All-American: Sisters Turn Military Surplus Into Fashionable Small Business to Employ Veterans

Made in America is more than a company slogan for a couple of army brats who held onto an idea conceived in college to create a small business that recycles military trash into fashionable bags, jewelry and purses.

But, Emily Núñez Cavness and her sister, Betsy, do more than transform old military tents, parachutes and 50-caliber shell casings into civilian treasures. The company they founded and operate, Sword & Plough, employs military veterans throughout the manufacturing process — from design, to sewing, to management, sales and modeling

If that weren’t enough, along with donating dozens of the accessories to charities, Sword & Plough forwards 10 percent of the company’s profits to nonprofit veteran’s organizations across the United States. The Núñez sisters figure Sword & Plough has recycled more than 35,000 pounds of military surplus and supported more than 65 veteran jobs.

Each year, more than 200,000 U.S. military veterans like Núñez Cavness return to civilian life. And like the former Army captain who completed a tour in Afghanistan, 10 percent – a survey shows — would like to own a small business. And some — at least 25 million businesses in the United States are majority-owned by veterans – go on to fulfill those dreams. But, according to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, 75 percent of U.S. veterans struggle to find the capital they need to get going.

Any new venture, at some point, needs assistance. Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com and MWBEzone.com, said veterans determined to start their own business can identify funding opportunities on MWBEzone.com that are targeted specifically to men and women who served their country. MWBEzone, an ancillary service of GrantWatch, lists grants for small businesses, particularly those owned by women, minorities and veterans.

Emily Núñez Cavness encourages other veterans to check out grant competitions like she did as well as crowdsourcing to help get their businesses off the ground. She said her time in the military prepared her to lead a company. Those designs started at an early age, when she was influenced by her father, an Army quartermaster for 30 years who went onto teach political science at the U.S. Military Academy. Núñez Cavness followed in his footsteps and joined the ROTC program at the University of Vermont.

Motivation behind Sword & Plough was spawned after the cadet attended a social entrepreneurship symposium. Not long after, Núñez Cavness won a business plan competition followed by a mentorship and a grant to get Sword & Plough started. But more money was needed to fund the company’s first preorder. Before Núñez Cavness deployed, the Sword & Plough team turned to crowdfunding, which raised more than $310,000 from supporters across the globe.

Betsy Núñez and Emily Núñez Cavness have come a long way since. Although the unemployment rate for veterans is down slightly to 3.4 percent, the sisters hope to continue to grow the company brand and give back to the military community that, they say, has given them so much.

For-profit entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses, particularly minority-, veteran- and women-owned, frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at MWBEzone.com. By registering, subscribers gain access to both MWBEzone.com and GrantWatch.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com

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Small Business Programs Offer Grants, Pearls Of Wisdom to Maryland Oyster Farmers

When he started out on Hooper’s Island six years ago, Ted Cooney thought he could manage his oyster farm all by himself. Ted realized all too soon that he needed to hire watermen who were willing to rise early each morning and pull up oyster cages from the bottom of Chesapeake Bay.  He also learned the value of seeking financial help to keep his small business afloat.

Cooney, the founder of Madhouse Oysters, considers himself the “poster child” for accessing funds from state agencies to help make his small business work. The former boat builder who fished in Alaska before starting a healthcare financial services company with his father has been around the small business block. Cooney has taken advantage of state programs aimed at small businesses including the Maryland Industrial Partnership, which offers grants of up to $100,000 per year for existing companies and $90,000 a year for start-ups, and the Technology Development Corporation, which provides seed-funding for local entrepreneurs with fledging concepts.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said there are plenty of opportunities including grants to fund small businesses. The challenge for entrepreneurs is to identify which grants match their ideas. MWBEzone.com, an ancillary service of GrantWatch, posts grant opportunities for small businesses, particularly women and minority owned, through all stages of development.

Not too long ago, the future of oyster farming was as murky as the muddy waters of the Chesapeake Bay. But now, oyster farming is roaring back from the brink of extinction, thanks to state programs, such as www.grantwatch.com/grant/166801/grants-to-maryland-institutions-of-higher-education-and-research-institutions-for-innovative-marine-science-projects.html  which offers research grants that provide strategic support for coastal and marine science projects in the bay region.

Cooney might have thrown in the towel himself. The long hours were driving him out of his mind – thus, the name Madhouse Oysters. To his credit, he applied for the grant listed above, which provided him with technical advice about aquaculture, small business financing and public policy.

Today, Cooney, who has taken on two partners, and he no longer thinks about selling his oyster farm. He is pleased that the state is encouraging aquaculture, but more thrilled that oyster bars are popping up everywhere along coastal Maryland.

