American Veterans Group: Banking on The Success of America’s Returning Military

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Ben Biles and Keith Lisante at friends wedding smiling wearing military dress uniform

By Mark Kroeger

Ben Biles and Keith Lisante had big plans. Roommates at the U.S. Naval Academy, they had grown to become best friends and dreamed of working together on Wall Street when their military service was done.

But those dreams were shattered when Lisante, struggling with his transition back to civilian life, committed suicide just weeks after returning from deployment.

It was a tragedy that happens far too often in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 6,000 military veterans a year—that’s 17 veterans every day—take their own lives.

For Biles (pictured left), Lisante’s (pictured right) death was profoundly personal. He resolved to honor his friend’s legacy by fulfilling their shared vision for a career in finance, while at the same time providing meaningful philanthropic support for military veterans seeking to succeed in their return to civilian life.

Biles’ solution was American Veterans Group, an investment banking company he co-founded that dedicates 25 percent of its profits to career readiness programs for military veterans across the U.S.

Since establishing the company in 2018, and through the end of 2020, American Veterans Group will have donated $70,000 of its earnings to career readiness programs in New York City, Boston and Charlotte, N.C. The money—100 percent of it—has directly supported career training for up to 150 veterans as well as payed for training and salaries for a dozen career readiness coaches and instructors.

According to Biles, he and his team of 15 employees at American Veterans Group are just getting started.

“Our social-impact mission is what distinguishes us on Wall Street,” said Biles, “Our vision from the start has been to create a ripple effect through our philanthropic giving—an ever-widening circle—that impacts, and improves, the lives of as many returning military veterans and their families as possible. The best way to do that is to become a recognized leader in our industry, while never losing sight of the social mission that got us here.”

To fulfill that mission, Biles and his team structured American Veterans Group as a Public Benefit Corporation, which they bill as the only one of its kind on Wall Street. The investment banking firm has a parallel non-profit foundation—the AVG Foundation—that manages the company’s philanthropic giving.

American Veterans Group partners with national, military-focused charities to deliver social impact in the local communities where it does business.

“It’s important for us to serve our clients’ in their own backyards,” Biles said. “A lot of veterans who need this kind of support live in places other than New York City, and our clients recognize that. They see veterans in their own communities who are struggling. It goes a long way when we are able to show that our philanthropy is directly supporting those local needs.”

Being veteran-owned, American Veterans Group qualifies as a diversity supplier. Biles is building the company by networking and forging partnerships with high-profile names in the investment banking community; reaching out to corporate and municipal banking relationship managers; and telling his story to corporate executives who guide diversity supplier, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies.

“We make it a priority to hire and partner with veterans and veteran-owned companies, but our impact extends well beyond even those important benchmarks,” Biles said. “We’re able to demonstrate a direct, deeper and wider impact on veterans in local communities where we’ve done business. We can help corporate clients point to measurable social impact as it relates to veterans both locally and nationally by including us when they decide to access capital in the financial markets.”

Since its founding, American Veterans Group has supported nearly 70 financial transactions as a co-manager or selling group member, helping such states as Massachusetts and California, and municipalities such as Chicago and New York City, access the debt capital markets. The company also supports equity capital market transactions, preferred stock syndicates and secondary trading issues.

American Veterans Group’s high-profile investment banking and financial industry partners include Citi, Bank of America, Barclays and MetLife. The company’s sales team members average 20-plus years’ experience.

Biles co-founded the company with William Frazier, a financial industry leader with 45 years’ experience. Frazier was a partner at Oppenheimer & Company where he led the firm’s global fixed income division. Before American Veterans Group, Frazier founded and oversaw all aspects of Gates Capital Corporation, a boutique dealer specializing in fixed income trading support to independent registered investment advisors.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Keith and remember the plans that we made,” Biles said. “My hope is that he’d be so proud of what we’ve accomplished in such a short period of time. And it’s our mission in life, and in business, to make certain that we’re helping returning military veterans just like him find their pathways home.”

Veterans Business Battle seeks entrepreneurs for 2021 competition

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man with microphone pitching his business idea

Rice University’s business competition geared for military veterans has new benefits for entrepreneurs who apply for a spot in the 2021 event.

