •  Metrics, instant data tracking and capture, and gaining new insights
  •  Virtual events eliminate the need for a venue, catering, rentals, stage, décor, photographer, videographer, transportation, etc.
  •  Taking action – calls to action link in right away; connect, survey, polling, Q&A and donate

Some challenges in comparison to a live event include emotion and energy, stimulations such as touch, taste and smell, memory and recall, networking, and viewer attention span.
Innovate Marketing Group also shares top best practices in going virtual, such as setting your goals on information, education, message, attendee and sponsor engagement, networking, etc.

Format: Determine your virtual event format – webinar, webcast, pre-recorded sessions, simu-live, live streaming, networking, exhibitors.

Registration: Reconsider the registration process, including number of users who will be accessing the website, personal data, payment processing safety, and customized questions per data you would like to collect.

Keep Your Audience Engaged: with tools such as live polling, question and answer sessions, networking opportunities, gamification, live leader boards, rewards and social media feeds. Maintain your event experience by making your guests feel involved and connected to your program. We are in the planning stages of a 3,000 people walk/run event, and one of the ideas is on the day of the event to have a virtual DJ play during the walk and the organization lowers the volume if messages need to be communicated. The music is based on what the organizers want. This way while people are walking, they can stay connected as part of the program.

Pre-Event Communication & Marketing: Communication and marketing are key. Unlike an in-person event where they must get dressed up, drive to the event, and spend more time to prepare for the event, a virtual event is simply a login to a platform. Therefore, it is very important to send out reminders and build up the anticipation of the event. In a recent virtual event, we advised the client to ask for the attendee’s cell phone number.

So, in addition to email reminders, the week of event and day of, a text notification was sent out to all attendees. We received great feedback for putting that in place. It reminded folks the virtual event is coming up and to tune in. Digital marketing, promotion, advertisement, and video content is still very important for a virtual event, before broadcasting on your event day.

Surprise and Delight Before the Event: Sending a swag bag prior to the event with items relevant to the event. For an upcoming conference, we are sending a box with a blue light blocking glasses, candle, custom door handle, notebook, T-shirt, and a coffee tumbler. We have a special note to go along with this kit to kick off the conference mindset. On the day of the conference, we asked everyone to wear the shirt provided. One less worry about what to wear on “top.”

Content is King: Offer educational, relevant, timely and meaningful content that people will want to hear. It is vital to create content that captivates guests, sparks their creativity and results in productivity.

Do Not Try to Replicate Your Live Event: Instead, look for new opportunities but stay true to purpose of your event. Keep principle of why your guests were coming together, and make it part of the equation.

Test, Test, and Test Again: Technical difficulties may occur, and it often distracts from your event. Have a run through with your speakers and moderator in advance and test the virtual release on your platforms.

What You Know is Only the Beginning

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Aliahu “Alli” Bey's Headshot

by Jackie Hobson

Aliahu “Alli” Bey is a husband, father of 3, and a US Army Aviation veteran entrepreneur. After gathering nearly two decades of engineering and project management experience, Alli decided he would prefer life without the corporate politics.

Utilizing his experience, he started his first small business, Haight Bey, in June of 2014. He spent 14 long months writing proposals from his basement and making ends meet by moonlighting at a small food manufacturer in the evenings and working as a boot and ski technician during the day at a local ski resort.

In July of 2015, he won his first Department of Defense contract worth more than $47 million dollars. Over the past 5 years he has added several Prime and Subcontracts to their project portfolio, and most recently stood up a cybersecurity compliance company called Totem Technologies.

Helping Other Veteran Business Owners

Bey volunteers his time and donates company profits to helping other veterans and minorities start and grow their businesses. He is a board member of the Utah African American Chamber of Commerce and Co-Chairman of the Warrior Rising board, a nationally-recognized organization that helps veteran entrepreneurs. Bey developed over 3000 square feet of incubator space within the Haight Bey and Totem.tech facilities. He currently supports two veteran-owned businesses— one is a USAF Minority Veteran, Woman-owned Human Resource startup called Pyramid Edge, and the second one is a USN-owned machine shop called Fox Machining.

Haight Bey workforce employees standing around a table
The Haight Bey workforce is comprised of over 60 percent veterans

Bey’s advice to those thinking of starting a business:

Stick to what you know: My first contract win was in support of a tactical weather system utilized by the USAF and Marine Corp. This was not luck—it was experience, patience, and relationships. I worked over a decade on this system for the manufacturer, and then as a program manager for a large Prime contractor. I assisted with engineering, deploying, servicing and supporting. I knew this system inside and out.

I had and continue to have great relationships with the manufacturer and the government program management team. What you know will get you started, but who you know, and better yet—who knows you—is a cornerstone in building and growing a successful company.

Focus on quality: Our chief cybersecurity engineer has always said to me, “Build a quality product and the customers will come.” We all know that nobody wants a cheap product that’s going to fall apart after a few uses. What we don’t understands as clearly is that a quality product requires a collective mindset of those around you. From my salesperson not over promising and clearly defining what will be delivered, to our project manager ensuring that we are constantly communicating and delivering exactly what our customers expect, everyone in the process must share the same desire of delivering quality.

A group filming Travis Bell's weather program
Program Manager Travis Bell, teaches the Air Force about their sustaining methods and support of their tactical weather program.

Don’t depend on your set-aside status: All too often I find within our veteran and minority business community individuals that expect to be handed business opportunities solely on their set-aside status i.e. Woman, Veteran, Minority, etc. In business, your set-aside status is a good thing, but if you have failed to focus on what and who you know, and delivering a quality product or service, your set-aside will never become relevant.

Get multiple mentors: You can never have enough people around to ask questions. I often seek advice on the same topic from multiple mentors, knowing each will have an answer based on their unique experiences. Sometimes I get widely varying opinions/answers, however, I have now been a mentee long enough to learn that no one answer or opinion is more correct than the other. This allows me to evaluate my issue from multiple perspectives, which ultimately leads me to make a better decision. Mentors don’t have to be formal. Many times, I ask for advice from co-workers or even a complete stranger.

It’s hard work: Let’s be honest—starting a business takes a rather large emotional commitment, so you must want this at your core. I spent years talking daily with my family and other business owners, making sure I was making the right move. I knew once I jumped in, it was all or nothing. Vetrepreneurship requires buy-in from the entire family, as there is usually a substantial financial and personal time commitment.

Jason Van Camp, my friend, mentor, US Army Green Beret and the founder of Warrior Rising, says, “I ask the same three questions to vetrepreneurs that I do when a guy tells me he wants to go to Ranger School or Special Forces: The first is, why do you want to do this? Second, what are you going to do? Finally, what have you done in the past to ready yourself for this?”

Photo Credit: Haight Bey Marketing

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Upcoming Events

  1. Veterans Legal Institute Networking & Fundraiser Event
    November 9, 2020
  2. Vietnam POW 47th Remembrance
    November 14, 2020
  3. VA Healthcare Online Summit 2020
    December 2, 2020 - December 4, 2020