For-profit entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses, particularly minority and women-owned, frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at MWBEzone.com. By registering, subscribers gain access to both MWBEzone.com and GrantWatch.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com

Small Businesses Sign On to Facade Improvement Grants to Attract Customers

After paying for extensive renovations that amounted to a new roof, entrance and restrooms, Martin Whitfield still had fish to fry at his Indianapolis seafood restaurant. The owner of Sea Kings Seafood Kitchen had plans to install a new sign, add exterior lighting and seating and paint the building a bright blue and orange, but no longer had funds for these projects.

That was until the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a community development nonprofit, stepped up with a $15,000 grant that enabled Whitfield to tackle his to-do list and create an entirely new look for his small business. LISC, which operates nonprofit organizations in 30 urban and dozens of rural areas across the United States, has awarded more than $3.1 million throughout Marion County through the Small Business Façade Improvement program.

Eligible small businesses can qualify for LISC grants of up to $25,000 that can over as much as 50 percent of the cost of improvements to a building’s street-front exterior. LISC’s facade grant program uses a combination of public and private funds to help property owners pay for new signs, entryway improvements, exterior painting and new windows. What’s more, these grants have helped leverage more than $10.6 million in investment by property owners since 1994.

Façade grants do more than just provide nonprofits and small businesses with funds to make cosmetic improvements.

Grants to Provo, Utah Businesses and Building Owners to Enhance Downtown Buildings and Create Jobs

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said these projects help to increase sales and overall property values and encourage other small business owners in surrounding areas to make their own improvements, often resulting in a completely revitalized downtown area. Grant programs aimed at façade enhancements can be identified on MWBEZone.com and on GrantWatch.

Not all façade funds are designated for small business. Plenty of funding opportunities have prepared nonprofits as well to make enhancements to their facilities. The Charles R. Wood Theater is a nonprofit, which will apply a $39,158 grant from the Local Development Corporation in Glenn Falls, N.Y., to install a catwalk to improve safety and efficiency for lighting crews setting up for shows.

Historic preservation often drives façade improvement funding. That’s the case with Paradise Garden Foundation, which will take a $55,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to preserve a quirky wedding-cake looking structure in northwest Georgia called the World’s Folk Art Church.

The overriding theme of these incentive programs is to bring new life to physical landscapes that once had charm or put an entirely new spin on long-standing buildings that are struggling to attract visitors. Sometimes a sign is all that is needed.

Arin and Tony Lindauer put up a banner instead to save money after relocating and making significant renovations at the new site. But, it wasn’t until the owners received a $4,700 grant from LISC to pay for a sign, new windows and multi-color paint job that walk-in customers began noticing Transformation Fitness and Wellness on the corner of 25th and Delaware streets in Indianapolis. Now, the owners say they gain a customer or two each month who has driven by, noticed the sign, and stopped in.

For-profit entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses, particularly minority and women-owned, frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at MWBEzone.com. By registering, subscribers gain access to both MWBEzone.com and GrantWatch.

 

About the Author: Staff Writer at GrantWatch

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Free Financing – Small Business Grant Transforms Miami Mom-and-Pop Upholstery Shop

After close to four decades making old furniture look like new for communities in Miami-Dade County, the owner of Chair Care Upholstery in West Park, Fla., says business has never been better.

Aurora Ocasio credits an investment from the Mom and Pop Small Business Grant Program with transforming morale at Chair Care Upholstery, which, in turn, has played a significant role in improving customer relationships and productivity.

Since 1999, the Mom and Pop Small Business Grant Program has been providing financial and technical assistance to for-profits like Chair Care Upholstery in all 13 districts of Miami-Dade through the County Commissioner’s office. Small business that offer projects with a green or sustainability initiative receive an additional $1,000.

Beyond Florida and across the nation, policymakers are increasingly adopting plans that provide capital and technical assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs. But, Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said despite government investments in the local economies, far too many small businesses are missing out on these opportunities to benefit their operations.

At least 60 percent of small businesses have never applied for funds to support their initiatives, according to BMO Wealth Management, which surveyed more than 1,000 small businesses in the United States. More than a third of these small businesses choose not to seek funds for fear of taking on additional debt.

But, Hikind said, unlike loans, government grants are forms of free financing for small businesses. She said MWBEzone.com, an ancillary service of GrantWatch, lists government grants and contracts available to small businesses.  Women and minority-owned firms generally get added point when applying for government grants. MWBEzone access is part of the GrantWatch.com subscription.  Libby Hikind said, "We separated the grants available for small business and individuals to simplify the search – one subscription – get two websites."

Funding through the Miami-Dade Small Business Grant Program can be applied to purchase inventory and supplies, equipment, marketing and advertising, building and business insurance, minor renovations, security systems, work vehicles, and professional services.   

