A Guide to Business Certifications for Small Business Owners

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If you’re a small business owner who belongs to an underrepresented group, you may be eligible for certain business certifications that can help you access more government contracts and private-sector opportunities.

Certifications for groups like women, minorities, LGBTQ entrepreneurs and more promote supplier diversity, which encourages the use of diverse businesses as suppliers. These certifications also come with access to exclusive resources and networks, leading you to new business opportunities.

Here’s an overview of different types of business certifications and how to begin the application process if you’re eligible.

Who offers business certifications?

The following organizations offer many of the business certifications currently available to diverse small business owners:

  • U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA): The SBA is a government agency that provides support and opportunities to entrepreneurs and small businesses. This organization offers certification programs like the Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program, HUBZone Program and 8(a) Business Development Program, which make businesses eligible for certain government contracts.
  • Minority-centered organizations: Some minority-centered organizations, such as the National Minority Supplier Development Council, offer certifications that helped minority entrepreneurs gain new business from the private sector.
  • Other government and industry organizations: There are also certifications that are provided by state and city governments. The contracts they award are smaller and typically only within their jurisdiction.

Why become a certified business?

Business certifications come with various perks and resources that can help your company stand out among competitors and scale your business faster.

  • Access to contracts: The federal government, as well as certain private sector corporations, set aside contracts to be awarded to businesses with certain verified certifications. These contracts are only given to businesses with these certifications in order to ensure equal opportunity.
  • Ability to form joint ventures: Once you become certified, you often can join other businesses within your certification in order to compete for certain contracts.
  • Additional management and technical assistance: Many of these certification programs also offer management and technical assistance to help their businesses grow and succeed.

Types of business certifications

While there are a wide range of business certifications and certifying bodies available to small business owners, here are some of the most well-known types:

8(a) Small Business Certification

The 8(a) Small Business Certification was designed to help create equal opportunities for small business owners who are “socially or economically disadvantaged.” The federal government awards at least 5 percent of contracting dollars for 8(a) businesses and allows them to compete for set aside and sole source contracts.

To be eligible for the 8(a)program, your small business must be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who are economically and socially disadvantaged. Additionally, the owners must manage day-to-day operations, make long-term decisions and have a personal net worth that is less than $750,000 and a three-year average adjusted gross income of $350,000 or less.

If you meet these certifications, you can apply to become an 8(a)business by registering on the SBA’s website. Once you complete the application, you will receive a letter informing you of your approval or rejection. If you were approved, your certification lasts for a maximum of nine years. However, you’ll be subject to annual reviews in order to maintain your standing in the program.

HUBZone Business Certification

The Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) is a program with the goal of growing businesses in historically underutilized areas by awarding them at least 3 percent of federal contract dollars each year.

To qualify for the HUBZone program, your small business must be located in a HUBZone, have at least 30 percent of its employees living in a HUBZone, and be 51 percent owned and controlled by U.S. citizens, a Community Development Corporation, an agricultural cooperative, a Native Hawaiian organization or an Indian tribe.

You can apply for your HUBZone business certification on the SBA’s website. While there is no limitation to the length of how long a business can have a HUBZone certification, they will have to recertify for the program once a year. Additionally, an examination of your business will be required every three years.

Women-Owned Businesses Certifications

If your business is majority-owned and operated by one or more women, you may be eligible for the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business program.

This program was created to aid female business owners by awarding them contracts within specific industries where women are underrepresented. A minimum of 5 percent of contracting dollars are given to woman-owned businesses each year by the federal government.

There are two types of woman-owned business certifications offered by the National Women’s Business Council: Woman-owned small business (WOSB) and economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business (EDWOSB).

To qualify as a WOSB, your small business must be for profit and 51 percent owned and operated by women who are U.S. citizens and work within the business full-time.

If you’re looking to qualify as an EDWOSB, your business must meet all of the above requirements for a WOSB, as well as the economic requirements of an 8(a) certified business. If you already have an 8(a) certification, you can also apply for an EDWOSB certification as well. You can apply for both woman-owned business certifications through the SBA’s website.

