Eleven veteran and veteran spouse entrepreneurs were honored on August 27, 2014 at the White House as “Champions of Change.”

The group was honored for what SBA.gov described as “extraordinary” achievements made by men and women considered to be champions. These individuals are community leaders and individuals who help inspire veterans and who also return back to the veteran community. The theme of Champions of Change focused on the ways in which veterans are natural leaders.

For example, SBA.gov noted that military training provides a skill-set that is conducive to entrepreneurship. “People might learn leadership in various ways, but there’s no place like the military,” said Champion Louisa Long Jaffe. Jaffe explained that problem-solving skills are taught in the military, which accounts for one of the many reasons why veterans make for both very successful entrepreneurs and great employees.

The Champions discussed their mutual passion to serve, which they say arises from their all having served their country in uniform and translates, today, into serving their communities. This service, they say, is seen in the way in which they create jobs, provide answers, and add to the economic growth in the communities in which they live.

In the audience of Champions of Change were Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, and Robert Herjavec, sharks from ABC’s critically acclaimed series, “Shark Tank.” The panel was moderated by West Point graduate and the winner of season two of the “The Apprentice,” which is aired on NBC, Kelly Perdew. The other moderators included the Sharks; a number of self-made, multi-millionaire and -billionaire tycoons; and several business owners funded by the Sharks, who all expressed gratitude to these extraordinary men and women who continue to serve their country by contributing to economic growth. The moderators spoke to the Champions about the struggles and rewards of business ownership and ways in which to find success on this path, wrote SBA.gov.

Rhett Jeppson, Associate Administrator of the SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development, was the event’s keynote speaker. Jeppson focused on the importance of veteran entrepreneurs in the United States. He also encouraged the Champions to serve as leaders in their communities.

“The most important role this group provides,” Jeppson said, “is that of a role model.  As new veteran-owned small businesses start, their founders will look to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to be successful. It is the role of men and women like the ones standing with me here today to truly be champions for the veteran entrepreneur community and lead by example.”

This year’s Champions follow. Their individual stories may be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/champions:

  • James Allen
  • Colin and Karen Archipley
  • Mitchelene BigMan
  • Adrianna Domingos-Lupher
  • Frantz Fortune
  • Sandra P. Gonzales
  • Louisa Long Jaffe
  • Kevin N. Jennings
  • Dr. Stephanie Parson
  • Matt Victoriano
  • Jake Harttiman