Semifinalists Announced in “Realizing Your Dream” Business Competition for Veteran Entrepreneurs

Semifinalists Announced in “Realizing Your Dream” Business Competition for Veteran Entrepreneurs

Citi and IVMF to Award $130,000 in Seed Funding to Veteran-Owned Small Businesses

Citi SalutesCiti and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) announced today the 20 semifinalists for the 2015 round of the Citi SalutesSM: Realizing Your Dream Business CompetitionThe semifinalists consist of both established and aspiring veteran entrepreneurs who submitted formal small business plans for the chance to receive a share of $130,000 in available seed funding.

Graduates of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Boots to Business and Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) training programs were invited to submit business plans to be judged by a panel of independent experts with deep track records in entrepreneurship. Twenty semifinalists, 10 from each program, have earned the right to move on and compete in a live finals competition, which will be held on May 30 in Washington, D.C. during the next regional V-WISE conference.

The first place winner will receive $25,000 in seed funding, with additional amounts awarded for second and third place, as well as awards for Best Social Venture, Most Innovative Venture, and Best Venture Impacting Veterans. The Accion U.S. Network, the nation’s largest nonprofit micro- and small business lender, serves as a strategic partner by offering the opportunity for veteran entrepreneurs who graduate from IVMF’s training programs to be considered for business capital access opportunities.

Last year’s Realizing Your Dream winner, Air Force veteran Kristina Guerrero of dog food company TurboPUP, built upon her victory with a January 2015 appearance on the hit ABC TV show “Shark Tank,” where she walked away with a $100,000 investment from investor Daymond John.

This year’s semifinalists are:

Boots to Business Graduates

  • Michael Barbera, Barbera Solutions, LLC
  • Matthew Brady, A Job Hunter’s Secret Weapon
  • Mike Branch, VOBUS Quick Lube
  • Dave Iwanicki, Back to Basics Brewing
  • Julia Jones, Anchor Roasting
  • Meegan Mackay, Artes pro Vita Academy-skills for L.I.F.E. ™
  • Abdiel Maldonado, Form Fit & Function Furniture
  • Timothy Page, Beltway Express AutoSpa
  • Andre Smith, Celestial Lighting Services
  • Robert Webb, BIODETECH L.L.C.

V-WISE Graduates

  • Kaylenne Brown, Sweat N Swag Fitness
  • Diana Dalakis, Greek Kitchen
  • Sonia (Deal) Shanklin, Diabetes Education Augmenting Lifestyles- Center and Clinic (DEAL-C2)
  • Michelle Fryc, Leadership, Learning and Excellence (L2E)
  • Beverly Grandison, Premier Health + Wellness Consulting, LLC
  • Dawn McDaniel, Bravo Delta Consulting
  • Michelle Moore, RXSHARE, INC.
  • Rosemary O’Brien, Pocket Parks Publishing
  • Leah Olszewski, FEMTAC
  • Angela Cody-Rouget, Major Mom

“Citi is committed to empowering transitioning servicemembers, veterans, and their families,” said Suni Harford, Citi’s Regional Head of Markets for North America. “The Realizing Your Dream competition is an opportunity to offer participants the support they need to become successful entrepreneurs.”

The Realizing Your Dream Business Competition is a part of Citi Salutes, a company-wide initiative to support veteran consumers and job-seekers. The effort helps connect veterans to Citi’s entire range of services geared to the veteran community, including career opportunities, partnerships with leading veteran service organizations and useful banking services.

“We are thrilled to partner with Citi for the second year of this competition. This competition first and foremost helps fund new veteran-owned businesses, but it also provides learning opportunities and creates valuable relationships for all of the participants,” said James Schmeling, IVMF Managing Director for Programming and Co-Founder.

Created as a partnership between the IVMF and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), V-WISE and Boots to Business are the nation’s leading entrepreneurship training programs for veterans, active duty service members and military family members, positioned to empower participants to launch and/or grow sustainable business ventures. V-WISE, which consists of a 15-day online course in addition to the three-day conference and ongoing post-program support, is open to all women veterans, active duty (including National Guard and Reserve) and women spouses/partners of active duty and veterans with a passion for entrepreneurship and the desire to start and grow their own business. Boots to Business is a three-phase training program that introduces and trains transitioning service members to business ownership. It is open to all transitioning military personnel and their spouses from all branches of service.

For Official Rules for the Realizing Your Dream Business Competition visit


The IVMF is the first interdisciplinary national institute in higher education focused on the social, economic, education and policy issues impacting veterans and their families post-service. Through our focus on veteran-facing programming, research and policy, employment and employer support, and community engagement, the institute provides in-depth analysis of the challenges facing the veteran community, captures best practices and serves as a forum to facilitate new partnerships and strong relationships between the individuals and organizations committed to making a difference for veterans and military families. Learn more about IVMF at



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