May 22, 2019

Jackson Drysdale Veterans Center Update: Bringing Success and Lasting Change for both Veteran Entrepreneurs and Job Seekers

GI Go Fund’s Groundbreaking Space Has Helped Veteran Entrepreneurs Go from Start-Up Status to Nationally Recognized Businesses, As Well As Trained Dozens of Veterans in Various Skills, In Just the Few Short Months Since Its Opening In December 2018

Ironbound BOXING CEO Mike Steadman, one of Jackson Drysdale Veterans Center's veteran entrepreneurs, pictured with GI Go Fund CFO Alex Manis and COO James Fanous

(Newark, NJ)—The Jackson Drysdale Veterans Center may have only opened up its doors officially six months ago in December 2018, but the space has had an incredible impact on the lives of so many veterans seeking to grow their start-up businesses or enhance career skills.

The Center is the first and only space in the state of New Jersey dedicated to helping veterans with employment and entrepreneurship. Thanks to terrific partners at Prudential, Panasonic, and the Kessler Foundation, this groundbreaking new space includes a veteran incubator that works with veterans with small businesses and brings them into our customized space designed to give them the resources they need, including support with marketing, accounting, and compliance related issues.

To date, the Center has welcomed several veteran-owned small businesses into its incubator, including a video production company, technology consulting firm, a nonprofit for military veterans, and a health and wellness studio.

The health and wellness company is IRONBOUND Boxing. The company is a terrific veteran-owned business located in Newark, NJ that offers on-site boxing classes to corporations of all sizes in order to improve the participants' self-confidence, morale, and health.

The company was founded by CEO Mike Steadman, who is also a three-time National Collegiate Boxing Champion from the U.S. Naval Academy and Afghanistan veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Steadman knew he had a great idea, but he quickly learned that turning a solid concept into a successful business can be challenging.

“With IRONBOUND Boxing, I knew I had a great concept combined with the personal passion to make it successful, but the process of launching the business hasn’t been without hurdles,” said Steadman. “When starting a business, you can find yourself having to meet all sorts of obligations. From converting an abandoned city stadium into a boxing gym and mopping floors at night, to marketing and managing the books, I had to do it all to get things off the ground.”

Once in the incubator, GI Go Fund was able to work with Steadman to help him create his business plan, develop marketing content to help promote his gym to local companies, and even assist him in managing annual filings and reporting requirements that so often plagues start-up businesses.

“With GI Go, I felt like I didn’t always have to go it alone,” said Steadman. “They were able to offer help with all the nuts and bolts to starting a business. This included assisting me in business filings; providing marketing materials and templates for me to use; helping with business planning, advice on target audiences and best practices; and much more. Their team is also very knowledgeable about entrepreneurship, as the organization itself was started by young entrepreneurs like myself. [GI Go Fund Co-Founders] Jack Fanous, Alex Manis, and James Fanous know what it’s like to build a company from the ground up, and have been so helpful in lifting me up on days when I did not have confidence that my company would succeed.”

Mike Steadman (2nd from right) of IRONBOUND Boxing wins $25,000 award from StreetShares Foundation Veteran Small Business Grant at Bourbiz MGM National Harbor Veteran/Milspouse Resource Event

After just a few short months since joining the incubator, IRONBOUND Boxing was awarded the Burt Williams Veteran Small Business Grant grand prize of $25,000 , administered by StreetShares and funded by Black Rifle Company and Victor 12, at the Bourbiz MGM National Harbor Veteran/Milspouse Resource Event. For Steadman, much of the credit goes to the Center and the unique services it offers.

“There is nothing quite like this Center,” said Steadman. “For one, it’s been helpful having resources local to my business here in Newark, NJ. The team is right next-door and they’ve been so easy to work with throughout this whole process. By offering a combination of services from office space and corporate materials to mentorship and legal compliance services, they understand all the nuanced needs that go into starting a new, veteran-owned business.”

Despite the incredible success of the incubator, GI Go Fund’s Center is more than just a great launching pad for veteran entrepreneurs. The space provides veterans with job training to help improve their corporate skills through state-of-the-art technology provided by Panasonic, as well as mentorship from successful corporate leaders and fellow veterans.

Since the launch of the Center, the organization has taught several courses for military veterans, including two week-long training sessions for dozens of veterans. One of these week-long courses was hosted in partnership with JobPath, a leading technology software company for veteran training and employment, and Frank Recruitment Group (FRG) to educate over a dozen veterans in both soft and hard skills as part of their six-week ServiceNow training course.

In addition, the space has hosted several e-learning courses designed for companies to learn more about military hiring and best practices in recruiting, onboarding, and retaining veteran candidates. The courses have been led by Lieutenant Colonel Justin Constantine, USMC (Ret), CBDO of JobPath and authorized Recertification provider for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). An accomplished author for veteran hiring and a leading voice in the veteran community, Justin has utilized the space to teach courses such as “The Business Case for Hiring Veterans” and “Recruiting Military Spouses”. Each of these courses is aimed at highlighting to HR professionals the benefits of hiring veterans and their loved ones.

Justin Constantine filming e-learning content about the Business Case for Hiring Veterans at the GI Go Fund's Jackson Drysdale Veterans Center

“So many HR professionals want to learn more about hiring veterans and military spouses, but unfortunately the learning curve in this area can be quite steep. Now, not only will they earn continuing HR credits for watching these videos, but they will learn so much about hiring, onboarding and retaining veterans and military spouses. No other platform like this exists today, and the GI Go Fund was a critical part of that.”

Thanks to the hard work of so many people, including our sponsors at Prudential, Panasonic, PSEG, and Kessler, as well as the veterans who are benefitting from our space, the first six months of the Jackson Drysdale Veterans Center have been an enormous success. We look forward to continuing the good work that this space is designed for - helping veterans in the Newark, NJ area and beyond become powerful business leaders.