Minority-Owned Businesses Certification

The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) is an organization that is committed to integrating Minority Business Enterprises (MBE) equally in the public and private sector. This organization provides MBE certification for minority-owned businesses.

The NMSDC network consists of over 12,000 certified MBEs that are connected to over 1,400 large corporate members. Not only is it a significant certification within the NMSDC, but being MBE-certified helps in government circles to gain federal contracts as well.

To qualify for MBE certification, your small business must be 51% minority-owned and operated, and the owners must be involved in daily management. The NMSDC defines a minority as “an individual who is at least 25 percent Asian, Black, Hispanic or Native American.” This is established and proven through a combination of screenings, interviews and site visits.

If your business meets these criteria, you can apply to be an MBE through the NMSDC’s website. Once you’ve submitted all the required documents and paid the application fee, you’ll get an email and letter if you’ve been approved. If your application was not approved, you may submit a letter of appeal.

“Becoming a B Corp requires your company to have a positive social impact.”

B Corp Certification

A B Corporation is a for-profit business that is driven by a social mission. These companies use their profits as a means for positive impact for their employees, communities and the environment. They are certified by the SBA and are overseen by the B Lab, a governing body that ensures B corps are meeting their standards for impact.

Becoming a B Corp requires your company to have a positive social impact. For a business to certify as a B Corp, they must complete the B Impact Assessment (BIA) and meet the legal requirements. The BIA evaluates the applying company and their impact on their employees, consumers, community and the environment. Once you complete the BIA, you’ll pay a fee. Once approved, your certification will last for three years, after which you’ll be subject to a reassessment to determine if your company still means the criteria.

Veteran-Owned Business Certification

As a veteran of the United States Armed Forces, there are two different certifications you can apply for if you’re starting a business. The Vets First Verification Program is a federal government program that grants certification for Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSB) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB). With these certifications, you’re granted competition for certain contracts that are set aside for veterans and veterans who became disabled while in the act of service.

To qualify for these certifications, you must be a small business that is at least 51% owned by one or more service-disabled veterans who manage the business daily. To apply for SDVOSB, you also must have a service-connected disability.

For business certification in the private sector, the National Veteran Owned Business Association’s Certified Veteran’s Business Enterprise (VBE) is a program that offers certifications as a marketing tool for businesses that want to work with VBEs. Like its federal government counterpart, your small business must be at least 51 percent owned by one or more service-disabled veterans.

LGBT Business Certification

The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) created a certification program to help entrepreneurs in the LGBTQ+ community have greater access to contracting opportunities. The Certified LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE) certification gives businesses an opportunity to network and mentor with other LGBTBEs, provides access for scholarships and opens businesses up to special discounts from LGBTQ+ owned and allied partners.

To apply, your small business must be 51 percent owned, operated, managed and controlled by a person or persons who identify as part of the LGBT community, operated in the U.S. and independent from any non-LGBTQ+ business enterprises. You also must pay an application fee and are subject to a site visit evaluation. The certification lasts for two years once it is granted.

Source: NMSDC

NASM Supports Military Families with Career Opportunities

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By Chris Billingsley

NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), a global leader in fitness education and certifications, supports military families – not only on days like the annual – Military Spouse Appreciation Day – but every day by providing 30% off all courses for military members and their families, as well as a free course on mental toughness.

Since 2017, NASM has been recognized as a Military Friendly School, and its Certified Personal Training (CPT) program is also eligible for military funding reimbursement.

Not only do NASM courses offer invaluable health knowledge, for military members and their spouses, NASM also offers flexible career opportunities perfect for a military family’s lifestyle, which can often include multiple moves and makes working in a traditional environment difficult.

Working as a NASM certified personal trainer, wellness coach, or nutrition coach offers the freedom to work wherever and whenever works best for your family, while offering the purpose and satisfaction that comes from helping others achieve their goals.

In fact, for those that want to coach virtually, now is the best time to get started. NASM is seeing a 23% uptick in graduates who are offering virtual services since 2017, with the online fitness industry projected to grow from $16.15 billion this year to $79.87 billion in 2026.

