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Hofstra contest will award $100,000 to veteran-owned startups

Veteran and entrepreneur Chris Holman, who is receiving

Veteran and entrepreneur Chris Holman, who is receiving business mentoring at Hofstra, says he plans to enter the contest. Credit: Barry Sloan

Hofstra University's Center for Entrepreneurship is calling for startup pitches from military veteran entrepreneurs nationwide in a competition offering a total of $100,000 in funding and services.

Applications for the Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge (https://www.hofstra.edu/academics/entrepreneurship/veterans-venture-challenge.html) are due Feb. 29.

Chris Holman, a former Air Force staff sergeant who served in Afghanistan, has been getting coaching at the Center for Entrepreneurship's ideaHUb incubator on the Hofstra campus since January and said he plans to enter the competition.

He is building a Baldwin-based project and supply-chain management startup under the name SupplyIQ.

His business plan: Convince companies that they can lower their supply-chain costs by having SupplyIQ manage logistics.

"Why not outsource it?" Holman said. "They're able to reduce their overhead."

Holman said his ideaHUb mentor, Kevin Hesselbirg, the entrepreneur-in-residence at the Center, has helped him understand the "CEO's perspective and how I need to position myself."

The contest is designed to help entrepreneurs who served in the military hone their business plans and cope with hurdles in securing financing, which are higher than for nonveterans, according to research by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The competition calls for 20 finalists to get entrepreneurship bootcamp training from June 14-19 on the Hofstra campus in Hempstead.

On June 19, the university will host a pitch competition for finalists with a first prize of $52,000, including $44,000 in seed funding and $8,000 in in-kind services. Second- and third-place finishes are worth $26,000 and $14,000 in funding and services, said Stacey I. Sikes, executive dean of entrepreneurship and business development at Hofstra.

The contest is open to the CEOs or "team leaders" of startup companies if they are military veterans, the spouses of veterans or members of Gold Star families -- families that lost a family member while he or she was serving.

To qualify, the company must be at least 50% veteran owned and have annual revenue under $250,000.

Hesselbirg, former CEO of The Gemini Companies, a provider of services for Wall Street that merged with Hauppauge-based Ultimus Fund Solutions LLC in February, said he approached Sikes about six months ago about creating a program for veterans.

"We realized how underserved the veterans' community was," said Hesselbirg, who is helping to fund the competition.

Sikes cited a November 2018 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the U.S. Small Business Administration that indicates that 60% of military-veteran entrepreneur credit applicants face "financing shortfalls" versus 52% of nonveteran-owned business applicants.

Approval rates from lenders were about 10% lower for veterans than nonveterans, according to the study.

The report found that possible causes include: issues with credit scores; failure to get needed help in completing loan applications, and smaller loan amounts sought by veterans.
 

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