Applications are open for Veterans Business Battle, an event that gives military veterans an opportunity to pitch their business plans to a panel of investors for a chance at investments, business partnerships, and prize money. In the last seven years, more than $3.5 million of investments have been funded through the program, with more from the 2020 virtual event still in negotiations. Early-stage businesses and existing companies needing growth capital are both encouraged to apply.

This year, Veterans Business Battle has partnered with NextSeed Securities, a registered broker dealer and FINRA member that works with startups and small businesses to raise capital through an online investment platform (nextseed.com). Businesses invited to present at the 2021 Veterans Business Battle will undergo due diligence screening by NextSeed. Vetted companies will be featured on a dedicated online platform allowing individuals from the general public to make investments in those companies.

“Last year’s online-only event gave us an opportunity to think of ways to engage new investors and expand our audience. We’re excited to increase opportunities for our finalists and grow our network of investors,” event co-chair Matt Wilson said.

The 2021 event will also feature educational panels from another new partner organization, Warrior Rising. The non-profit supports veterans and veteran families achieve business success through education, training, and one-on-one mentorship. Cash prizes will be awarded, with $15,000 prize for first place, $10,000 for second place and $5,000 for third place.

The event is hosted by Rice Business Veterans Association, a student organization for military veterans at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business.

To apply, applicants must submit a business plan on the competition website, vetbizbattle.org, by Feb. 5. Businesses must have an honorably discharged veteran or active duty founder and equity holder who is running the venture.

Finalists will be invited to make their business pitch April 23-24 at Rice University. Those interested in competing should visit vetbizbattle.org.

Veterans Business Battle was established in 2015 by a group of Houston entrepreneurs and the Rice Business Veterans Association. The competition aims to foster entrepreneurship among veterans, grow veteran-owned businesses and give back to veterans seeking to make a difference in the business world. For more information, visit vetbizbattle.org.

Retired US Army Officer Says Background Will Aid Success in New Career With the #1 Home Inspection Company

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veteran stands in front of his work truck vehicle outside

As a retired Army officer, Apache helicopter pilot and an aviation inspector, Jim Mulvehill is more than prepared for his next venture as one of the newest franchise owners with Pillar To Post Home Inspectors®, the No. 1 home inspection company in North America.

The Palm Coast resident serves homebuyers and sellers throughout Flagler, St Johns and Putnam counties, in Florida and works in Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, Beverly Beach, Crescent City, Palatka, Bunnell and St Augustine.

Mulvehill, who previously spent 24 years as an Army aviator and aviation inspector and then worked oversees with US military allies in training and standardization, expects that experience to play an important role in his new position as a small business owner with the most respected brand in the home inspection industry. “My previous experience in the inspection of aviation facilities and supervising inspection teams will be beneficial to me in my role with Pillar To Post Home Inspectors as I help new homebuyers in understanding what to look for in purchasing a new home,” Mulvehill said.

According to Pillar To Post Home Inspectors President and CEO Dan Steward, “We are rolling out some pretty amazing technologies that will be in full swing by spring 2021 for all Pillar To Post Home Inspections. One of these will be the PTP360 tour. It will also be available with a floor plan. It is a great new innovation – fast-tracked to completion for COVID-19 response – but in the long term, a huge help for busy, professional Realtors; saving time, better serving their seller and giving prospective buyers a far better experience. Buyers can view anytime they wish, stay if they like, share with friends and family, share with contractors to get an estimate and even get a measured floor plan to help with furniture planning, etc. This is a brilliant experience.”

The company has achieved the highest standings in various rankings of “Best in Category,” “Top 20 Franchises to Buy,” “Top 10 Global Franchises” and “Top Franchises for Veterans” in addition to achieving 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 nearly 600 franchises located in 49 states and nine Canadian provinces. The company has been named as Best in Category in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise500® ranking for 9 years in a row and appeared in the ranking for 24 years. Long-term plans include adding 500 to 600 new franchisees over the next five years. For further information, please visit www.pillartopostfranchise.com.