Military spouses looking for career opportunities can also apply MyCAA scholarship funding to specific programs, including a Group Fitness Instructor certification through AFAA (Athletics and Fitness Association of America).

Learners have many options for their course of study – whether they’re interested in offering clients nutritional support, fitness knowledge, or comprehensive wellness coaching. NASM even offers bundles of courses as well as specializations, such as virtual coaching, to help students create the best program for their career goals.

For more information on how NASM supports military members and their families, visit www.nasm.org/certified-personal-trainer/military-support.

Wells Fargo Launches Military Spouse Hiring Program, Designed to Onboard 100 New Employees Per Year for the Next Five Years

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By Yahoo! Finance

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) recently announced its Military Spouse Homefront Heroes Hiring program, offering mid- to high-level remote, hybrid, and in-office career opportunities with a focus on portability for spouses of those actively serving. The new program is designed to onboard 100 new employees each year for the next five years.

Wells Fargo’s Military Spouse Homefront Heroes Hiring (HHH) program is now accepting interested candidates into its talent community in preparation for launching 100 open positions in early June 2022. The HHH program team will help prepare candidates and hiring managers for a virtual hiring event, assisting with resume development and interview training to help applicants articulate transferrable skills and potential employment gaps. The virtual hiring event will occur in August 2022, with a program start date of Sept. 12, 2022.

The announcement came in advance of Military Spouse Appreciation Day on Friday, May 6.

“The 24% unemployment rate for military spouses far exceeds the national average; this is largely a result of permanent change of station and the inability to have a portable career,” said Sean Passmore, head of Military Talent Strategic Sourcing and Enterprise Military & Veteran Initiatives at Wells Fargo. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution to military spouse un- or underemployment. The scale and complexity of HHH demonstrate our understanding of the unique career challenges faced by military spouses, and our commitment to helping solve the problem.”

Positions will be available in Human Resources, Consumer & Small Business Banking, Technology, Wealth & Investment Management, and Consumer Lending. Each line of business will host 20 roles, and new hires will begin the inaugural program on Sept. 12, 2022.

HHH is just one of several programs Wells Fargo has implemented to serve and employ the military community. Others include:

The Veteran Employment Transition (VET) Program: A nationwide, competitively paid 8+ week Spring and Fall internship for experienced talent that converts directly to a full-time role based on performance. Interns develop an understanding of the daily responsibilities of a full-time Wells Fargo employee, while networking and participating in special training opportunities.

Military Apprenticeships: A Department of Labor structured experiential training program that results in skills certification for applicants who do not initially meet qualifications for the non-apprentice equivalent role.

Boots to Banking: A Wells Fargo one-of-a-kind program designed to attract, prepare, and hire military talent into various career opportunities through military-specific hiring events. Pre- and post-event components include candidate and hiring manager preparation along with valuable resources for a successful transition.

Corporate Fellowship Program: In partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes Initiative, the program hosts military personnel within six months of separation for a 12-week fellowship experience to achieve full-time employment.

Applicants interested in joining the HHH talent community should visit the Military Spouse Homefront Heroes Hiring Program website.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Finance.

Diversity in the Healthcare Industry, at Every Step

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Abbott and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) recently announced a $37.5 million initiative to empower diverse small businesses to help create a more diverse healthcare supply chain. The initiative will provide diverse small-business owners with the tailored solutions, support and resources they need to grow, compete and create jobs – enabling greater diversity in healthcare and a more inclusive supply chain for Abbott and other healthcare companies.

This work advances Abbott and LISC’s shared commitment to create a more diverse healthcare industry and generate jobs and stronger economies in underinvested communities.

