Veterans-turned-entrepreneurs compete for business prize money

For aspiring entrepreneur Chris Holman, a little financial help and mentorship would go a long way. The married father of two is an Air Force veteran taking part in the Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge, which is said to be of the largest entrepreneurship competitions for vets in the nation.

"The name of my business is called SupplyIQ," Holman said. "Essentially, we help companies reduce their shipments and supply-chain activities."

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, veterans have a harder time getting access to capital for business startups. That's why the Center for Entrepreneurship at Hofstra University in Hempstead offers its services for members of the military. It's a space for students and startups looking to build skills.

"We've worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs, we've facilitated 1000 mentor sessions, we've managed over $1.6 million in grant-funded programs through prestigious sources," said Stacey Sikes, Hofstra's executive dean of entrepreneurship and business development.

The contest is open to veterans, their spouses and Gold Star families nationwide. Applications will be accepted until February. Twenty finalists will participate in a challenge to learn how to be better entrepreneurs and vie for prizes.

"No matter what anyone brought into the program will get a good education and mentoring and hopefully open up windows of opportunity regardless of whether they win or lose," said former CEO Kevin Hesselbirg, who is one of the funders of the challenge.

He said the prize money—$100,000 split three ways—will help create opportunities for veterans who have given so much to our country.

"This is an opportunity for us to help catch them up a bit and expand their networks so they have a chance at being successful," Hesselbirg said.

Holman shared a message to his fellow brothers and sisters who also have dreams: "Don't give up. There's support out there."