How this single mom went from serving overseas to opening her own gelato shop

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Thereasa Black in military uniform holds her young daughter in her arms with the Pentagon sign in the background

This gelato shop isn’t only known for its healthy take on the popular dessert. It’s also owned by a female Black veteran.

Thereasa Black is the founder and CEO of Amore Congelato, a Virginia-based gelato shop that prides itself on using healthy ingredients. Inside its doors, date sweetener and coconut sugar replace cane sugar, some flavors are packed with 24 grams of protein and oat milk is offered.

Black, who plans to change the name of her business to Bon Appésweet, opened shop last December just before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the United States. While thousands of local businesses were forced to close down, she stayed optimistic.

“Honestly, I’m not afraid at all. It’s crazy to say, right?” she told “Good Morning America.” “Because my product, people love it and people are going to buy it.”

Being a small business owner during the pandemic is hardly the first challenge Black has faced. As a single mother, Black woman, Navy veteran, author and law school graduate, she is all too familiar with overcoming challenges.

Black grew up in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where she said she experienced discrimination at a young age. She remembers elementary school teachers excluding her from advanced classes despite her good grades, being the only girl on the football team and getting chased down the street by two white men in a pickup truck one night.

“My drive comes from a place of pain — a place where I cannot let other people define who I’m going to be,” she said. “When your whole life is people telling you that you’re not enough, you have to prove everybody wrong.”

Black went to college and joined the Navy. After a few tours of service, she enrolled at George Washington Law School to become a public defender.

Black became pregnant with her daughter during her third year at George Washington. She said the father didn’t want to be in the picture, but Black still had Isabella and finished school in 2017, documenting her progress through a series of YouTube videos called “Single, Pregnant & in Law School.”

Then, the week after completing her bar exam, she was called back into service and had to leave Isabella at home with her cousin, Vaughn Black. She packed her bags, baked her daughter an ice cream cake for her birthday and kissed Isabella goodbye.

She had heard of how hard distant military parenting can be and braced for being oceans away from her 2-year-old.

“None of the roadblocks I’ve hit, and none of the hurdles I’ve had to go over, compared to what I did during that deployment,” she said.

Despite crying in bed every night, Black called home daily.

“There was a handful of days, and when I say handful, I mean you could count them on one hand, when Thereasa missed it,” said Vaughn Black. “The effort I saw from her, from another country, a lot of the times I see none of that from people that live right in the same neighborhood.”

After six months overseas, Black knew that returning to be a lawyer would only make her too busy to spend time with her daughter.

Whatever she would end up doing, it had to be about Isabella.

Interested in entrepreneurship, she bounced business ideas off family and friends before deciding on gelato — a reminder of the ice cream cake she made for Isabella.

Not only would she cook all of Isabella’s meals from scratch, given her daughter’s soy allergies, but she also baked cookies for her fellow sailors overseas.

Continue on to GMA to read the complete article.

Photo Credit: GMA

Husband and Wife are Retired US Army Colonels Bringing No. 1 Flooring Mobile Showroom to Homes

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Bill Mahoney and Marie Mahoney stand outdoors in front of their decorated work vehicle smiling

Analytics. Logistics. Planning. Strategy. Putting those four ideals into practice would provide a strong cornerstone for the success of almost any business.

Those are the skills that Bill and Marie Mahoney bring with them as they each launch second careers as new franchise owners with Floor Coverings International, visiting customers’ homes in a Mobile Flooring Showroom stocked with thousands of flooring samples from top manufacturers. Having launched operations in late September, Floor Coverings International Midlothian serves clients throughout the greater Midlothian, Bon Air, Moseley and Chesterfield County areas.

Bill and Marie – both 56 and residents of Chesterfield – are retired United States Army Colonels with Bill retiring in 2015 after serving 30 years and Marie following in April 2020 after a 34-year career. Each were deployed to Afghanistan for one year. Bill later served as Director of Planning for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. “It has been shown repeatedly that veterans make great small-business owners because of the skills and discipline learned in the military,” Bill said. “On top of that, women-owned businesses continue to grow at a rapid pace and Marie is excited to contribute to that growth.”

