The 5th Annual Business Beyond the Battlefield Conference (BBBC23) continued its success as a premier business development experience for military-connected entrepreneurs. The University of Texas Arlington Veterans Business Outreach Center (UTAVBOC) hosted the event in the American Dream City. More than 280 registered participants from 23 states were educated, trained and inspired during the annual three-day event, which included professionally curated business-to-business networking opportunities, a small business marketplace and an entrepreneur training symposium designed to increase awareness of and facilitate access to entrepreneurial development resources that inspire action leading to military-connected business formation, growth, or recovery.
The conference was more than a social gathering and included the Military Entrepreneur Challenge (MEC) powered by the Second Service Foundation. MEC is a three-part event led by the Second Service Foundation with support from its partners: the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Community Navigator Pilot Program, the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Holland & Knight LLP and the Brewing the American Dream Program by Sam Adams. MEC includes a speed coaching session, a private pitch session to a judging panel and finally, an opportunity to pitch business ideas to a live audience for a chance to win a small business grant.
Bryant “Griff” Griffith is a Marine Corps veteran and the founder and CEO of JAWS – Junk And Waste Solutions. He is one of twelve cohort members in the UTAVBOC Spark for Veterans Incubator, where the curriculum included pitch preparation. Griff and five other cohort members were among the nine business owners selected to pitch in the MEC at BBBC23. Five cohort members were awarded $1,000 grants.
Griffith was the overall MEC winner at BBC23, receiving a $2,000 grant, a $5,000 promotional package and $20,000 of in-kind legal services from Holland & Knight LLP. “Waste removal is about more than picking up trash. I will use the MEC award to launch the JAWS franchise model and “pick up the lives” of veterans in Florida and Ohio,” said Griffith. Patrick E. Alcorn, senior director of the UTAVBOC, commented, “Griff’s business success and his desire to empower other veterans is an example of the military-connected entrepreneur ecosystem at its best, i.e., veterans empowering veterans.”
UTAVBOC provides collaborative, hands-on, interactive learning opportunities, including classroom instruction and opportunities to work with experienced coaches and mentors, attend workshops and develop connections. Through training programs, one-on-one business counseling, accredited university courses, practical seminars, relevant workshops, expert referrals and veteran-focused outreach activities, UTAVBOC serves as the SBA resource for veterans. UTAVBOC services are funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the SBA to empower transitioning veterans, disabled veterans, National Guard, active and reserve component members and their spouses to grow the U.S. economy and its employment base while adding value to the communities in which they live and serve.
The UTAVBOC Spark for Veterans Program provides six months of free coworking space (in Arlington, Texas) with in-person, interactive, facilitated incubator technical assistance, followed by six months of one-on-one business counseling, practical seminars, relevant workshops, pitch competition preparation and expert referrals to a nationwide network of mentors and capital partners. Additionally, program participants gain a dedicated cohort of eight to 12 peers who hold each other accountable for business growth and success. Applications are now open for the January 2024 cohort at alcornttg.leadingthebest.com/CL0002.
The Second Service Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports military entrepreneurs through coaching, resources, capital and an innovative mentorship program to help entrepreneurs scale from startup to the stars. Launched in 2016 on Veterans Day, The Second Service Foundation (formerly StreetShares Foundation) set out to provide comprehensive resources for military community entrepreneurs. They are cultivating the American Dream for military businesses. As a private foundation, they aim to inspire, educate and support veterans, military spouses and Gold Star families as they grow their enterprise.