VetSmallBiz Growth Challenge

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University is proud to announce the VetSmallBiz Growth Challenge 2.0, a business plan competition developed for veteran entrepreneurs who are ready to take their businesses to the next level. This unique competition offers free professional growth and pitch coaching provided by entrepreneurship professionals.

Winners will receive exposure to a distinguished judging panel, access to capital - a total of $75K to be awarded - and up to three months of individualized mentorship.


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

Start Date

End Date

Applications (Business Plan & Executive Summary Submission) November 27, 2017 December 30, 2017
Semi-Finalists Announced January 2018
Semi-Finalists – Pitch Coaching January 2018
Semi-finalists – Submit Video Pitch to Panel of Judges January 2018
Finalists Announced February 2018
Finale – VetSmallBiz Growth Challenge   February 18, 2018
Finalists – Group Elite Expansion Coaching February 2018 May 2018


Apply NowRules & GuidelinesJudging Criteria FAQs




Compete (Phase I)

Rules & Guidelines


  • The individual must be a U.S. service member or veteran entrepreneur with an honorable discharge status from the U.S. Military.
  • Operating business for at least one year by January 1, 2018.
  • 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 than the specified length 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 30, 2017 by 11:59 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 2.0, all decisions by 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 February 28, 2018:
    • Proof of incorporation (i.e. copy of articles of incorporations) for corporations or business license for sole proprietorship
    • 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.

Coaches TBD


Capital Finale (Phase III)
The finale will take place on February 18th, 2018 in Austin, TX. The final 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 $25,000
2nd Place $15,000
3rd Place $10,000
People’s Choice $10,000
Best Venture Impacting Veterans $5,000
Most Innovative $5,000
Best Social Venture $5,000


Sponsors & Partners
The Marcus Foundation