A competition that started with more than 140 entrepreneurs ended Monday night when Army wife Reda Hicks was presented with a $15,000 check and the title of the Great American Military Entrepreneur at the Military Influencer Conference in Washington, D.C.
Sponsored by Samuel Adams' Brewing the American Dream program and the StreetShares Foundation, the challenge was a March Madness-like wave of business pitches by military spouse and veteran entrepreneurs. A panel determined the top 32 businesses, and a popular vote whittled the field to 16.
The 16 finalists were asked to present a three-minute pitch before veteran judges, who selected the elite eight. Those eight again presented a three-minute pitch, followed by an intense round of questions and answers from seven new judges, who determined the final four.
The final four consisted of two veterans and two military spouses. They presented their three-minute business pitches on a live stage Monday night at the Military Influencer Conference, where attendees voted via cell phone for their favorite.
Yvonne Coombes, an Army spouse and owner of Operation Deploy Your Dress, placed fourth and was presented with a $2,500 check. BoodleAI, run by veteran Shawn Olds, placed third; he also received a $2,500 grant. Second place and a $5,000 grant went to veteran James Rolin with Cowboy Cricket Farms. And Hicks walked away with the grand prize.
Hicks' business, GotSpot, is an innovative solution to commercial space issues. Started in the Houston Area, GotSpot pairs spot seekers (people who need space) with spot holders (people who have space).
"There are 20 million virtual businesses in the United States," she said, "and many of them are military spouses. I wanted to create a solution for the entrepreneur that doesn't always need a location of their own, but when they do, can find it so they aren't leaving money on the table. And GotSpot enables business owners to rent their space, putting more money back in their pockets."
Spots include more than desks, encompassing everything from commercial kitchens to yoga studios.
"This award is a game-changer for me," Hicks said. "This will allow me to hire more incredible military spouses and help GotSpot on its path to go global."
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