This funding opportunity is open to qualified diverse small businesses and offers support through:

  • Growth capital: interest-free capital to help businesses overcome hurdles to expansion, such as investing in management systems to comply with regulatory and environmental requirements
  • Business loans: flexible, affordable loans that would not typically be available through conventional lenders
  • Tailored coaching and technical assistance: targeted, customized support, including help with fulfilling investment and loan requirements and identifying and addressing specific business challenges

Eligible diverse small businesses for program participation and funding must be:

  • Diverse-owned, defined as those that are majority owned by people of color (including Black, Latino, Asian and Native Americans), women, veterans, people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTQ, and other historically underrepresented groups;
  • In business for more than two years and are based in the U.S. with an annual revenue of $250,000 or more; and
  • Focused on manufacturing nutrition, diagnostics, medical devices or other health technologies, or offering business-to-business products and services that the healthcare industry can use.
  • Sole proprietors are not eligible for the program.

For more information about this initiative, please visit the LISC site. And to learn more about Abbott’s work to support a more diverse supply chain, visit Abbott’s site.

Plans for the World’s Tallest Flagpole and Most Comprehensive Veterans Memorial to be Unveiled in Maine

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The Park will create thousands of jobs and catalyze year-round economic opportunity

WHAT: Born from a desire to advance unity and patriotism in America, the founder of Wreaths Across America, Morrill Worcester, will unveil Flagpole of Freedom Park – an apolitical project 12 years in the making.

This Park will become the only place in the country to honor all 24 million American veterans in one location.

Standing taller than the Empire State Building, the Park will fly the world’s largest American flag from the tallest flagpole in the world, symbolizing the commitment and sacrifice veterans make to protect America’s freedom.

The Park will humanize key milestones that have shaped American history and will feature immersive educational experiences and living history museums. Phase 1 will open on July 4, 2026 – America’s 250th birthday.

Located in Columbia Falls, the large-scale project will catalyze economic development for the State of Maine, creating an estimated 8,000+ year-round jobs and $27M in tax revenue.

WHEN: Tuesday, March 29, 2022 11:00 a.m. Eastern

WHERE: Livestream link

WHO:

  • Morrill Worcester, Founder & Chairman of the Board, Flagpole of Freedom
  • Senator Marianne Moore (R), Washington County Maine
  • Chris Gardner, Washington County Commissioner
  • Tony Santiago, Chair, Columbia Falls Select Board
  • Tim Gatz, Maine Tourism Alliance
  • Maine State Chamber of Commerce
  • Tricia Thurston, American Legion, Department of Maine

DETAILS: Flagpole of Freedom Park: https://www.flagpoleoffreedom.com/launch/

Relying on Military Experience During Times of Uncertainty

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By Chris Wayne, Verizon Small Business Essentials

I spent nearly four years in the military as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. During that time, I learned a lot about perseverance, discipline, and determination from the military standards for working as a team.

Little did I realize how much those skills and experiences would shape my leadership during a global pandemic.

In the military, we prepare for a variety of scenarios and rely on our team to play their individual roles to achieve a greater goal. The belief in this process is how we navigate and survive the challenges we encounter. When you have clear expectations of yourself and those around you, it’s easy to follow through, execute a plan, and be accountable.

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in early 2020, my organization, like many, was unsure of what the future held. But what we did know is we owed it to our customers and our employees to ensure there was minimal disruption to their daily lives, especially as we all hunkered down at home and learned to work in new ways.

Nearly two years later, many companies, large and small, are still grappling with the disruptions of COVID-19. Thus making it imperative to maintain a sense of stability and ensure our teams have the resources they need to work effectively against a set of challenges that constantly evolve.

Here are four ways my time in the military taught me how to lead during times of uncertainty, and it’s my hope that sharing these experiences can help you lead when you are met with adversity.

Create a culture of open communication
Leaders can face an uphill battle when it comes to managing unforeseen or unprecedented issues. Being in charge — whether leading a large team, company or battalion — requires that those who report to you buy into the fact that you are the one who makes the final decision. But just like any endeavor, those in charge can lose control of their team if they don’t earn their respect and trust.

Maintaining that respect starts with open and frequent communication, especially in times of uncertainty. Fostering an environment where your team feels connected and comfortable to express concerns will create trust and ultimately lead to respect. Earning respect can also mean remaining consistent in your work, setting clear expectations with your team, and making sure everyone understands the impact and importance of their role.

