André Smith, a Colorado resident and recent graduate of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Operation Boots to Business (B2B) program recently won $10,000 in a national Business Plan writing competition. This was part of the Realizing Your Dream Business Competition, a year-long opportunity for veterans who are established or aspiring entrepreneurs to submit formal small business plans in hopes of receiving a share of $130,000 in available seed funding. The Citi Foundation provided funding for the Realizing Your Dream Business Competition. The 17 semi-finalist contestants had to pitch their products and services as part of the final competition. André won $10,000 and third place in the national Business Plan competition. His plan won an additional $5,000 for being chosen as the Best Tech Venture.
André Smith is a recently discharged 26 year veteran of the US Navy. While going through the military honorable discharge process at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado, he was afforded the opportunity to go through the SBA’s two day Operation Boots to Business program. This was during the summer of 2013.
The Operation Boots to Business program uses a multi-phased approach to introduce transitioning service members to the fundamentals of small business ownership and to the SBA tools and resources available to them. Transitioning veterans are natural entrepreneurs, possessing the training, experience, and leadership skills to start businesses and create jobs. According to the most recent U.S. Census Data, veteran-owned firms represent 9 percent of all U.S. firms. André later enrolled in the more extensive online Operation Boots to Business program. In this program, the SBA teams up with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families and Syracuse University to deliver an intensive, 8-week online business planning curriculum to those service members who choose such training.
Along the way, André Smith was also mentored by Paul Gregory, the Co-Founder of the Veterans Incubator of Colorado (VIC). The Veterans Incubator is a non-profit organization focused on assisting Veterans getting started in business. Mr. Gregory is also a former counselor with the Colorado Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network, an SBA partner organization.
Over the last several months, André has started and is now operating his business, Celestial Lighting Services (CLS). CLS monitors, reports and repairs streetlights. Community members become their “eyes on the ground” to report inoperable lights by simply using their smartphones and mobile devices to scan CLS’ patented grid-tag markers on the light pole and send in a report. This technology saves technicians’ valuable time in locating these streetlights. This is the first of many possible applications using this technology.
André Smith says: “Let me first acknowledge that my company would not be where it is today if it weren't for the assistance and services of B2B, SBA, SBDC and VIC. All of these programs have equally poured time and resources into me to help this company become a success and I'm truly thankful for it.”
SBA’s Colorado District Office is grateful for André’s service to his country and extends heartfelt congratulations on his prize winning Business Plan and Best Tech Venture.