While working at the IVMF, I was asked if I would go to Orlando, Florida, to support the Veteran Entrepreneur Training Symposium (VETS) 21. The annual event is hosted by the National Veteran Small Business Coalition (NVSBC).
The NVSBC is the largest non-profit trade association in the country representing veteran- and service-disabled veteran-owned small business (VOB and SDVOB) in the Federal marketplace. NVSBC works to ensure that veteran small businesses are given first consideration for federal prime and subcontract procurement opportunities.”
NVSBC engages regularly with Congress and Federal organizations to ensure these businesses are getting the help that they deserve.
VETS21 was held November 2-5, 2021, in Orlando. The event encouraged VOBs and SDVOBs to attend for reasons such as learning sessions focused on market intelligence and business strategy. For market intelligence, guests were able to experience market intel from “50+ government leaders across the VA, SBA, DoD, and 16 federal agencies.” For those wanting to strengthen their position for the upcoming year, attendees had the opportunity to communicate directly with government buyers and decision-makers. Every session that was held offered step-by-step tactics on how to accelerate business revenue.
Attendees also received business insights from keynote speakers including Tommy Moreno, co-founder & CEO of Pareto Labs, and Matt “Griff” Griffin, founder of Combat Flip Flops. A large part of the conference was dedicated to strategy sessions, where attendees had multiple opportunities to participate in small crash courses. Course topics included, “What do I really need to do? How much will it cost?”, “What you need to know for finding and winning low-hanging fruit,” and “Step-by-step advanced teaming strategies.” These are just a few of the many sessions available for participants to attend throughout the day.
Prior to Orlando, I worked remotely with some of the staff at NVSBC to prepare for the big event. Some of the tasks worked on included speaker and instructor confirmations, data entry and management, and serving as a link between speakers and the NVSBC. The workload helped me to understand what needs to be done to prepare for and execute such an event.
After weeks of built-up excitement, I left the cold of New York and landed in Florida, happily wearing a short-sleeved shirt. When I arrived at the conference hotel, I finally got to shake the hands of the NVSBC staff, who would be my colleagues for the next few days. At this moment I felt like I was no longer a college senior who was expected to graduate in the spring, but rather an early career professional, linking up with important businesspeople who are ready to help others win in life.
In Orlando, I assisted with a number of tasks such as prepping swag bags for attendees, setting up exhibitor booths, guiding people to their next session, linking up with keynote speakers and ensuring everything was ready for them prior to them speaking. I also took photos – lots and lots of photos. The little free time I had was spent conversing with attendees, hearing their story as an entrepreneur. Many companies in attendance had exhibition booths set up. This provided an opportunity for me to speak with them to get an idea of how they help not only entrepreneurs, but veterans specifically, to be set up for success.
The highlight of my trip was speaking with Matt “Griff” Griffin. We chatted one-on-one for about ten minutes prior to him taking the stage, telling his success story to inspire the audience. When I first met Griff, I was not familiar with him, but he had an air about him that made me want to learn more about his story and experiences.
It can be easy to recognize those who carry themselves confidently – you can see it in their eyes that they have something to be proud of, always striving for a purpose, and always wanting to achieve the next best goal. I have strived to have a positive and purposeful presence for a long time, and I was in the presence of someone who exuded that feeling to me instantaneously. This was an opportunity for me to learn. I knew when I was first introduced to Griff that I was going to feel inspired, and instead of me asking him all the question, he asked me who I was and what I planned to do with life. His goal for his keynote speech was to light a fire in the hearts and minds of his audience to motivate them to pursue their business goals and become successful entrepreneurs.
Griff’s speech included personal stories about obstacles he faced and how he overcame those obstacles. Griff also did a very good job of painting a visual picture of what he was explaining in these stories. As a fellow Afghanistan Campaign Veteran, I could easily visualize the scenery Griff described. The speech offered a trip down memory lane for veterans who served in Afghanistan. You could feel the hot summers, the freezing winters, all the smells, the strange sounds of a foreign country – all of it. But mostly, Griff gave nearly everyone in that room a renewed sense of pride for their service. Later that day, I purchased Griff’s book, Steps Ascending: Rise of the Unarmed Forces. Griff signed my book and wrote, “Josh, be a better human.” That is the motto of Combat Flip Flops – Be a better human. Despite our past – whether we have done more bad things than good, or more good than bad – it is up to us to make the best impact and legacy we can while we are a part of this world.
Interested in attending VETS22? You’re in luck! The event will be held May 18-19 in Orlando, Florida. Registration closes soon so sign up today to participate in this incredible learning and networking event!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Josh Pearl was raised in San Luis Obispo, California, and attended community college after graduating from high school. He quickly realized college was not right for him at the time. Less than three years later, Josh was at Fort Benning, Georgia, training to become an Infantryman in the U.S. Army. He spent five years with the 10th Mountain Division, completing two tours in Afghanistan. He left active duty after six years. Since that time, Josh joined the New York National Guard and returned to college at Syracuse University, majoring in Communication and Rhetorical Studies. He is expected to graduate in Spring 2022. He owes his drive for success to his young son, Ryan.