"VetImpact has been by our side since the beginning. We wouldn't be nearly as far along without their expertise, resources, and support. As a veteran with no international business experience, I couldn't imagine starting a company like this without VetImpact."
-Brandon Friedman / CEO, Rakkasan Tea Co.
To offer our pro bono consulting services we partner with consulting firms like Deloitte, MBA programs such as Georgetown University, like Bunker Labs DC and Eastern Foundry. This provides veteran entrepreneurs and their businesses unique access to top-tier business consultation, fueling their growth.
what do companies get out of it?
Our pro bono engagements are offered within cohorts each spring and fall and range between 300-500 hours per project. We help companies identify their needs and then create projects that support anything from business plan development, to regional/country analysis, international supply chain and sourcing analysis, marketing plan development, and financial analysis and modeling. At the end of the projects our teams provide tangible work products, such as a full business plan, marketing plan, or sourcing strategy. During the course of the projects, we also provide a mid-point pitch panel where the projects are stress-tested by investors and business / policy experts, allowing us to ensure the final products provide the best value-add to the companies. For those companies at the right maturity level, we also assist in identifying funding sources, including pitches to venture capital firms.
how do the projects actually work?
First, we have an application process that allows us to assess the current state of the business, or in some cases the viability of a business concept. During the application process we separate companies into three categories based on their level of maturity - Tier 3 are those that are either a concept or have a working business plan, but are not yet incorporated (these are also good candidates for incubator programs like Bunker Labs or Patriot Boot Camp, or SBA's Boots to Business program), Tier 2 are businesses that have been incorporated, but are under $100,000 in annual revenue, and Tier 1 are businesses that are over $100,000 in annual revenue and operating internationally.
Once companies are accepted into a cohort, we work with the veteran entrepreneurs and our consulting and MBA partners to outline initial statements of work and then assign teams to the work streams. As an example, in the Spring 2017 cohort, Team Afghan Power (a businesses developing renewable energy projects in Afghanistan) needed help in refining their business plan and creating a financial model. A team of five Deloitte consultants and eight Georgetown MBA's broke up into two work streams to tackle the project. The team met on a weekly basis with company representatives to ensure the project stayed on course.
As part of our initial assessment we utilize the lean business model canvas. We want to help our clients clearly understand their target market and value-add; the lean canvas enables us to quickly ascertain the state of a business.
We also focus on utilizing human-centered design (HCD) principles where it makes sense. This is mutually supportive of our lean canvas approach – HCD challenges businesses to better understand their customers, producers, and market ecosystems, thus ensuring optimal product-market fit.
VetImpact’s growing team will eventually include full-time consultants that will allow us to expand beyond the twice a year cohort model. We foresee a future where our consultants will include U.S. military veterans, former Foreign Service Officers, professional diaspora from post-conflict countries and emerging markets, providing unparalleled access to business networks and unlocking untapped or under-tapped markets.
Spring 2017 Cohort
From February - April 2017, a team of Deloitte and Georgetown MBA student volunteers provided an initial business and sourcing strategy, including outreach and connections to tea farms in Sri Lanka, Rwanda, and Vietnam. The team also developed a full financial model for Rakkasan to understand all associated start-up costs. The team also worked with the founder / CEO, Brandon Friedman, to augment some of the core education and training elements necessary for his understanding of international business development while he was a part of Bunker Labs DC's Spring 2017 EPIC Cohort at Capitol Post.
During our Spring 2017 Cohort, a team of Deloitte and Georgetown MBA student volunteers, along with support from the Embassy of Afghanistan and USAID, provided Team Afghan Power (TAP) with a strong business plan for market entry into the renewable energy industry in Afghanistan. Together, TAP and the team constructed a sourcing analysis and financial model, supporting TAP's initial site visit and meetings with senior Afghan government representatives in Kabul in March 2017. Following the Spring 2017 Cohort, a dedicated team of Georgetown MBA's have continued to work with TAP on refining their market entry strategy.
Flying Scarfs was our first pro bono effort launched in the fall of 2016. Joe Stenger, the CEO of Flying Scarfs, has been a key partner in helping us understand how VetImpact can best support veteran entrepreneurs and their international businesses. As a successful, established international business, Flying Scarfs has been looking at ways to expand their business and increase their economic and social impact for war widows in Afghanistan. During the Spring 2017 Cohort a team of Deloitte and Georgetown MBA student volunteers supported a re-branding strategy and marketing revamp, boosting their ability to make a lasting impact on the economic conditions of women in Afghanistan.
Fall 2017 Cohort
An important aspect of our pro bono cohorts is continuing to work with companies as they grow. Spring-boarding off the spring cohort project, Rakkasan CEO, Brandon Friedman, completed a successful Kickstarter campaign in August 2017. The focus of the fall project centered on a customer acquisition strategy and development of a financial prospectus for potential investors. With VetImpact's support, Rakkasan Tea jumped off to a fast start, in which they gained over $12,500 in revenues in their first month and positioned themselves for a successful holiday season. VetImpact also continues to provide Rakkasan Tea support during ongoing investment negotiations as the company seeks funding to expand its operations in 2018.
Based on recommendations from the spring 2017 project and a follow-on financial assessment over the summer by Georgetown MBA students, Team Afghan Power's CEO decided to pursue a non-profit corporate model. During the fall cohort project a team of two Deloitte and four Georgetown MBA volunteers helped TAP prepare for a successful visit to Kabul and site visit to the Panjshir Valley, where TAP intends to execute it's first renewable power project in 2018. The project team also provided TAP with a robust donor map and fundraising strategy, enabling the TAP team to focus efforts on qualified funding leads.
The project aim was simple for Miseh during the fall cohort - understand where high-end rum from Liberia would have the best potential in the U.S. market. With the support of four Georgetown MBA students, Miseh CEO, Mike Sehzue, did just that. Now Miseh is preparing to import its rum into the U.S. and tantalize rum connoisseurs along the East Coast in 2018.
SWAG is an innovative concept of Army veteran, Tony Macie - encourage grass-roots entrepreneurship and expansion of established small and micro businesses in Cambodia by providing digital marketing services and training. Three Georgetown MBAs and VetImpact's President helped Tony take his idea from concept to reality by walking him through a lean business model canvas and developing a market assessment, aided by the Harvard Country Analysis framework. Over the course of twelve weeks the project team helped Tony mold his ideas into a solid business plan ready for execution in 2018.