Hiring Our Heroes Announces 5 Small Business Grant Program Recipients

May 23, 2024 1:20 PM ET

This story was first posted on Hiring Our Heroes. Reposted with permission from Hiring Our Heroes, an initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Representing "the best of the best," Hiring Our Heroes announced five grant recipients for the Small Business Grant Program, an initiative providing a one-time $10,000 grant for selected military-connected entrepreneurs, during a virtual event on April 17.

“We are honored to support these veteran- and military spouse-owned businesses with a grant thanks to the generous support from the FedEx Founder’s Fund, part of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis,” said Hiring Our Heroes President Eric Eversole. “Collectively, the stories and successes of these five small business owners highlight the skill sets veterans and military spouses learn through military service. Skills like leadership and resiliency are just a few of the many qualities they bring to the business community and have led to their success among aspiring entrepreneurs.”

More than 350 small businesses applied for this grant program. Out of the hundreds of applications, a committee selected only five winners based on their business acumen as well as two key characteristics – a dedication to overcoming economic hardships and a commitment to giving back to their communities.

“These grant recipients are committed to doing good in their communities,” Eversole said.

Planning Is Essential for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

During the award presentation, Eversole hosted a conversation with FedEx Founder and Executive Chairman Frederick W. Smith.

Smith served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, which included two tours of duty in Vietnam. His valor and dedication shone brightly during this time in the Marine Corps, where he served as a rifle platoon leader, a company commander and aerial observer/tactical air controller. A few years after completing his military service, he launched the original air-ground Federal Express network to serve the rapidly growing high-tech, high-value-added sectors of the economy.

Smith told Eversole the Marine Corps provided invaluable instruction which shaped both his leadership and management style.

“I found the leadership training invaluable during my service in the Marine Corps, particularly in Vietnam, and the fundamental management in an administrative part of the Marine Corps has been extremely valuable to me in my business career,” he said.

Along with leadership, Smith learned the importance of preparation and planning from the Marine Corps as well. “That’s the part of entrepreneurship that a lot of people ignore at their peril,” he said. “While great planning is important in the military, It’s absolutely essential for an aspiring entrepreneur.”

5 Small Business Grant Recipients

From a Midwest landscaping company to a California-based endurance sports event organizer, the winning small businesses represent the diversity of the military community. It is our honor to introduce you to the five grant recipients.

Bailey’s Child Development and Learning Center - San Antonio, Texas

Owned and operated by a dual-military couple, Bailey’s Child Development and Learning Center opened its doors in 2013 and aims to provide quality, reliable child care to local active-duty military families. The center prepares children to excel in kindergarten and provides homework assistance for school-aged children. Bailey’s has helped its community by providing jobs and training to local high school students. It also facilitated the distribution of free diapers and tuition assistance to families in need.

Easy Day Sports - Coronado, California

This U.S. Navy veteran took a leap of faith when he opened Easy Day Sports. Since then, the company has promoted fitness and community while helping organizations of all sizes host endurance sports events from coast to coast. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Easy Day quickly pivoted to virtual options, and the owner “spent every dollar to keep his team employed.” This year Easy Day Sports will host its annual half marathon benefiting the nonprofit Make-A-Wish foundation, which creates life-changing experiences for children with critical illnesses. They will also host a paddling event to raise money for the families of recently fallen Navy SEALs.

The Right Amount, LLC, doing business as TRA Construction - Baltimore, Maryland

Since 2019, TRA Construction has worked to make affordable homeownership a reality for Baltimore residents in neighborhoods that span the full spectrum of socioeconomic status. Seven months after its initial launch, TRA Construction faced product unavailability and inflated prices, putting projects over budget and behind schedule. Yet, the business continued to grow through careful management. The company hires most of its entry-level employees through YouthBuild, a subsidiary of the Civic Works’ Center for Sustainable Careers. This training program serves young adults who left formal education before graduating high school.

White Knight Labs - Guys Mills, Pennsylvania

White Knight Labs (WKL) is a boutique cybersecurity consultancy specializing in red teaming, web application/cloud penetration testing, and evaluating the security of embedded medical devices. Founded in 2016, the owners of this small start-up admit “staying liquid enough to pay our employees has been an issue,” and they dipped into their personal bank accounts to keep the doors open. WKL is passionate about teaching the next generation of cyber operators and participates in local cybersecurity conferences.

Your Personal Gardener & Arborist - East Troy, Wisconsin

What started as a part-time gig to fill the void between deployments has grown into a full-service landscaping and snow removal company for the owners of Your Personal Gardener & Arborist. In its 13 years of business, the company has overcome many obstacles, including finding qualified employees, rising operation costs, and lengthy wait times for materials during the global pandemic. The company gives back to its community through its "Tree Day of Service," where Your Personal Gardener provides a free full day of tree care for one deserving veteran. They also mow lawns and remove snow for military families during deployments.

The Best of the Best

The Honorable Patrick Murphy, who served as the 32nd Under Secretary of the U.S. Army and is currently a Hiring Our Heroes Ambassador and Wharton Business School faculty member, served on the award selection committee. During Wednesday’s virtual event, Murphy acknowledged the challenges today’s veterans face when opening a small business.

“Less than 15% of post-9/11 veterans start a small business, and we know 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open,” Murphy said. “Picking the top five winners was not easy. You were the best of the best, and you are all destined for success.”

In conclusion, Smith congratulated the grant recipients on their early success. “I wish you every success in business and hope you have a lot of fun doing it,” Smith said.

Visit FedExCares.com for feature stories about the 2024 Hiring Our Heroes Small Business Grant Program winners in the coming weeks.