Another 44 percent of mall businesses, according to the survey, weren’t sure how to apply for a grant, and another third were unaware debt-free funds were available. MWBEzone makes the search for identifying federal and local financing simple. Grants are listed online by industry or by specific location. Each funding opportunity will offer a grant summary, amount of award, eligibility requirements, and open and closing dates.

Small business earnings have reached a 45-year high, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. Yet, some economists believe the new tax law and lower regulatory barriers will fuel even further optimism across small business sectors. Thanks, to a small business grant, Chair Care Upholstery is on board.

“We are really excited about the future of our business, said Ocasio, who applied his mom and pop small business grant toward the purchase of a commercial sewing machine to be used to re-upholster sofas and chairs and, as a result, saves his customers money. “The support of this great city gives us a real feeling of hope and resilience in this great community.”

For-profit entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses, particularly minority and women-owned, frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for business grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend by signing up to GrantWatch. One subscription provides access to both MWBEzone.com and GrantWatch.com.

 

 

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com

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City Grant for Small Businesses Has Cincinnati Pop-Up Shop Bursting at Seams

The newest business in Cincinnati is bursting at the seams, thanks to a grant from the city’s Department of Community and Economic Development which has enabled a woman entrepreneur to join the ranks of neighborhood pop-up shops.

Prior to her grand opening a couple of weeks ago, Corless Berry had operated her boutique, ChoZen 4 U, out of her home, where an inventory of unique, high-quality affordably priced apparel had begun to take over her living and dining rooms.

Berry said the grant, which offers up to $1,000 to small businesses to help with rent and non-structural needs, will give her the opportunity to pursue her passion and impact women and their style of dress in a much larger space.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com and MWBEzone.com, said  identifying funding other than loans can be a challenge for small business owners.  The SBA doesn’t give grants to start or expand most businesses. Through the SBA limited grants are available for exporting, as well as research and development.  

Small businesses, particularly, those that will aid the community, can find grants from federal, state and local agencies, as well as foundations and corporations on MWBEzone.com, powered by GrantWatch. 

Grants are available to for-profit organizations across the United States for agricultural or health-related research, creating educational opportunities in computer science for PreK-12 students, or for developing certificate and training programs in worker safety and health, among others. Local grants are generally less competitive and can be applied to a variety of initiatives including the purchase of new equipment, advertising and marketing, product launches, upgrading technology, hiring additional employees and expanding inventory.

Many city officials including leaders in Cincinnati believe that small businesses are still the engines for local growth and have incorporated creative new ways into their economic development strategies to promote more fledgling enterprises.

From Los Angeles to London, pop-up shops emerged on the small business landscape almost two decades ago to help ambitious online merchants thwart the spiraling costs of rent. Since then, entrepreneurs have taken advantage of closed urban storefronts to establish temporary sites to showcase products — often those from large and established brands – reach new customers and test a unique physical environment.

The Cincy Pop Shop program was established two years ago to connect entrepreneurs, artists and small businesses owners with local property owners to fill vacant spaces and activate neighborhoods across the city. The grants provide low-risk support for owners who have had trouble finding accessible, affordable and flexible space needed to create and expand their small businesses

Similar approaches have popped up elsewhere including Battle Creek, Mich., where the city’s Small Business Development Office has purchased seven shipping containers, each about 160 square feet, to be used as retail space. The BC Pop-Up Shops is a pilot program that hopes to give startup businesses a softer entry into the downtown market by reducing the cost to operate within the district. Each shop, which will be outfitted with electric heating and air conditioning and interior and exterior lighting, will lease for $1,645 for an entire seven-month period and include utilities and membership in the Battle Creek Area Chamber of Commerce. The goal is for participating shops to eventually transition to more permanent locations in Battle Creek.

For-profit entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses, particularly minority and women-owned, frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at MWBEzone.com. When you subscribe to either MWBEzone.com or GrantWatch.com, you are given access to both websites.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch

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Report:Millennial Entrepreneurs Starting More Businesses at Earlier Age than Baby Boomers

Millennial entrepreneurs are starting more businesses at an earlier age than their parents, and managing bigger staffs and targeting higher profits than their baby-boom predecessors, according to the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report.

“The trend we have noticed is that you can succeed earlier,” said Remi Frank, global head of a key client group at BNP. “Before, you needed to be 40 or 50. Then it was 30 to 40. Now it’s 20 to 30. This is a trend which is obvious everywhere. Of course, it’s linked to the new technologies, but it’s also a change in the world, which [now] accepts that you can be the CEO of a big company or own your own company at a young age.”

Arkansas Capital is encouraging the next generation of young entrepreneurs to follow millennials by creating a competition to develop their business of college-level forward thinkers. “The Governor’s Cup” challenges teams of undergraduate and graduate students to bring business ideas and talents to life. Cash prizes are awarded to first, second and third place winners in both the undergraduate and graduate tracks.

