Veterans Shark Tank Winners!
November 20, 2014
Here at The Hub, we love to help veterans fulfill their business aspirations. (Co-founder John New served in the Army.) We’re able to do more with the help of amazing groups like the Greater Philadelphia Veterans Network, which was founded by Navy veteran Alex Archawski. A couple years ago, Alex and GPVN created the first-ever Veterans Shark Tank, a competition that allows veterans to pitch their business for prizes that will help them to forward their businesses, in line with GPVN’s commitment to help veterans transition into civilian working life.
The competition is tough, and the judges are demanding, but these are veterans. If anything, they know how to stick it out. This year’s competition yielded two winners: Osiris Biomedical and Warrior Custom Concrete. Over the next two posts, we’ll have interviews with both winners. Let’s kick things off with Nick Degiglio, founder and CEO of Warrior Concrete, and winner of $10,000 worth of business services.
The Hub: Tell us about your career in the US Military.
Nick Degiglio: I joined the Army in 1998 and went to Ft. Jackson, SC for basic training and advanced individual training. After that I was stationed at Ft. Campbell, KY for the duration of my active duty career (until 2001). I always missed the military, so in 2006 I joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. I was deployed to Iraq in 2007-2008 where I did Detainee and Security Operations. Then I was deployed again from 2011-2012 to Afghanistan as a recovery specialist with the 131st Transportation Company where I did Convoy and Recovery Operations. I am still serving in the National Guard with the 728th CSSB, PA in Spring City and work for the National Guard full time as a diesel mechanic. I am a Sergeant.
TH: Tell us the story of Warrior Custom Concrete.
ND: Some guys from work and I were talking about what we were going to do when we leave the military. Well I decided to be proactive: I looked into businesses and work I would be interested in doing once my military career was over, and I found a company called StoneMakers that offers great business opportunities for veterans like myself in the decorative concrete and hardscape field. StoneMakers flew me up to their facility in New Hampshire and trained me to be licensed dealer and installer. When I completed my training, Warrior Custom Concrete was born.
TH: What’s behind the name?
ND: The name Warrior Custom Concrete came about because all of the employees, including myself, are combat veterans. We adopted the name Warrior because we take pride in our service to this country and the communities we serve in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We’re “Custom Concrete” because of the artistic design and unique applications we can provide for home owners and business.
TH: So far, what’s been the biggest challenge to you as a small business?
ND: The biggest challenge has been just getting started. This is my first business, and the countless hours I have spent researching competition, marketing, promoting the business on social media, setting up a website, filing forms with the state and federal government, and getting ready for the Shark Tank…it has been really stressful.
TH: Have you stayed in touch with other veterans in Philadelphia? Do you find it challenging to do so? If so, what do you think would help? If not, what has helped?
ND: I stay in touch with most of the veterans I served with that live in the area. Now with social media and the Internet, it is really easy to keep in touch and even make new contacts. I sit on the board of trustees for a veteran organization called VETS for VETS. I am the Senior and Disabled Veteran Outreach Coordinator. I have met a lot of veterans and business owners during events I attend or projects I am working on in the community, and I can reach out to them for guidance or assistance via social media and email.
TH: Tell us a bit about your view on veterans in business. We’ve noticed an uptick of groups that help veterans in business, but we’re curious to hear from you about any specific challenges veterans might face in the entrepreneur’s world.
ND: Veterans are trained to be leaders. Many of the characteristics of soldiers are the same as successful entrepreneurs. We have drive, ambition, and valuable skillsets that enable us to do well and succeed in today’s business environment. One of the challenges that veterans face is gaining access to capital. There should be government grants, funding programs, or tax breaks available to veteran entrepreneurs to start or grow their business. I found some grants available for minority, disadvantaged, service-disabled, or women owned businesses. I am glad there are programs that helped me thus far in getting started by offering free advice and resource,s such as the Small Business Administration, SCORE, GPVN, and contacts I made at networking events.
TH: You won $10,000 worth of business consulting services from GPVN and Veteran Shark Tank. Do you have plans already for the services?
ND: The business services can include legal advice, sales, marketing, accounting, and business coaching donated to GPVN by their supporters. As much as I could have really used a cash prize in the short term to get off the ground, purchase marketing material, and buy tools and equipment, I feel the business services will be more beneficial in the long run. I need to build a strong foundation for my business and to be able to sustain over the winter months when the concrete business is slow.