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January 18, 2014

Now or Never

Now or Never

Written by: Molly Blake

Sonia Deal stood at the dark-wood paneled podium and smiled confidently.  Her hands shook a bit but the panel of three judges, seated a few yards away at a table, couldn’t see the tremble.  All they saw was a passionate, smart registered nurse with an idea.

“Our collaboration through case management makes us a unique hub for communication and information,” said Deal who is hoping to launch a diabetes education center in the Midwest. She’s one of 10 Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) entrants in the Citi Salutes: Realizing Your Dream Business Competition. It’s all part of the 9th V-WISE conference being held this weekend in Long Beach, Calif.

Jessica Eaves-Matthews, one of the judges for the competition, nodded and smiled through Deal’s 20-minute presentation.  Passionate about women entrepreneurs, the founder and CEO of Leverage Legal Group says she’s impressed with the cohort of competitors.

“I think the business concepts are really strong,” said Eaves-Matthews. “They have put a lot of work thinking through the opportunities.”

One room over, Rudy Lopez, the owner of Lopez Psychological Services, was busy pitching his idea as a graduate of the Operation Boots to Business program. Lopez is looking for investors in order to expand his existing business.

Judge Larry Broughton, the co-founder and CEO of BROUGHTONadvisory and the Founder and CEO of broughtonHOTELS listened intently, offered some pointed advice and then reminded the Navy vet of one important fact.

“You’ve got to stand out.”

photo_2After Lopez, Dr. Tony Turin strode in the room, shook hands with the judges and introduced himself.  He stood Oprah style in front of the room, sans notes, and began.

“We’re going to produce profits by proving the best eye care possible,” said Turin, the former Chief of Womack Army Medical Center Optometry Clinic.  Turin hopes to open his own optometry clinic in his hometown of Sandy, Ore.

The navy doc detailed his market, the existing competition, market strategy, projections, and expenses. At the conclusion, Turin let out an audible whoosh of relief.

The judges, clearly impressed, jumped in with comments, advice and several compliments.

“You’ve done your homework,” said Broughton.

The top three finalists from both the V-WISE and the Boots to Business categories of the competition will pitch their ideas to a live, voting audience comprised of attendees of the V-WISE conference on Sunday morning.


Molly Blake is a freelance writer.

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