As we kick off National Military Appreciation Month the StreetShares Foundation is proud to announce the winners of the April Veteran Small Business Awards. These winners and veteran small business owners have a common business mission – to help veterans build their lives after leaving the military, whether it’s through a new therapy or working on an inspiring new idea. As veteran entrepreneurs, they’ve leveraged the veteran business community to help grow their small businesses through programs like the Bunker Labs, Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) and through veteran business grants from the StreetShares Foundation. Without further ado, we are proud to announce this month’s winners:
First Place: Kendra Simpkins, Army Veteran, Owner/Clinical Practitioner at Sarasota Rapid Resolution Therapy (Sarasota, Florida)
Second Place: Eddy Mejia, Army Veteran, Founder/CEO of ShoeBoxOne (Chicago, Illinois)
Third Place: Maria Mayes, Army Veteran, Founder, Managing Partner at Morgan Veteran Recruiting Group (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
First Place: Kendra Simpkins, Owner/Clinical Practitioner at Sarasota Rapid Resolution Therapy
Kendra served in the Army as an intel analyst for two years. Inspired by her own personal experience Kendra made it her mission to understand how to treat veterans transitioning out of the military. Combat trauma affects a significant portion of veterans. In fact, 11-20 percent of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a given year, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Kendra never expected her career to be in social work. But because of her personal experience and her observations of fellow veterans, she decided to become a licensed clinical practitioner. She suffered for a year and it took that long to adjust. She completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology and continued to receive a masters in social work. She was trained in high-risk therapy including cognitive-behavior. The VA lists several treatment options and how to get started with treatment. However, throughout Kendra’s trainings and through seeing veteran patients, she found that Rapid Resolution Therapy is the most effective treatment for veterans.
“Therapy sessions can be long and tedious,” Kendra said. “Rapid Resolution Therapy takes one to two sessions to help patients become clear of trauma, gain peace, clarity and relief.”
Her mentor and founder of Rapid Resolution Therapy, Dr. Jon Connelly, encouraged Kendra to open her own practice. Sarasota Rapid Resolution Therapy was founded after seeing that this method worked and no one else was doing it in the Sarasota, Florida region.
With the $5,000 veteran business grant, Kendra plans to provide free Rapid Resolution Therapy (RRT) sessions to veterans.
Second Place: Eddy Mejia, Founder of ShoeBoxOne
Eddy Mejia served in the U.S. Army for five years and spent some time in Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon his return, he went back to school to finish his degree in computer engineering and through the University of Illinois at Chicago startup challenge, he founded ShoeBoxOne. ShoeBoxOne is a shoe storage solution for shoe collectors, enthusiasts and resellers. Eddy came up with the idea when he noticed his family and friends from high school were creating random solutions to keep their sneakers. For example, his cousin bought a China cabinet to store and display his sneakers.
Shoe Collectors or “Sneakerheads” want to protect, present and preserve their collections. Eddy created a visually appealing glass display case to protect each pair of shoes. Each box has full spectrum LED lights to complement different colored shoes. Sneakerheads can monitor and control the temperature and humidity in each vacuum-sealed box through a Bluetooth mobile application.
Eddy participated in Bunker Labs Chicago, competed for the second time in the UIC startup challenge, and applied for the StreetShares Foundation’s veteran business grant contest to earn grant money to build his first prototype. Now that he has a prototype, he can begin a kickstarter campaign and attend SneakerCon, the largest conference for sneakerheads. ShoeBoxOne has two different models, one as the “sole” or base, which controls all of the features and starts at $175, and the “uppers,” which can stack on top of the base and start at $100.
Eddy is currently manufacturing his products in the United States and plans to employ veterans. He will offer a military discount and a chance to own the exclusive military edition.
Third Place: Maria Mayes, Founder & Managing Partner at Morgan Veteran Recruiting Group
Maria Mayes served in the Army as a logistics specialist and spent time in Iraq. Maria noticed, after leaving the military, that although the VA provided plenty of resources, these resources didn’t change to accommodate different needs of military veterans.
While working as a civilian for the U.S Air Force in logistics, Maria was able to get exposure to Fortune 500 companies in the Indianapolis, Indiana and worked at Kraft Heinz for several years. Throughout this time she was assisting fellow veterans in resume writing and helping them look for job opportunities. After her time at Kraft Heinz, Maria decided to obtain an MBA in global supply chain management where she met her future business partner, Ebony Joyce.
Maria decided it was time to do something she was passionate about – helping veterans transition from the military into civilian life with full-time work in the corporate world. She combined her passion and her supply chain network to create Morgan Veteran Recruiting Group. This special recruiting group focuses on placing military talent in highly-skilled supply chain management and technical positions.
As a veteran business owner, Maria applied and was accepted into the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) through IVMF at Syracuse University. EBV has three phases to its program including a 30-day instructor led, online course, a nine-day, on-site residency and a full year of support and mentorship.
Maria plans to use the veteran business grant money for purchasing software to run her business and designing and implementing marketing strategies.
Veteran Business Funding
Starting a business can be daunting. However, as a veteran business owner like the award recipients above, you have access to resources that can help. Veterans have access to entrepreneurship programs that connect you with amazing mentors and a network of other small business owners. Additionally you have access to veteran business funding. Business funding can come in different forms for businesses in different stages. Startup businesses can look for contests or grants like the veteran business grant from the StreetShares Foundation. More established businesses can look for veteran business loans such as term loans, lines of credit or contract financing from StreetShares.