Know when to lead and when to bring others in
The mark of a strong leader is someone who understands when there are smarter people in the room. There will be instances where it’s the right decision to lean on others who might have more expertise or more insight into the issue you are facing. True leadership can look different in various scenarios, especially when your team is navigating uncharted territory. Knowing when to step back and allow your team members to lead won’t lessen your leadership; in fact, it might do the opposite.

Failure is a catalyst for growth
Failure is an inevitable part of life. In the military, we know failure can mean the difference between life and death. But that doesn’t mean you should completely dismiss failure when the stakes are not as high.

For our customers, the stakes are always high, just in a different way. They are small business owners and entrepreneurs who put their livelihood on the line to realize their dreams. We recognize and respect that they face challenges every day, and our job is to help them solve those challenges. At Verizon Small Business Essentials, we learn from our failures to help refine our strategies. Making data-driven decisions to help our customers compete and succeed, as well as creating an environment for our employees to learn and innovate in their roles, is key to our success.

Build a network of trusted peers
Leading can be lonely. While you might have a team that looks up to you for guidance, the buck stops with you, meaning success or failure falls squarely upon your shoulders. When you go home at the end of the day, it can be difficult to shake the feeling that you have nowhere to turn to vent.

This is when your network becomes vital. Chances are good your network contains people you trust, who may also have served in the military. Our common experiences can be helpful when seeking advice or a sounding board to work through a variety of challenging scenarios. If you can find the right people to bring into your trusted circle, it will make all the difference when uncertainty arises.

I credit my military service for my ascension in the civilian ranks to becoming a leader with one of the largest companies in the country. Everything I picked up along the way has led me here, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without that experience.

Leadership is defined as the capacity to influence others through inspiration, motivated by passion, generated by vision, produced by conviction, and ignited by purpose. As veterans, our paths to leadership opportunities are diverse. And I firmly believe we are uniquely suited to lead because of our history of military service and sacrifice.

Chris Wayne is the managing director for Verizon Small Business Essentials. Prior to this, he was the company’s Chief Technology Officer. Chris holds a Master of Business for Veterans (MBV) degree from the University of Southern California and is a certified Data Center Management Professional (CDCMP). Before joining Yahoo Small Business, Chris was a Sergeant in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.

Supplier Diversity Certifications: Game Changers for the Disadvantaged

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In today’s competitive environment, every owner must take advantage of any opportunity to differentiate their company from the competition.

Supplier diversity certifications for disadvantaged businesses are an often-overlooked option with great potential. Qualifying companies include those with veteran, minority, LGBTQ+ or women owners, as well as those in historically underutilized business zones, or HUBZones. These certifications grant access to private-sector opportunities and contracts with local, state, and federal government agencies that want to do business with a diverse pool of suppliers.

Certification History

According to “A History of Corporate Supply Chain Diversity” (WEUSA 4 [2020]: 95), certification programs were born out of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and guided by legislative mandates enacted to end discrimination that gave large businesses a disproportionate share of opportunities. The program flourished in 1969, when the Office of Minority Business Enterprise was established to provide guidance and support. In 1978, the Small Business Act re-categorized minority businesses as socially and economically disadvantaged and required federal agencies to comply with new goals for federal contracts.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, new legislation fostered the advancement of federal contracting opportunities to businesses in HUBZones and those owned by women, veterans, service-disabled veterans and members of the LBGTQ+ community. Today, as more companies invest in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, the demand for diverse suppliers will only increase.

How Certifications Benefited Our Company

The owner of Black Box Safety, Jackson Dalton, is a military veteran who was disabled while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. That status could put a small business owner at a disadvantage, but it qualified Black Box Safety for certifications and network memberships that introduced us to new and otherwise inaccessible clients.

Certification with the National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA) gives us access to special events (such as its recent Marching Forward Monday) and networking connections that resulted in at least $90,000 in contract wins in the company’s first year of certification. Black Box also received NaVOBA’s 2021 Disabled Veteran’s Business Enterprise of the Year award.

