I recently had the amazing opportunity to attend the Inc. 5000 conference in Palm Desert, CA for 3 days in October. If you're not aware of what the Inc. 5000 is, it is a 3 day event celebrating the successes of 5,000 of America's fastest growing companies. The caliber of people I met was unlike anything I've ever experienced. These people create companies, add value to the world and their communities, and they create a lot of jobs - over 600,000 jobs in the last three years.
In 2011, Inc. Magazine launched the Military Entrepreneurs Program to educate and mentor service members and their families about entrepreneurship. This generous program helps veterans, current service members and their spouses start, grow and run their own businesses through mentoring, education, networking, resources and information provided through special events and conferences. The program also hosts approximately 25 military entrepreneurs as Special Delegates to the Inc. 5000 Conference & GrowCo. The delegates are given full access to the conferences, educational sessions, keynote speakers, networking opportunities and all special events. We are also paired with a CEO of an Inc. 5000 company that volunteers their time for an afternoon of one on one mentoring.
To say I'm grateful to have had this opportunity is an understatement. I was blown away at the V.I.P. treatment we were given and how generous all of the CEO's and other Inc. 5000 attendees were, especially when they found out we were a part of the Military Entrepreneurs Program. So many wanted to learn how to volunteer next year as a mentor. The contacts we all made are invaluable and some will be instrumental in ways we may not even realize now.
Some of the speakers this year included a few product based companies, which I of course could relate to, so it was very inspiring to hear their stories. They included Sarah Kauss, founder & CEO of S'well; Michael Dubin, founder & CEO of Dollar Shave Club; and Brian Smith, the founder of Ugg. It was also great to meet the founders of R. Riveter, Lisa Bradley and Cameron Cruse. Two military spouses that have braved Shark Tank and got a deal with Mark Cuban, and they were #298 on this years Inc. 5000! Way to go ladies!
I want to thank the Inc. Magazine staff, Natalie Thomas of the McNeese Thomas Group who was the driving force behind the success of the program, my mentor, Gary Oborny of Occidental Management, and all of the wonderful CEO's and business leaders that gave their time and lessons learned. Last but definitely not least, thank you to my fellow veterans and the awesome military spouses that are continuing on to their next mission and making great things happen across the country! I can't wait to see what we all accomplish next!
Jessica Harris, Founder of K9 Salute
Myself & Brian Smith, the founder of Ugg at the Black Tie Gala