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VetSmallBiz Growth Challenge

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University is proud to announce the VetSmallBiz Growth Challenge, developed for veteran entrepreneurs who are ready to take their business to the next level. This unique competition offers elite growth and pitch coaching prior to the competition finals.

Winners will receive exposure to a distinguished judging panel, access to capital—$100K in total to be awarded—and up to three months of individualized mentorship.


This is more than a business plan competition, it’s an exclusive program that will identify some of the most promising veteran businesses across the country and through elite coaching, collaboration, and capital infusion, bring each to new heights.

Start Date

End Date

Applications (Business Plan & Executive Summary Submission) Nov. 4, 2016 Dec. 18, 2016
Semi-Finalists Announced Jan. 8, 2016
Semi-Finalists – Pitch Coaching Jan. 9, 2017  Jan.11, 2017
Semi-finalists – Submit Video Pitch to Panel of Judges Jan. 15, 2017
Finalists Announced Jan. 23, 2017
Finalists – Group Elite Expansion Coaching  Jan. 30, 2017  Feb. 24, 2017
Finale – VetSmallBiz Growth Challenge   March 3, 2017
Finalists – Group Elite Expansion Coaching  March 5, 2017  June 3, 2017

Apply NowRules & GuidelinesJudging Criteria FAQs


National Veterans Small Business Week: Latest Innovations Announced for Veteran-Owned Small Businesses

VetSmallBiz Competition Finalists:

Distel Wolfe Experiential Design
Jill Wolfe

Elemental Weight Loss Clinic
Megan R Williams Khmelev

Leah Olszewski

Icebox Cryotherapy
Ethan Whitfield

Military Express LLC.
Ken Kelso

NuPhase Solutions
Phil Keil

Off Duty Blue
Jim Raschella

Reflections of Service LLC.
Lawrence Richards

Stephen Woll

Yoga 4 Change
Kathryn Thomas

Compete (Phase I)

Rules & Guidelines


  • The individual, controlling business owner (51 percent) or the majority of equally-shared partnership members must have an honorable discharge status from the U.S. Military.
  • Operating for at least one year, formed before December 18, 2015.
  • Verification of military service with
  • Limited to residents of the United States.
  • Ideas submitted as part of the competition must represent the original work of the participant. All participants will sign the “Entrant Certification” form to this effect.

Submission Guidelines

  • All deadlines and guidelines for submissions and competition attendance must be adhered to. Materials must be submitted on the appropriate due date. No late submissions will be accepted, and any submissions that are greater in length than specified will not be considered. Business plan and executive summary submissions are considered final. Updates will not be accepted, even if completed before the final submission date.
  • Executive Summary and Business Plan. Every competitor must submit a two-page executive summary and 23-page business plan no later than December 18, 2016 5 PM EST. Only one submission of a business venture is permitted. The executive summary and business plan combined must not exceed 25 pages in length based on a document that is double spaced, 12 point font with one inch margins (including cover and text); the appendices may not exceed 10 pages in length (appendices are an additional 10 pages to the 25 pages of the business plan which makes is a total of 35 pages). Submit as follows in pdf format at the following website:
    • File name for the business plan: last name, first initial_businessplan
    • File name for the executive summary: last name, first initial_executivesummary

Judging & General Disclosures

  • Submitted ideas are protected in the spirit of non-disclosure, where all entry materials will be treated as company confidential. The only persons with access to the entry materials will be judges and select members of the organizing committee. Materials will not be distributed to any other party, unless requested by entrant team. No special provisions are made to protect intellectual property.
  • Judging of entries will be performed by an outside panel of independent judges, consisting of professionals involved in entrepreneurship. Judges may be successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, or professional service providers working with the venture community. Any entry is subject to minimum criteria in terms of market potential, viability, and other factors, as determined by the judging panel’s experience. If no entries meet the minimum criteria, one or all prizes may not be awarded. Throughout any and all phases of the VetSmallBiz Growth Challenge, all decisions of the judges are final.
  • Prize money is granted only to the business entity, e.g. a corporation or LLC. The business will use any winning prize money strictly for use by the business (e.g. working capital, inventory, equipment, etc.). Competitors and their resultant business entities are responsible for any tax consequences of the prize. To receive their prize money, award winners are required to submit the following in pdf format, no later than March 31, 2017:
    • Proof of incorporation (i.e. copy of articles of incorporations) for corporations or business license for sole proprietorship
    • Operating agreement (51% or greater ownership)
    • Budget which shows how the prize money will be spent
    • Signed W-9 form for the business (
  • The IVMF reserves the right to disqualify, in its sole and absolute discretion, any participant from the competition at any time (before or after a judging round or the award of any prize) for any reason. Reasons for disqualification may include: pornographic, drug related businesses, plagiarism and any other form of dishonesty, misappropriation or infringement of the intellectual property of others, and any failure to comply with these rules and regulations. Disqualified competitors shall forfeit any and all prizes awarded to them.
  • Ventures into the Marijuana industry do not qualify for the competition.


Judging Criteria

Coaching (Phase II) & Collaboration
Semifinalists will receive pitch coaching prior to submission of their video pitch. Finalists will receive three weeks of elite growth coaching with their fellow competitors (affinity group of like-minded veterans) in an online group setting before they get to the finale.


Coach: Lauren McDanell – SeedspotSeedSpot



Coach: Phillip Cardenas – Patriot Boot Camp



Coach: Will Crane – BunkerLabs



Coach: Rachelle Oribio – Patriot Boot Camp



Coach: Tom Crane – BunkerLabs


Capital Finale (Phase III)
The final one-day challenge event will expose the finalists to a distinguished group of judges and the opportunity to learn from each other during their 90 second venture pitch round. This one-day event will also have keynote and panel opportunities, all focused on venture growth.

1st Place $50,000
2nd Place $25,000
3rd Place $10,000
Most Innovative Venture $5,000
Best Social Venture $5,000
Best Venture Impacting Veterans $5,000


Sponsors & Partners
The Marcus Foundation