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), there is about one veteran-owned company for every 10 veterans and veteran-owned businesses employ 5.8 million individuals. In addition, the number of women-owned businesses has increased by 21 percent over the past five years, more than double the increase of nine percent for all businesses, according to the most recent State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. Approximately 42 percent of American businesses are owned by women. “We were looking for a post-military business opportunity, and given our backgrounds, we both felt we couldn’t have been better prepared to own a Floor Coverings International franchise,” Marie said. “Plus, our son, Max (20), is working part-time for us while our daughter, Maura (16), helps behind the scenes with our social media.”

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every part of our lives. However, Floor Coverings International utilizes a number of preventative safety precautions to keep both clients and franchise owners and their employees safe. “We are relatively pandemic-proof,” Bill said. “The desire for home improvements has actually grown tremendously this year as more consumers spend time in their homes and expend resources that might have otherwise been spent on travel and other activities.”

In Floor Coverings International, the Mahoneys found a company that has tripled in size since 2005 by putting a laser focus on consumer buying habits and expressed desires, its impressive operating model, growth ability, marketing, advertising and merchandising. Floor Coverings International further separates itself from the competition through its customer experience, made up of several simple and integrated steps that exceed customers’ expectations. “The Floor Coverings International business model is a one-stop shop that offers a higher level of customer service than many competitors,” Marie said. “Our Mobile Flooring Showroom provides our clients access to virtually unlimited flooring options.”

ABOUT FLOOR COVERINGS INTERNATIONAL

Norcross, GA-based Floor Coverings International has been ranked consistently as the No. 1 Mobile Flooring Franchise in North America by Entrepreneur Magazine. The 142 franchisees and their Design Associates offer a unique in-home experience with a mobile showroom that comes directly to the client’s door. More than 3,000 flooring choices are available to view in the home with and alongside existing lighting, paint, and furniture. The company will open several more locations throughout the U.S. and Canada through franchise expansion in 2021. For franchise information, please visit www.opportunities.flooring-franchise.com and to find your closest location go to www.floorcoveringsinternational.com.

 

 

Bonding assistance program seeks veteran-owned businesses

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man woring in protective vest working on construction site near a ladder

By Angela Gibson-Shaw, President, AG & Associates

General engineering contractor Rod Edison had a dream of landing a big construction contract.

Owner of Max Out, a demolition, site work, grading, asphalt and concrete paving and masonry company, Edison had been successful in obtaining medium-sized contracts and being a subcontractor. With Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro), Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) having an excess of $200 billion in construction projects in the works, Edison’s goal was to elevate his business to the next level by subcontracting with a prime contractor on a major infrastructure project.

To protect public tax dollars, public agencies require contractors to have a performance bond equal to the cost of all contracts exceeding a certain threshold in order to bid on projects with certain public agencies. The performance bond is a way to ensure that the work will be completed. If a contractor fails to perform the work, or pay other costs associated with the contract, the insurance company furnishing the bond will guarantee the fulfillment of the contract.

“One of the main barriers to growth for small construction companies—and small businesses in general—is getting bonding and working capital,” said Lakeisha Bearden, Program Development Manager for Merriwether & Williams Insurance Services (MWIS), a risk management and insurance brokerage service company.

“Qualifying for a Payment and Performance bond is a rigorous and thorough process whereby insurance companies look for evidence of credit, capacity and character in order to extend surety credit and often may require collateral from the contractor as well. For the larger contracts, many small businesses simply don’t have the resources on their own to be eligible for bonding they need.”

MWIS has been the link between public entities seeking to expand opportunities for small and local businesses and qualified businesses for over two decades. The California-based insurance agency was recently awarded the contract with L.A. Metro to administer a Contractor Development and Bonding Program (CDBP). The CDBP assists Metro-certified Small Business Enterprise (SBE), Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and Disabled Veterans Business Enterprise (DVBE) firms secure sufficient bonding to work on Metro construction projects

The CDBP provides contractors and subcontractors like Edison that are looking to work on Metro projects, but are unable to secure the necessary bonding required to bid on public works projects, an avenue to secure the necessary bonding.

