And the winners are…

Written by: Molly Blake

CitiphotoWith a double fist pump and a mega-watt smile on her face, Jill Hinton told an audience fueled up on coffee, Katy Perry’s women kick-butt-anthems and country music singer turned vet advocate Michael Peterson that she wanted to be the Oprah Winfrey of the outdoors

Hinton had 90-seconds to pitch her business idea to the 150 VWISE conference attendees who weighed in on whether Outdoor Book Club warranted a portion of the Citi Salutes: Realizing Your Dream Business Competition $130,000 award.

As the seconds ticked down, the rapt audience took notes and then voted.

Shevonica Howell, the owner of Academy of Scholars, a private school/nonprofit organization that provides a program of study for children in grades K-9, was next.

“I’m so nervous for them,” a V-WISE conference attendee was overheard saying as Howell walked on the brightly lit stage.

The first woman to pitch, a whip-smart former Air Force pilot named Kristina Guerrero, will head back to Oregon with $25,000 in her pocket – cash she says will be used to do TurboPup’s first large scale production run. The TurboPup bars are currently made in Guerrero’s guest house and she can’t keep up with all the orders already pouring in.

“I’m beyond excited,” said Guerrero an animated avid skier and zealous dog lover with a one-of-a-kind product that is poised to take a bite out of the multi-billion dollar pet industry.

The three finalists for the Boots to Business competition followed the same protocol with a 90-second pitch and the audience vote.

Army nurse and military spouse Sandra Gonzales, the owner of DOCERE E-learning Solutions, an online learning curriculum designed to help struggling families was awarded $25,000 in the Boots to Business sector.

“It was a ton of work,” said Gonzales of the competition “but I would do it again.”

Gonzales, a mother of six, will use the money to further develop her online curriculum and she’s planning on starting with Latin.

“It’s the basis for all language,” she said.

The audience chose Dr. Tony Turin, an Army optometrist, for the $15,000 prize and Celestial Lighting Solutions owner Andre Smith, a 26-year Navy veteran was awarded $10,000.

“I’m still providing safety and security, just on a community basis,” said Smith of his Quick Reference (QR) code scan applications that allows civilians to report streetlight outages and gives owners of streetlights an expedient and reliable way to respond to streetlight outages.

“The Boots to Business and V-WISE finalists showed great confidence and resilience on stage today,” said Mike Schoeneck, the program manager for Boots to Business.

The was the first time Smith has pitched his idea in a competition and while the money was certainly an incentive, Smith, like all the other entrepreneurs, said selling their business idea to an invested group of veterans and military spouses was not only empowering but more proof that steadfast dedication to their passion is worth all the effort.

“I created a business that I love,” said Smith.

V-WISE:

First Place: $25,000
Kristina Guerrero - TurboPup

Second Place: $15,000
Shevonica Howell – Academy of Scholars

Third Place: $10,000
Jill Hinton – Outdoor Book Club

Best Social Venture: $5,000
Sonia Deal – Diabetes Education Augmenting Lifestyles Centers & Clinic, LLC

Best Social Venture: $5,000
Lisa Belcastro – TF SASA, LLC

Venture Impacting Vets: $5,000
Terri Spahr Nelson – Sugati Publications

Boots to Business:

First Place: $25,000
Sandra Gonzales - DOCERE E-learning Solutions

Second Place: $15,000
Dr. Tony Turin - Mt. Hood Eye Care

Third Place: $10,000
Andre Smith – Celestial Lighting Services

Best Social Venture: $5,000
Becky Watson – Music for Wellness, LLC

Best Social Venture: $5,000
Andre Smith – Celestial Lighting Services

Venture Impacting Vets: $5,000
Rudy Lopez – Lopez Psychological Services

 

Molly Blake is a freelance writer.