Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge Crowns CathWear as First Place Winners!
CathWear, a medical equipment company, Explorer’s Guide Online, a digital maritime licensing service, and At Ease, a housing marketplace for government business travel, took the top honors in the first Hofstra University Veterans Venture Challenge entrepreneurship competition, with over $120,000 in seed capital and in-kind prizes.
The Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge is a partnership of the Center for Entrepreneurship, the Hesselbirg Family, and the United States Veterans Chamber of Commerce. It is one of the most ambitious entrepreneurship contests for retired service members in the nation. It is designed as both a pitch competition and a virtual business bootcamp that included sales, marketing and leadership mentoring for veteran entrepreneurs.
The entrepreneurs participated in mentoring sessions with business leaders and go-to-market development programs to strengthen their businesses and prepare for the pitch competition. Many companies booked their first sales, and launched digital marketing programs that, so far, have resulted in over 154,000 ad impressions and views.
“Supporting these veteran entrepreneurs and watching them grow and develop over the course of the program has been an honor and a privilege,” said Kevin Hesselbirg, an entrepreneur-
in-residence at the Center and a retired three-time CEO of growth-oriented businesses who helped sponsor the challenge.
“Veterans have a skill-set that makes them uniquely suited to entrepreneurial ventures, and these companies have proven that they have the initiative and drive to succeed in a challenging economy,” he said.
The judges included Harvey Brofman of the NY Angels; David Calone, CEO of Jove Equity Partners; Cheryl Casone, anchor of FBN:am on the Fox Business Network; Charles Ha from TA Associates; and Tim Yates, Board Member and Investor.
Said Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz: “You all are winners for getting to this point. All of you are now part of the Hofstra family and we hope to continue to support you and your ventures.”
Hesselbirg and Stacey Sikes, executive dean of entrepreneurship and business development at Hofstra, said the Center has begun working on plans to make the Challenge an annual contest. They are also continuing to work with the participants over the fall through student consulting and internships with Frank G. Zarb School of Business students. Companies are also continuing to engage in discussions with venture funds and angel investors.
“It was such a pleasure to work with all the gifted veteran entrepreneurs,” Sikes said, “and we look forward to continuing
to support their business growth, and to working with a new crop of veteran entrepreneurs next year.”
The 2020 Veterans Venture Challenge winners were:
· First place went to CathWear, a Lawrence, MA-based company that produces a patented, FDA-registered, all-in-one medical undergarment for catheter leg bag users.
· Second place was awarded to Explorers Guide Online, a digital maritime licensing service that meets all federal requirements and can be taken anytime, anywhere. The company is based in Milwaukee, WI.
· The third-place winner was Texas-based At Ease, a two-sided marketplace that connects hosts with homes that meet federal lodging criteria with federal and military travelers during business travel won second place.
“The Hofstra Veterans Challenge was an amazing experience for me – I was challenged in a way like never before,” said Brian O. Mohika, CEO and inventor of CathWear, a registered nurse who said the mentoring he received helped him develop his business skills.
“I grew as a business innovator and leader,” he said. “Winning will allow us to grow the pediatric version of CathWear …CathWear now has the additional resources …to seize our
share of the U.S. market and expand into the international community.”
Bobby Carsey, captain and founder of Explorer’s Guide, called the Venture Challenge “transformative for our business. The mentorship, learning sessions and networking with other veterans was invaluable.”
“Knowing that experienced business leaders and investors believe in Explorer’s Guide Online gives us the confidence to continue growing,” Carsey said.
The founder and CEO of At Ease Rentals, the third-place winner, also described the competition as an inflection point for his business.
“We were introduced to educational resources and mentors that have forever changed how we think about our business,” said Anthony Gantt. “More importantly, we have been fortunate to establish long-lasting relationships with those mentors.”