Millennial entrepreneurs, nonprofits, public and private foundations, and small businesses frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at MWBEzone.com

Sign-up here so you too can receive the GrantWatch weekly grants newsletter prepared specifically for your organization's location.

About the Author: A graduate of Suny Albany, Lianne Hikind is a staff writer for MWBEzone.com

Sources:

www.grantwatch.com/grant/176949/prizes-to-arkansas-postsecondary-students-for-participating-in-a-business-plan-competition.html

Minneapolis Cost Sharing Program Encourages Local Small Businesses to Go Green

When customers ask about the solvents he uses on their clothes, Tyler Avestini eagerly comes clean. The owner of Avestopolis Dry Cleaners says his cleansing agents not only leave clothes bright without shrinkage, but also protect the environment.

Three years ago, Avestini became the first recipient of a Minneapolis city grant that provided him with $20,000 to purchase technology that reduces the amount of pollutants emitted at his dry-cleaning business. That grant from Minneapolis’s Green Business Cost Sharing Program and a low-interest loan from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to finance the remaining $50,000 he needed to buy the new dry-cleaning equipment has helped Avestini eliminate 1,000 pounds of perchloroethylene each year. 

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said the Green Business Cost Sharing Program is also open to Minnesota auto repair shops to help them switch to cleaning and painting alternatives and repair processes that reduce hazardous waste, emissions, and energy usage. She said the grant application can be found at MWBEZone.com, a service of GrantWatch that lists business grants and government contracts, particularly for women and minorities.

In 2015, Ramin Hakimi, part-owner of Oscar Auto Body in Minneapolis, used the money from the Green Business Cost Sharing Program to install a paint booth that both improved the indoor environment and the quality of his work. He said he couldn’t believe the city offered him a grant to pay for roughly half the cost of the booth.

Since the green business matching grant program began a few years ago, more than a dozen businesses have participated. The city has offered dry-cleaning businesses up to $35,000 to purchase equipment that uses alternatives to perchloroethylene or "perc" – a commonly sued solvent and probable carcinogen.

New perc-eliminating machines typically run about $100,000, a cost that can be prohibitive for a small business, said Lisa Bender, Minneapolis City Council President. But the Minnesota incentive program offers grants in which the city pays for a third of the cleaner technology and the business chips in the other two-thirds.

Avestini said the program “has been a win-win for everybody” including his environmentally-conscious customers, who keep coming back, and Minneapolis, which became the first major city to eliminate the use of perc.

Dry-cleaning workers who routinely breathe excessive amounts of solvent vapor or spill perc on their skin are at risk of developing health problems, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Minneapolis city officials estimated that the grant program would reduce air pollution last year by nearly 120,000 pounds alone and carbon dioxide by another 16 million pounds.

MWBEzone, a service of GrantWatch.com, provides the most up-to-date list of for-profit contracts and grants for entrepreneurs and small businesses, especially minority- and women-owned enterprises. Sign-up here for a subscription to MWBEzone, which also provides access to thousands of unique and current funding opportunities on GrantWatch.com.

 

About the Author: Staff Writer at GrantWatch.com

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Women Entrepreneurs Lifting Female Innovation to New Heights

Innovation is on the rise, thanks to female entrepreneurs in the United States. More women are starting their own businesses at a rate double their male counterparts and taking on leadership roles in both small and large companies. Not only are these ladies armed with ideas, they also have the know-how and funding to realize their dreams. Some women apply for grants for women, or grants for small businesses, crowdfund, or just know 

InHerSight is a women-owned platform that allows females to anonymously rate past or present employers on issues that matter most to them. Founded by Ursala Mead of the investment advice website “The Motley Fool,” InHerSight allows women to rate companies on 14 factors, such as paid time off, family support, management opportunities and salary. The data provided helps match women to companies that have what they're looking for. Companies that use InHerSight can reach out and recruit top female talent and gain a better understanding of how their workplace is viewed.

An anonymous review system encourages companies to make the workplace female-friendly by offering childcare, paid family leave, and mentorship as employee incentives. 

Another female startup, Dia& o, closes the gap between fashion and plus-sized women. The subscription box service, created by Nadia Boujarwah, allows consumers to try on the clothes they select at home. Customers only pay for the clothes that they choose to keep.

Boujarwah said clothes can equal confidence and her business allows women just like her to embrace their individuality and “explore all the incredible things that style can really do.” Dia&Co provides an invaluable service to plus-size women who struggle to find stylish clothes at a reasonable price.

Women entrepreneurs, nonprofits, public and private foundations, and small businesses frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at MWBEzone.com. 

Sign-up here to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter, which lists geographic-specific funding opportunities.

About the Author: A graduate of Suny Albany, Lianne Hikind is a staff writer for GrantWatch.com.