Certification with Disability:IN led to our nomination for the organization’s Pitch Perfect Challenge. We presented our pitch to a panel of experienced judges and took first place, landing a five-figure prize and a subsequent feature in a November 2021 Forbes article. Black Box also served on the Re-Imagining Your Business from 2020 Learnings conference panel, which put us in front of potential clients such as Bristol Myers Squibb.

Membership in the Veterans in Business (VIB) Network connects us with private entities, third-party nonprofits and federal contractors through conferences and events. Through VIB alone we secured at least one new regular customer per quarter, and we also increased our visibility as general-session presenters on supplier diversity at the 2021 VIB National Conference.

Black Box Safety put time, money and energy into engaging with these organizations, approaching each with a sense of how our goals and values align with theirs. That investment paid off not only in great opportunities — putting our name in front of Disney, Shell Oil, T-Mobile and other market giants — but also motivation to reach and exceed our own expectations.

The Process

When applying for diversity supplier certifications, begin with the end in mind. Define your target market and evaluate which certifications that market will value. For example, if you manufacture garden and patio decor and want to expand distribution, consider certifications accepted and valued by big-box retailers. NaVOBA certification puts you in front of their corporate sponsors, which include Lowe’s Home Improvement. Many large buyers post a list of accepted certifications on their website, and you can also ask them directly.

Next, evaluate honestly which certifications best reflect the status of your company and whether you meet their requirements. Certification is a rigorous process managed by government agencies or third-party agencies that advocate for the development of disadvantaged-owned businesses. Each has its own conditions, but most require a business to be at least 51 percent diverse-owned. Some require that the owner be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The application process does have associated costs, and you should also set aside time to navigate the documentation, screening, interviews and on-site visits needed to prove that your company is qualified.

For businesses that qualify, the advantages of obtaining diverse supplier certifications far outweigh the costs of earning them. Business partners admire this classification, and certification is alluring to diverse supplier programs. It is not an easy process: it takes not only time and money, but also perseverance and patience to earn these certifications. However, for Black Box Safety, diverse supplier certifications opened doors enough to be well worth the effort and hard work.

Source: Black Box Safety

Veterans Business Battle invites entrepreneurs to participate in 2022 competition

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HOUSTON- Rice University’s business competition geared for military veterans will take applications from new entrepreneurs. Applications are open for the 2022 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 recent years, finalists received more than $4 million of investments through the program. Early-stage businesses and existing companies needing growth capital are both encouraged to apply.

This year’s event will extend networking opportunities to other business startup founders who want to attend sessions led by previous Veterans Business Battle winners.

“We’re looking forward to giving veterans the opportunity not just to share their ideas and get financing, but learn from other past winners the lessons about entrepreneurship they’ve lived through while growing their businesses ” event co-chair Reid Schrodel said.

Veterans Business Battle will award a combined $30,000 in cash prizes to winners at the event. The cash will be split between a $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, www.vetbizbattle.org, by Feb. 15. Businesses must have an honorably discharged veteran or active duty founder and equity holder who is actively running the venture.

Finalists will be invited to make their business pitch April 22-23 at Rice University. All types of businesses are encouraged. Previous winners have included retail products, a commercial drone business, technology firms and more. Those interested in competing should visit business.rice.edu/vetbizbattle

Veterans Business Battle was established in 2015 by a group of Houston entrepreneurs and Rice University’s Veterans in Business 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 business.rice.edu/vetbizbattle

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, Inc. is pleased to announce the appointment of Chris Ann Phillips as Chief Administrative Officer

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Chris Ann Phillips headshot

She joins Guardian Angels and brings academic and leadership experience in development, marketing, communications, human resource management and diversity, equity and inclusion.

She is a results-oriented leader and nationally recognized advocate in the veteran and disability community. As a U.S. Marine Corps veteran she brings strategic focus to the growth and development of the organization.

