Our top 10 Veteran small businesses put up a good fight for the first round of awards presented by the StreetShares Foundation and JPMorgan Chase. The public vote lasted for about a week and a half. Without further ado, the winners of the Veteran Small Business Award are…
1st Place: Grunts Frozen Yogurt & Ice Cream - $5,000
2nd Place: Chameleon Kids - $3,000
3rd Place: Women Veterans Alliance - $2,000
Congratulations! Our winners this month represent the Veteran community really well. Grunts Frozen Yogurt & Ice Cream displays military memorabilia in his shop and continues his military involvement throughout the community. Chameleon Kids created a magazine called, Military Kids Life, to help military families and children share their stories about military life, moving and being deployed in a positive way. Finally, Women Veterans Alliance (WVA) has created a community where women Veterans can turn to for resources including professional development and entrepreneurship.
Big Time Impact in a Small Town
All of our winners have inspiring stories. Let’s learn a bit more about our first place winner – Grunts Frozen Yogurt & Ice Cream, a local shop in the small town of Mason, Texas. Chris Dyer served in the Marine Corps, mostly in the Infantry for 20 years. Dyer is originally from San Bernardino, California and spent most of his time stationed at Camp Pendleton.
After he retired from the Marines, he moved to Mason, Texas and fell in love with the small town. Dyer’s entrepreneurial spirit started when he left the Marines in 2003 as a construction contractor and continued his business while his children were in school. Now that both of them have graduated high school, he wanted to do something different, something that made more people aware of the military community. He missed the camaraderie of the military community. So, he brought that feeling to Mason, Texas. With only 2,500 people in town, there are only a few small businesses and Dyer decided to open an ice cream shop six months ago.
Grunts Frozen Yogurt & Ice Cream was named after his experience in the Marine Corps Infantry. Dyer ran with the military theme in his shop. He displays photos of 100 veterans and 35 active duty service men and women from the area. When veterans visit the shop, they ring a bell and call attention.
But bringing awareness to the military community doesn’t stop at the decorations and experience at his shop. Dyer is involved with the local American Legion post and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Mason, Texas. He supports the local American Legion and VFW programs through the public schools by helping children learn more about the military community. “A lot of kids here pursue the military,” Dyer said. Mason, Texas has had a few students recently accepted into the Naval Academy and West Point.
Mason, Texas is a known for having the largest gem-quality topaz crystal in North America and for being the hometown of Fred Gipson, the author of the book and Disney film, Old Yeller. The historic museum is located on the square near Grunts Frozen Yogurt. There are no traffic lights, so as people drive through, only a few stop in. Dyer plans to use his award funds for more exposure about his shop and in turn, more exposure for the veteran community and the town of Mason. Buying a new laser cut metal sign that stands out would bring more people in the store.
Growing Fast and Giving Back
Dyer's shop is now open early to sell coffee. He also offers birthday parties to families with no fee and only charging for food they order. He plans to use the funds to produce more memorabilia for the historic town of Mason, in the form of branded t-shirts. He hopes to continue selling yogurt and ice cream for several more years and could be looking at franchising opportunities in the future.
"Mason is a really neat small town and we're having so much fun with our new military-themed ice cream shop. I was really excited to see that we won the award! It's a great opportunity to give back even more to the Veteran community,” Dyer said.
The Veteran Small Business Award is a monthly award from the StreetShares Foundation and JPMorgan Chase. Our goal is to inspire, educate and support Veteran-owned small businesses. If you’re a Veteran-owned small business, learn more about our award program here. Deadline to apply is at the end of each month.