A couple of entrepreneurial veteran business owners, who were helped by the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) Entrepreneur program, earned $1,000 prizes at a Second Service Foundation business pitch competition. The pitch competition was part of the Business Beyond the Battlefield Conference, held in early October at the University of Texas in Arlington. The conference offered speakers, sessions, networking with coaches and mentors and other business development opportunities in addition to the pitch competition which provided a chance to connect with business capital.
“Each business competed for an award by presenting their business to a panel similar to Shark Tank on TV,” said Megan Tamez, TVC Entrepreneur Program Director and Army veteran.
One of the winners was Chad Whitehead, Marine Corps veteran and owner of Devil Dog Disposal LLC. Devil Dog Disposal started as as personal residence bulk waste/junk removal service and quickly grew to provide construction waste removal. It started in Parker County and recently expanded to serve Angelina County where Whitehead grew up.
The other was Maria Williams, Navy Veteran and co-founder of Sweet Melao LLC. Sweet Melao crafts natural sweetener extracted from Columbian sugar cane. Additionally, it commercializes the sweetener for use in smooth jams and granolas. The sweetener as well as related products are available from Sweet Melao.
“It was super awesome,” said Whitehead. “Through this event, I’m finding out more about pitch competitions. People listen to you about your business for two or three minutes; then decide if they will support you.”
Pictured is Whitehead, at right, with his prize and TVC Entrepreneur Program Director Tamez.
Whitehead said he is using the award money to purchase new equipment and potentially hire more staff.
Early on when establishing his business, Whitehead submitted his documentation to the TVC Entrepreneur Program for Veteran-Owned-Business certification. He said TVC further helped his business get started by helping him find his first truck. “TVC lead me to (State of) Texas Surplus where we got our first truck,” said Whitehead.
Williams described the pitch competition as “empowering and electrifying.”
“I am deeply grateful to both organizations (the Second Service Foundation event jointly with Business Beyond the Battlefield) for celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit and showcasing the incredible talent within the veteran community,” said Williams. “With the grant money, our small business will allocate funds to areas that support some of our key initiatives such as strengthening our patent application collaborating with patent professionals to analyze, refine the claims, specifications and drawings. The grant will help us to continue advancing product research and development, enhancement of our marketing strategy, and improving packaging.”
Pictured is Williams, at left, with her prize and TVC Entrepreneur Program Veteran Business Consultant Jose Sanchez.
Williams said the TVC Entrepreneur Program “has played a pivotal role in our business’s growth and success.” She noted the support and connections to resources the program provided. Additionally, that being verified by TVC Entrepreneur Program for Veteran Owned Business certification, “We have been able to distinguish ourselves in the marketplace as a company founded and operated by veterans. This certification holds significant weight, as it not only recognizes the sacrifices and contributions of our military service but also highlights our commitment to excellence and integrity in our business practices.”
Connect with the TVC Entrepreneur team at https://www.tvc.texas.gov/entrepreneurs/ .