Chris joins us from PNC Bank where she served as the Military Affairs Liaison and Enterprise Business Lead for PNC’s Annual Community Mutt Strut – supporting veterans in danger of suicide by raising funds to provide medically trained service dogs across the country. Starting her career with PNC as a Diversity Specialist in HR recruiting, she was instrumental in the design, development, and execution of the veteran hiring strategy for PNC.

For the last 3 years Chris has taught as an Adjunct Professor of Business and Professional Communications at Duquesne University. She has held successful positions with Chrysler Corporation and the Department of Labor as a national sales trainer and regional job developer.

Her civic duties include Pittsburgh Veteran Employer Coalition and the Veteran’s Advisory Board for Duquesne University. She is an active member of the board of directors for Pittsburgh Warrior Hockey and is a highly sought-after mentor and public speaker in the military community.

Guardian Angels logoShe is the recipient of a 2013 PA ESGR Patriot Award and instrumental in PNC receiving the Secretary of Defense Freedom Award. Having twice been named in the nation’s top five finalists for Individual Excellence in Veteran Employment by the US Chamber of Commerce, her commitment and passion to the veteran community is exemplary.

Chris holds master’s degrees in Leadership, Professional and Corporate Communications from Duquesne University and will complete her doctorate from Duquesne in 2022. She has two daughters, two granddaughters and a large family. In her free time, she enjoys reading, entertaining and traveling.

Joining the Guardian Angels executive leadership team at a time of amazing growth and expansion, she will be an integral part of the transformation geared towards furthering the mission and long-term sustainability. Her proven leadership and strategic focus will offer great value to our team and all those we serve.

For information about Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, visit https://www.medicalservicedogs.org/

Vet-Owned Cinch I.T.’s Mission is to Support Fellow Entrepreneurs

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Richard “Rick” Porter is the owner and president of Cinch I.T.’s fastest growing franchise model. He has an unwavering commitment to helping entrepreneurs make their dreams come true while driving innovation and delivering best-in-class customer service.

A member of the U.S. Army’s Special Operation community, Porter is the recipient of the Worcester Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 and was named one of the Top 10 Best CEOs of 2018.

He is also a board member for the Better Business Bureau of Central and Western Massachusetts and founder of the Cinch Scholarship Foundation.

U.S. Veterans Magazine had the chance to sit down with Porter and learn more about Cinch I.T. below:

How did you find your way into the Info Tech industry after leaving the service?

I joined the United State Army as an old man! At least compared to most of the other recruits. My family encouraged me to go to college and get a degree before enlisting and I thought that was good sound advice. So, after high school, I started college and began working full time for a tech company in Massachusetts. After my service, it was just what came naturally to me. I settled back into the only other industry that I knew.

Why did you create Cinch I.T.?

I am not the founder, but I was employee number 3 and eventually bought 100 percent ownership of the company as the original founder was looking to move on.

Cinch I.T. was founded in 2004 to help businesses owner become more productive and profitable through better technology. Businesses were becoming more reliant on their technology to simply operate. Business owners were also realizing that their technology was either making them money or costing them money.

There was a need for an IT company who could provide these entrepreneurs with the right technology that would give them a competitive advantage in their industries, and one that would be there every step of the way to support that technology to ensure they remained productive.

How important is it to you that Cinch I.T. is 50 percent veteran-owned and operated?

I believe that veterans can become amazing business owners. They possess all the right qualities, such as discipline, a strong work ethic, attention to detail and many more. Specifically, they can excel in franchising because they have spent their entire military careers following a proven system, processes and standards. “Task, Condition, Standard”

As a veteran myself, I have initiated so many military-inspired processes and built a culture around many military ideologies. Our helpdesk, for example, is set up in “fire teams.” The fireteams are capable of autonomous operations as part of the larger unit, the company.

Bringing veterans into the Cinch I.T. franchise system is important to me because they will fit in with our culture from day one and they will easily adopt our proven process. These two factors will lead to a greater chance of success for them as entrepreneurs. We are not successful if they are not!

How has offering Veteran franchises 50 percent off their initial franchise fee created opportunities for other veterans within your company?

