The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) has been named as one of only eight Tier 1 grantees, selected as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s $100 million Community Navigator Pilot Program. As a Tier 1 partner, the IVMF has been awarded a $5 million grant to participate in this novel program.
The Community Navigator Pilot Program, an initiative of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, is designed to deploy trusted community partners within underserved communities across the U.S. to coordinate the economic recovery efforts of specific communities, including women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
The Community Navigator Pilot Program takes a “hub and spoke” approach, featuring a lead “hub” at the center of a network of “spoke” organizations that deploy trusted community advocates to support small businesses hit hard by the pandemic. Of the eight Community Navigator hubs funded, IVMF is the only hub responsible for coordinating community-based, economic recovery for veteran-owned small businesses. The other Tier 1 awardees include the National Urban League, U.S. Black Chambers Economic Development Corporation, Oweesta Corporation, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation, International Rescue Committee and Local Initiatives Support Corporation.
The $5 million grant over a two-year period will allow the IVMF to support veteran and military spouse businesses with entrepreneurship training, small business technical assistance, loan preparation, capital readiness, corporate and federal contracting, and networking.
“We are honored to continue our long-standing partnership with the SBA through this new program. This is truly exciting for IVMF, our partners and the thousands of veterans and military families we serve every year,” says Dr. J. Michael Haynie, vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation, and IVMF’s founder and executive director. “This grant recognizes the IVMF’s experience and success in veteran entrepreneurship training programs, and our national impact. Over the last decade we have developed a vast network of partners dedicated to meeting the unique needs of veterans and military-connected families both on our campus and across the country.” Haynie noted IVMF entrepreneurship programs, such as Boots to Business (B2B), Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) and the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV), among others, have impacted more than 75,000 participants and that in the last 10 years the institute has impacted over 160,000 in total.
During the pandemic, the IVMF also launched two new virtual entrepreneurship programs, EBV Spark and R.I.S.E. (Resilience, Innovate, Sustain, Evaluate), to help veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs adapt their businesses to the current operating environment.
In applying for the grant, the IVMF noted strong partnerships with businesses that can help veterans achieve success. In addition, the IVMF will be coordinating the work with key partners, including Texas A&M, Florida State University, St. Joseph’s University, Dog Tag Bakery and StreetShares, as well as others. Whether through direct technical support, training or networking, the entrepreneurs assisted by IVMF programs have demonstrated resilience and success; 92% are still operating their business today.
Haynie says IVMF research highlights how veterans face an array of barriers in attempting to launch businesses, including a fragmented ecosystem, capital readiness, difficulty navigating resources, certification process hurdles and lack of assistance from medical and disability service providers. He believes the new pilot program offers a unique solution that provides a navigation and support mechanism to strengthen the ecosystem, nurture entrepreneurial aspirations and sustain growth and success.
“The goal is for military-connected clients to receive efficient, timely and comprehensive access to the services and resources they need, where they are and when they need them in their entrepreneurial journey,” says Haynie.