Cultivating the American Dream

Military Entrepreneur Challenge

The Military Entrepreneur Challenge is a nationwide grant program that gives veteran, military spouse, and Gold Star Family entrepreneurs the opportunity to network, learn, and compete for capital to grow their small business. 

Military Entrepreneur Challenge

About the Event

The Military Entrepreneur Challenge (MEC) is a three-part event led by the Second Service Foundation with support from our partners: the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Community Navigator Pilot Program, the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Holland & Knight LLP, and the Brewing the American Dream Program by Sam Adams.


The event includes a speed coaching session, private pitch session to a judging panel, and finally an opportunity to pitch business ideas to a live audience for a chance to win a small business grant.

“[The MEC] was awesome overall, everything from the different mil-adjacent and event-adjacent organizations that were there to lend their services and inform — that was really cool. The competition and everything was just top notch. It was really good, I really enjoyed it.”

Military Entrepreneur Challenge

Application Process

Step 1

Register for MEC Event

Register online for Speed Coaching at the Military Entrepreneur Challenge to reserve your spot. You must attend speed coaching to be eligible to pitch.

Step 2

Create Business

Check out the resources below to help you create your business one-pager. One-pagers are required to apply for our pitch competition.

Step 3

Apply For Pitch Competition

When your one-pager is complete, you are ready to submit your application to the Military Entrepreneur Pitch Competition. Find the application for your event below or on the event page.

Step 4

Prepare Your Pitch

Once accepted to the pitch competition, prepare for your pitch, so you can impress the judges and move to the challenge round.

Step 5

Military Entrepreneur Challenge

Time to pitch! Give us your very best 2 minute pitch about your business ideas.

Step 1

Register Online to Attend

The Military Entrepreneur Challenge is three-part event designed for military-affiliated entrepreneurs and small business owners.  


You must register and attend speed coaching to be eligible to participate in the pitch competition. Registration numbers are limited based on venue. 


Once you are registered for the event, continue the steps below to prepare to apply for the Military Entrepreneur Challenge pitch competition. 

Step 2

Create Business One Pager

As part of the pitch competition application, you will create and submit a business one pager, utilizing the Second Service Foundation’s business one-pager template.


Your business one pager will be utilized during the initial finalist selection by Second Service Foundation staff, and it will be provided to the judging panel during the Military Entrepreneur Challenge. 

For the National Military Entrepreneur Challenge, applicants will also complete a short video submission. The link to the video submission requirements will be sent after you complete the online application and submit your one pager.

Step 3

Apply for Pitch Competition

Find an event and apply for your chance to participate in our Military Entrepreneur Challenge (MEC) pitch competition. Applications open at least 30 days prior to each event. Please check our event page to find the event closest to you.


Your application and business one pager will be evaluated by a review panel. Once the panel makes their decisions, applicants will be informed if they were selected as a Semi-Finalist. 

Step 4

Prepare Your Pitch

Once you receive the email that you were selected as a Semi-Finalist in the pitch competition, prepare for your pitch so you can impress the judges during Round 1, and be selected to move to the challenge round.

What to Expect

  • Prepare a two-minute pitch about your business.
  • Judges will have one to three minutes for specific questions and comments after your pitch.
  • Please feel free to bring prototypes, products, or visuals to aid your pitch.
  • Judges will deliberate and select three Finalists for the final pitch competition.
  • Finalists will be announced immediately before the final pitch competition.

Successful Pitches include

  • Social impact on the military community
  • Personal story and business idea/potential
  • What customer need is being filled
  • Team and company history
  • How the entrepreneur plans to use the award and the potential impact on their business

Step 5

Military Entrepreneur Challenge

Our pitch competition has two rounds. The first round has our Semi-Finalists pitch privately to a panel of esteemed judges. Judges in the past have included the co-founder of R. Riveter, a partner of Holland and Knight LLP, and Director of Military Events for Recurrent.

Round 2: Pitch to Live Audience

All Semi-Finalists are presented to the audience and the top three Finalists are announced on stage. The Finalists will immediately pitch again to the live audience. The audience votes on their favorite, and our overall winner is announced!