Honestly, I don’t believe veterans choose Cinch I.T. because we offer them 50 percent off their initial franchise fees, but I hope that it makes their journey into entrepreneurship that much easier and that they see how much we appreciate their service and sacrifices.

Why do you feel veterans are great assets to the I.T. industry?

Military veterans learn many roles and skills throughout their service, such as strategic planning, logistics, IT, telecommunications, contingency-planning, risk management, team building, leadership development and character-building. It’s because of this that veterans can quickly master complicated new technologies.

Give a veteran a difficult technical or business problem and they will find the solution. They have the grit and determination to complete the mission.

What are your goals for Cinch I.T. moving forward?

Cinch I.T.’s goal is to expand into most major cities on the East Coast by the end of 2022 while building a strong network of amazing franchise partners who want to grow and thrive together.

Photo Credit: Provided by Cinch I.T.

Manly Bands Partners with Jack Daniel’s and the Armed Services YMCA To Reunite Military Families This Holiday Season

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Manly Bands wedding ring sitting on table with bottle of Jack Daniels in the background

Manly Bands recently announced their partnership with Jack Daniel’s on their Operation Ride Home program to help as many as 60 active duty junior service members return home for the holidays this year.

Manly Bands will be donating a portion of every sale from their Jack Daniel’s wedding ring collection to Operation Ride Home totaling up to $25,000.

Manly Bands is the most popular direct-to-consumer wedding ring brand for men and has been a licensed partner with Jack Daniel’s since 2020. The Jack Daniel’s Collection uses genuine aged barrels from the Tennessee whiskey with other unique ring materials such as carbon fiber, meteorite, dinosaur bone and more.

Operation Ride Home was created in 2011 in partnership between Jack Daniel’s and the Armed Services YMCA to help reconnect military families over the holidays. Since it was founded, Operation Ride Home has generated a total of more than $1.8 million in donations and sent a total of 8,583 individual junior-enlisted service members and their families home from all 50 states.

Over the years, Manly Bands has supported military families in many ways including donations to veterans and military families and distributing free silicone bands to active service members. Now, the company is looking to go further by donating up to $25,000 to help finance the cost of travel for US troops returning home.

“Manly Bands has always been a great supporter of our brave military personnel,” said Johnathan Ruggiero, co-CEO of Manly Bands. “This is a special time of year for love and hope, and we believe that there is no better way to share that than to honor the brave men and women who protect our country year-round by helping to bring them home for the holidays.”

The collaboration between Manly Bands and Operation Ride Home will commence on December 1st and run until the end of the month. Every ring sold from the Jack Daniel’s collection will go towards bringing active service members home for the holidays. More information can be found at manlybands.com/pages/jack-daniels-operation-ride-home to learn more about our partnership with Operation Ride Home.

About Manly Bands

Manly Bands is the fastest growing direct-to-consumer e-commerce retailer of men’s wedding rings. We make it easy for couples to order a ring that looks (and fits) perfect on every man. Our rings are crafted in more than 400 unique styles made from dozens of non-traditional materials, such as dinosaur bone, meteorite and authentic Jack Daniel’s whiskey barrel. We’re on a mission to give men the ring that they’ll never want to take off. To see our latest collections, visit ManlyBands.com today.

ABOUT ARMED SERVICES YMCA:  

The Armed Services YMCA is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit that serves currently serving military members and their families. In 2019, we engaged more than 225,000 people in our programs and delivered over 1 million points of services to junior enlisted Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and family members at 200 service centers in 18 states. Whether providing respite childcare for parents in need, summer camps for kids, or assisting with emergency needs, the Armed Services YMCA is a nonprofit with a mission: Strengthening Our Military Family. Visit our website to see how you can join us in supporting military families.

Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. USPAACC’s CelebrASIAN Business + Procurement Conference 2022
    May 25, 2022 - May 27, 2022
  4. LA Fleet Week
    May 27, 2022 - May 30, 2022
  5. Buffalo Soldier Iron Riders Quasquicentennial Gathering
    June 13, 2022 - June 19, 2022