Veterans with a solid business idea may have a $100,000 opportunity.
This is thanks to Hofstra University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, which is launching the Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge.
It’s a pitch challenge worth more than $100,000 in seed grant funding and in-kind serves that includes mentorship and technical assistance.
The competition is a partnership of the Center for Entrepreneurship, the Hesselbirg Family and the U.S. Veterans Chamber of Commerce.
For Kevin Hesselbirg, an entrepreneur-in-residence at Hofstra’s Center for Entrepreneurship, the competition is all about giving back and opening doors.
“I was first given the opportunity to be a CEO when promoted by Coleman Fung, the founder of OpenLink, where I experienced firsthand the tremendous impact that can be achieved from a great idea and lot of hard work,” Hesselbirg said in a statement.
The competition comes at a time when the rate of entrepreneurship among veterans is declining. A contributing factor may be the difficulty veterans have in accessing capital, experts said.
According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, with support from the U.S. Small Business Administration, entrepreneurs who are veterans submitted more loan applications, but were approved for loans less often, than their non-veteran counterparts. They also were more likely to be deemed a high credit risk, the study found. This study was conducted in November of 2018.
Yet another possible reason for the drop in veterans who are entrepreneurs may be that the last decade included “major corporate initiatives to hire more veterans,” the study found.
One effort to help retired service-people secure funding is to provide easier debt financing through Community Development Financial Institutions that would target veterans, as well as other populations, according to the study. Another is to offer mentorships about the lending process to veterans. Advocates also say that spreading awareness about the difficulties veterans face in securing business financing would help address this challenge.
Meanwhile, Hofstra said there is no charge to enter its venture challenge for veterans, and unlike other veteran entrepreneur competitions, the Hofstra challenge provides both in-kind services, such as mentoring, and substantial seed capital.
The challenge’s first place winner will receive a $52,000 prize package, comprised of $44,000 in seed grant funding, $8,000 in in-kind services, according to Hofstra.
The second place winner will receive a $26,000 package, with $22,000 in seed grant funding and $6,000 in in-kind services. And the third place winner will receive a $14,000 prize package, with$12,000 in seed grant funding and $4,000 in in-kind services.
In-kind services will depend on the needs of the winners’ company. It may include incubator space at Hofstra’s ideaHUB, prototyping assistance, courses focused on digital marketing, QuickBooks training, or other professional development courses in partnership with Hofstra University Continuing Education.
Hesselbirg said he is “grateful for the support of Hofstra and the U.S. Veterans Chamber of Commerce.”
“We came together to craft a unique program, which we anticipate will launch many veteran startups for years to come,” he added.
“Long Island is an important market for veterans and veteran-entrepreneurship training,” Michael Zacchea, executive director of the U.S. Veterans Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.
“Hofstra has taken a leading role in veteran entrepreneurship in New York and nationally,” he added.
Zacchea said that the U.S. Veterans Chamber of Commerce is “extremely pleased to be able to support Hofstra University’s Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge program in bringing business startup opportunities to America’s most recent generation of combat veterans.”
Stacey Sikes, executive dean of Entrepreneurship and Business Development at Hofstra, said this venture challenge for veterans would “provide veteran entrepreneurs access to educational tools, funding, mentorship and product development resources through the Center for Entrepreneurship” as well as the U.S. Veterans Chamber of Commerce.
“We have worked with several veteran-owned companies, and they have demonstrated great leadership skills, discipline, team building, and risk management, which are essential qualities of successful entrepreneurs,” Sikes said. “We are now able to expand our services to veterans and thank our long-time Entrepreneur-in-Residence Kevin Hesselbirg for his support and commitment to this program.”
Applications will be accepted through Feb. 29, 2020. The contest is open to veterans across the nation, spouses of veterans and members of Gold Star families.
Twenty finalists will be chosen in March of 2020. Finalists will participate in virtual mentorship sessions and an online course that will be offered in partnership with Hofstra Continuing Education between April and June, culminating in an entrepreneurship bootcamp at Hofstra from June 15 through 19 in 2020.
The actual pitch competition is slated for June 19.
Finalists will have access to networking opportunities with angel investors during the bootcamp. All housing costs for the bootcamp will be paid for by the Venture Challenge.
For more information about the competition, including rules and application, click here.