Round 1: Pitch to judges panel

Semi-Finalists deliver their two-minute pitch to the judging panel in private. The judges will have three minutes for follow-up questions, and then they will deliberate based on the Second Service Foundation scoring guidelines to determine which Semi-Finalists will move forward to Round 2.

Upcoming Events

Military Entrepreneur Challenge

The Military Entrepreneur Challenge (MEC) is the Second Service Foundation’s coaching, networking, and pitch competition event for military-connected entrepreneurs. We have several regional MEC events across the country throughout the year, providing much-needed start-up capital and pro bono legal services for small businesses, as well as a national MEC event that culminates at the end of the year at the annual Military Influencer Conference.

Frequently Asked Questions

Military Entrepreneur Challenge

Complete the Military Entrepreneur Challenge Application. Subscribe to our newsletter to be notified when application will be open for the next pitch competition.

  • Applicants must be at least 21 years of age at the time of application.
  • Applicants must be a veteran, Reservist, National Guardsman, or transitioning active-duty Military Member of any of the United States Armed Forces, the spouse of a Military Member, or the surviving spouse or child of a Military Member who died on active duty (i.e., a “Gold Star” family member). 

  • Applicants must be low-income and otherwise lack the financial means to start, or grow, an early-stage business or nonprofit.
  • Applicants must own at least 51% of the business entity described in the application.
  • Business entities, as defined in these rules, include sole proprietorships, legally incorporated LLCs, S-Corps or C-Corps (or formal partnerships) created under the laws of any U.S. jurisdiction.
  • If the Applicant is applying in conjunction with a nonprofit organization, the Applicant must be the organization’s senior executive director or equivalent in order to be eligible for the grant.
  • The nonprofit or business entity will also be evaluated on its positive social, community, educational, military-transition, veterans’ employment, health and wellness, or veterans’ mental health/spiritual impact on the American military and veteran community in addition to or in conjunction with the business or nonprofit functions.
  • The application and grant award process will take place on the Second Service Foundation’s website. Applicants will complete their application and submit their business one pager.
  • Applications will be evaluated by the Second Service Foundation judges across a number of criteria. 
  • Applicants will be notified a minimum of one week prior to the event if they are selected to pitch at the pitch competition. Applicants that are selected to pitch are required to sign the provided “Intent to Compete.”
  • Applicants acknowledge they have been selected for one of limited Semi-Finalist positions and, in good faith, intend to compete in the competition. Failure to compete after certifying intent can lead to future disqualification from the Second Service Foundation events.

The following are the criteria we look for in deciding which entrepreneurs receive funding:


  • Social impact on the military community
  • Personal story and business idea/potential
  • What customer need is being filled (product/market fit)
  • Team and company history
  • How the entrepreneur plans to use the award and the potential impact on their business.
  • The Second Service Foundation delivers an annual report to program sponsors on program impact based on continuous measurement and tracking of key outcomes to be identified in joint consultation. These outcomes include: 
    • Revenue increase for small business program beneficiaries 
    • Jobs created by small business program beneficiaries 
    • Veterans and military spouses hired by small business program beneficiaries 
    • Social impact on the military community
  • Pitch Competition Participants will be evaluated based on: personal story and business idea/potential, potential impact/use of award funds, product-fit, team/history, and social impact of the business on the military and veteran community. 
  • Pitch Competition Participants will be reviewed by judges. Our judges are comprised of the Second Service Foundation staff, the Board of Directors, sponsors, and industry experts. The judges will determine the Semi-Finalists of the Military Entrepreneur Challenge grant. 
  • The recipients of the grant are chosen from the Semi-Finalists of each award period and are determined by public vote on the Second Service Foundation website or at an in-person pitch competition event.

Grants and other prizes vary based on event. Please see our event pages for specific grant amounts and other sponsor-donated services. 

Grant Winners must complete all compliance to claim award money within three (3) months of competition completion, otherwise the grant will be forfeit.