Currently, MWIS is actively seeking veteran business owners to participate in the CDBP. L.A. Metro has established a goal of 3 percent DVBE participation on non-federally funded projects. All bidders on L.A. Metro’s non-federally funded projects must meet this participation goal and provide the DVBE’s name and dollar amount committed to that business in order to be considered for the contract award.

A firm’s participation in the CDBP will not only include assistance with obtaining or increasing bonding capacity and collateral support for bid, performance and payment bonds, but will also include technical support, education, training and contractor support. The maximum bond guarantee is up to $250,000 or 40 percent of the value of the contract, whichever is less.

As the administrator of L.A. Metro’s CDBP, MWIS provides contractor assessments, one-on-one consultations and works with contractors enrolled in the program every step of the way. Once a contractor is awarded a contract, MWIS provides a dedicated field support project manager to assist contractors with any technical issues that may arise.

In business since 2001, Edison had the experience and skills necessary to do a large construction project but lacked the required collateral to secure a bond from an insurance company. After completing the CDBP, Edison was able to increase Max Out’s bonding capacity. With each successful contract completed, he gained access to new work opportunities.

After their successful performance with construction giant Skanska, one of the largest construction companies in North America, Edison was offered a second contract on the same project, which increased the company’s project sales to $700,000. Since then, Max Out has been requested to complete additional projects, including Metro’s multibillion-dollar Regional Connector project.

“Our participation in the CDBP enabled us to network with prime contractors that we would not have otherwise been able to meet,” said Edison.

For more information on bonding eligibility and bonding programs for small businesses and disabled veterans, email MetroCDBP@imwis.com.

Veteran transforming lives through local apprentice program

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Roger Hermeling Headshot

U.S. Veterans Magazine recently had the chance to interview Air Force veteran Roger Hermeling about the apprentice program.

USVM: Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your background?
RH: After graduating high school, I went to Bowling Green State University and graduated as a Second Lieutenant commission from the USAF ROTC program. In my 20+ years in the Air Force, I served as Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) on B-52 crews at Loring AFB and Plattsburg AFB.

In Vietnam, I volunteered to be an F-105 EWO in the Wild Weasel program, which was a very select group of elite fliers who put their lives on the line to take down radars guiding Soviet missiles. The program had a 45% loss rate and I still vividly recall one mission where I hit two enemy airplanes. My pilot and I barely escaped.

I completed my active duty in 1982 and then got my master’s degree from Golden State University during my assignment at Langley AFB. My first job after USAF retirement was with Hughes Aircraft Company at Fullerton, CA as Survivability Project Management for the F-117 aircraft.

In addition, I worked for Northrup B-2 program, to provide mission analysis on how to employ the aircraft against high priority targets. Later, I worked for Raytheon Munitions Division and SAIC to find ways to employ their munitions and market their products.

Later in my career I wanted an opportunity to put my military training and experience into practice, so I started working at local community centers in my home state of Texas to help students earn their GEDs. That experience ultimately led me to my current role with SSC Services for Education, where I oversee an Apprenticeship Program as the Director of Training and Procedure.

USVM: Can you tell us about the SSC apprenticeship program that you run?
RH: I spearheaded the Apprenticeship Program in May of 2016. The program is designed to help students, some of whom are Veterans, develop vocational skills for jobs that are in great demand, such as an air conditioning technician or an electrician, so they can find success once the program is complete.

The SSC Apprenticeship Program is a tough one. The four-year apprentice program requires apprentices to take 576 hours of maintenance system operations and log 8,000 hours of on the job training.

The program first started at Texas A&M where I’m located, but we have doubled the program size with 15 apprentices at College Station, TX and a total of 14 more in Corpus Christi, Kingsville, Commerce, Prairie View and Tarleton State, TX.

USVM: How did your military background prepare you for your current role at SSC?
RH: The leadership experience I gained in the Air Force has shaped how I approach every situation both personally and professionally. During my tour at the Fighter Weapons School I was tasked to develop a program syllabus, provide aircrew qualifications, provide classes and flight evaluations for 36 F-4 Wild Weasel aircrews. The situations you’re thrown into in the military give you a crash course in responsibility, accountability, flexibility and teach you how to make critical decisions on the fly.

