Whether you created edible insects or built a prototype for the dashboard toaster oven, The Veteran Shark Tank is searching for veterans who dream of growing their business and they're offering one lucky winner $50K.
Now in its 7th year, Veteran Shark Tank is holding regional qualifying events around the country. These events are similar to the hit TV show format, where entrepreneurial vets take the stage and pitch their concept, product or existing business to a panel of expert judges who are also veterans themselves.
“We think of ourselves as the anti-gala,” explained event founder and Navy veteran Alex Archawski. “We’ve all been to those events where everyone pays to sit at the table, but we always wondered, ‘was it the right audience?’ So when we founded Veteran Shark Tank, we wanted it to truly help the veterans attending. Over the years it's grown into an event that helps participants get a cash prize, business services and really, a network for life. It’s a show, and even more, it’s a business event."
Earlier this year Veteran Shark Tank held qualifiers in Chicago, Atlanta, and San Diego. Upcoming events will be held Sept. 8 at the Military Influencers Conference in Washington DC, and Oct. 28 in Philadelphia. Winners from each Qualifier will earn a spot (and all expenses paid trip) to the Finals in Philadelphia and a chance to win $50,000 in Philadelphia on Dec 9.
In addition to being able to discover new opportunities and networks, attendees at this year’s Finals will have a chance to hear from some of the nation’s top veteran business leaders, “We’re excited to have Grunt Style founder and CEO, Dan Alarik as this year’s keynote speaker,” Archawski said. Other veteran guests this year include: Motivational Speaker Justin Constantine; StreetShares CEO, Mark Rockefeller; JDog CEO Jerry Flanagan; MilBlogging Founder Curtez Riggs; Dub Fitness Founder, Erica Webster.
Whether you’re interested in hearing the speeches or applying to pitch your product, there is one question on everyone’s mind. What’s the secret to a winning idea? “It can be a product or a service, it can be a technology or not. Look we’ve had everybody from a dog trainer to an app similar to an ‘Airbnb’ for hunters, where they look for properties to hunt … Last year Cowboy Crickets won …edible crickets right? So it really can be anything,” Archawski explained.
Some ideas are born out of necessity- like the experience of Army veteran and Shark Tank alum Jerry Flanagan. Flanagan explained that after coming out of the Army he had his ups and downs as a business owner. “I’ve had several businesses … at one point after the economy crashed it forced our business to close, and I was just doing what I could. I had a Jeep and trailer, and I put it out to my neighbors that I could haul their junk away for them.”
Now, Flanagan’s company JDog Junk Removal has over 200 franchises nationwide, but his experience competing on Veteran Shark Tank was key to helping him grow. “The networking ability in a pitch tank environment really helped. I’ve been on Fox and Friends several times since then, but it was competing on Veteran Shark Tank that really helped get my elevator pitch down.”
More than an outline, product or plans for the future, Veteran Shark Tank is all about the pitch. “Winning these competitions is all about how well you can answer the judge's questions on stage,” explained Archawski. “Most people don’t realize that the majority of business owners may not be a salesman. They’re often a developer or an operations type. But when you run a business you’re the head of sales, and that’s what Shark Tank helps develop.”
Flanagan, also shared one of his secrets to success, “You have to involve your family … You’re going to pour everything into a new business and the phone never shuts off, so you’ve gotta have your kids and spouse by your side. I remember when I first started my kids would come out with me and haul junk … sometimes they would even find cool stuff they would keep. Now when my daughter comes home from college she helps run the marketing department. It may have grown, but it’s always a family business.”
After leaving the military, many vets question what direction they should go. But Archawski.reminds all vets that if they have an idea, a passion or a dream to launch their own business they should follow it, “Regardless of your age, there comes a time that we have to figure the next step. Sometimes we can get it from a corporation, and sometimes we can’t. But if you have the entrepreneurial spirit in your blood, then it has to come out.”
Check out the Veteran Shark Tank website for application information and upcoming events.
J Dog Junk Removal is always looking for veterans to join their team and become franchise owners. Click here for more information