USVM: What have been your top three accomplishments in your time running the program?
RH: For me, my proudest moments are when I see my students complete the training program. I have graduated nine apprentices from the four-year program and knowing that I helped them find their career calling means the world to me.

Another moment that stands out is when I was able to help three former students, who were also Veterans, get pay bonuses through the VA. I heard about the opportunity, suggested it to them and guided them through the process of applying. I was excited to hear they were all able to get their well-deserved bonus!

Additionally, I’m proud to have helped SSC apply for grants that assist with funding the Apprentice Program. So far, I have secured over $1M in grants. It is a great feeling knowing I can help keep these great programs moving strong for years to come.

USVM: Why would you encourage someone to join the apprenticeship program?
RH: These are the jobs of the future. I often tell students that these jobs are in high demand and pay better than certain careers you can earn with a bachelor’s degree. I would tell any prospective student to consider the numerous benefits of a skilled trade job – it might be the perfect fit for their career.

USVM: What is one piece of advice you have for other Veterans returning to civilian life looking for employment?
RH: Many core values you learn in military service are useful no matter the career path. Responsibility, teamwork, hard work and determination; these are all areas valuable in civilian life. Look at what you learned and see where it can help you in your next endeavor. Trade-licensed professionals are in high demand, well-paid, have job security and projections for tradesman are increasingly positive.

6 Ways to Support Veteran-Owned Businesses Right Now

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Young African-American man seted with armed folded smiling in a small goods store

By Victoria Kelly

In normal economic times, only half of small businesses survive their first five years. In fragile economic times, that number is much higher.

There has been a lot of attention on small businesses lately, but those of us in the military community need to take extra steps to support veteran-owned businesses specifically. We can’t let out veteran entrepreneurs fail during these months. It is not only about supporting one or two businesses, but the entire cycle of veteran employment—veteran-owned businesses are 30 percent more likely to employ other veterans.

Here are six ways to support veteran entrepreneurs right now:

Shop veteran. Call your local USO and ask if they know any veteran-owned businesses in the area. Veteranownedbusiness.com has a database of businesses by category and state. The American Veteran Owned Business Association also has a list. Consider these businesses not just for your personal needs, but for your business’s needs as well. A lot of these businesses are B2B (business to business) instead of B2C (business to consumer).

Don’t forget about military spouses. A lot of active-duty servicemembers have spouses who are business owners, and they count on that money to make ends meet. Use your military network (Facebook groups, email list, etc.) to ask around about spouse businesses that might be struggling. This includes artists and creators who have lost their source of income. You can find them through the Military Spouse Fine Artists Network.

Spread the word. Use your social media to spread the word about supporting small veteran-owned businesses. I have had great success getting the word out about businesses I like using Nextdoor, a local neighborhood app where neighbors can recommend services and businesses. If you find a business you like, mention them by name specifically.

Buy gift cards. A lot of restaurants and gyms are owned by veterans or military spouses, and they’re among the businesses struggling the most right now. Do an online search or ask around to see if any of them are selling gift cards for future use. What they need most of all is a cash influx to sustain them right now.

Identify nonprofits that are investing in veteran entrepreneurs. The PenFed Foundation, for example, has a Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program that invests in veteran-owned businesses. VetFran support veterans in franchising. Warrior Rising was founded by combat vets and provides grants and mentorship to veteran entrepreneurs. All of these nonprofits count on the support of donors to help the veteran community.

Offer your mentorship. If you are a business owner or have experience in business consulting, volunteer your time. You can become a mentor to a veteran-owned business through Warrior Rising, ementorprogram.org, or SCORE.

While active-duty military are fortunate to have a steady paycheck and healthcare right now, many reservists, veterans and spouses don’t. The military and veteran communities have to support each other. Do what you can to find someone you can help during this time. Even if you can only give $20 or 20 minutes of your time, it’s worth it.

Reprinted with permission from Sandboxx.us. Please check out SandboxxNews.com for similar content.

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®
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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.

 

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