BOOTS-TO-BOOTSTRAPPING™ - SBA microloan fund targeting 10,000 post 9-11 veterans seeking achieve self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship.

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  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States


  • Man

Where are you making a difference?

Greater Washington DC Metropolitan Area Opportunity Zones Washington DC Anacostia 20020 Maryland- Prince Georges County 20745 Northern Va- Alexandria 22306 Will scale Boots-to-Bootstrapping to all states and territories where the Boots To Business and Reboot curriculum's are being delivered.

Focus Areas (required)

  • Business & Social Enterprise
  • Development & Prosperity

Date Started


Organization Type

  • hybrid

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)


  • $250k - $500k

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)


Twitter URL

LinkedIn URL

1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.

My "Aha" moment came early in my banking career whilst working as a management trainee in the local bank branch located on the military installation at Fort Bragg NC. That direct exposure experience was the most impressionable in my career because I got to see firsthand the hardships that disabled service members and their families faced on a daily basis in their sacrifice for serving our country. I saw young families impacted by home instability as a result of multiple deployments, bad credit, spouse unemployment and predatory lending at its worse. The flames of my inspiration were stoked over 30 years ago and my passion for change in creating socioeconomic impact for service disabled veterans fuels the mission of BOOTS TO BOOTSTRAPPING™

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Lack of access to responsible capital for military veteran entrepreneurs seeking to start businesses. This is a significant problem because of the impact it has on driving the all-time low rate of veteran entrepreneurship participation, which has fallen to 5.6% from 12.3% in 1996. The continued decline of veteran-owned businesses will continue to impact on our economy in terms of declining job creation and declining household wealth.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Data Driven Financial and Social Capital Solution Approach: Leveraging open-data from Federal Government agencies as a strategic asset to increase access to responsible capital for post 911 service disabled veteran entrepreneurs. Our solution to the access to responsible capital problem is to deploy an open-data strategy to leverage and fully integrate our Boots to Bootstrapping microloan product into the Small Business Administration’s Boots to Business Entrepreneurship and Training curriculum. Currently, the Boots to Business curriculum presents the access to capital module in a general overview format, as opposed to a customized product that is uniquely designed specifically for the disabled veteran population as with our Boots to Bootstrapping Microloan Program. Our theory of change suggest that by deploying a customized financial and social capital integration product directly into a targeted curriculum training presentation and simulation, then we can increase the access to capital rates for veteran entrepreneurs and thus mitigating the decline in veteran business ownership

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

Problem: Sharon Johnson President and CEO of Tech-II-360, LLC started the cyber security company in 2014 after serving 6 years of active military duty as a cyber security technician. Prior to her transition out of military service, Johnson began to seriously think about her next steps as a business owner. However as a minority, woman and service disabled veteran she soon began to encounter access to capital barriers. Solution: Before starting her company, Johnson had no formal business training and limited capital resources. Upon entering the SBA’s Boots to Business training program, she “learned” about how to create a business plan and financing options. And thus finding the appropriate capital was missing in action. In 2016, after being referred to Mr. Pickett for capital advisory services, she secured a $50,000 microloan to expand her revenues beyond $500,000 and hire 3 FTE's.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

In the Greater Washington DC area, we reach our primary targeted population of underserved African-American women who are post 911 service disabled veteran entrepreneurs by partnering with the local network of SBA resource partners, including Small Business Development Centers, Women's & Veterans Business Centers, EBV and Bunker Labs and SEED SPOT. Our white-label international fintech platform partner SOU SOU will allow for national and global scale

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • ability
  • geography
  • work status
  • race/ethnicity
  • gender
  • socio-economic class

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The Difference? Integrated Capital Partnerships Other microloan providers exist in the marketplace including online predatory lenders, who begin targeting military personnel for toxic lending products as soon as they leave the base. Predatory military lending is problematic enough that Military Lending Act was passed in 2016. Boots to Bootstrapping differs from the competition in that the program would be directly integrated in the Boots To Business entrepreneur training and development curriculum. This approach places financial literacy and capability at the forefront of veteran engagement

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Joan Smith, President and CEO of ABC LLC is an award-winning, SBA 8(a) program participant, Service Disabled Veteran and Economic Small Disadvantaged Business that provides operations support, information technology services, facilities management functions, and a range of enterprise-wide solutions for federal agencies, state and local governments, and commercial buyers. Ms. Smith also believes in providing veterans opportunities and access to educational resources to stimulate growth and propel their careers. Since the founding of ABC in 2014, the company has grown rapidly, achieving a Compound Annual Revenue Growth Rate of 199% each year from 2014-2017 and has hired 25 veterans. ABC has won accolades that include the Washington Technology’s Fast 50.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

Winning the Unlocking Change Challenge will support our infrastructure build out and scaling strategy: Moving forward 2019-2021 we will seek to increase our lending capacity $3-$5 million and deploy up to $1 million dollars per year. We will align and integrate the Boots to Bootstrapping Program with the Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans-Disabilities offered by Syracuse University’s consortium of universities and the Bunker Labs growth strategies respectively. Our Sou Sou cloudbanking partnership will allow us to digitally deliver our flexible capital products impact nationally & globally

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Organizational Growth
  • Large Scale Partnerships
  • Organizing Conferences
  • Trainings, Consultation
  • Federations, Associations
  • Open Sourcing
  • Lobbying, Policy Change
  • Industry Standards (labels, certification, awards, etc.)

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Our 3 yr financial sustainability plan is an ongoing process, developed by our advisory team that identifies objectives, strategies, and action plans. A critical risk component of our plan is creating diversified revenue streams beyond net interest income and fee income on microloans. We will leverage experienced management and networks to originate, sell and source larger loans through the SBA Community Advantage and SBA 7(a) Loan Programs. CRA banking partnership investments, grants and loans

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

Gregory Pickett-Founder- 30 yrs Commercial Relationship Mgr, Underwriting & CRA banking expert; Advisory Board representing targeted population- Veterans, Disabled, Minority, Women; Raffa Social Capital Advisors- provides coaching, impact capital formation and ecosystem building; Raffa PC Regional CPA Firm- provides operational, accounting and technology support. City First Bank- CDFI anchor banking partner; Sou Sou Int. FinTech- White-label Circular Capital Platform Partner

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • Communities of color
  • Disability community
  • Low-income community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • BNY Mellon page or contact
  • Ashoka page or contact
  • Other

If you replied "Other" in the question above, please specify. (optional)

+Acumen Community

Organization name

WICPIC LLC, a social enterprise development and social finance company providing responsible financial services for socially disadvantaged businesses

Program Design Clarity

Main Activities: Business Technical Assistance Coaching- In Person/ SCORE/ Virtually Mentoring in Person/ Virtually Small Business Development Centers Training /Online/ SCORE/ Ongoing monthl Women Business Centers Veterans Business Outreach Centers Bunker Labs Syracuse U EBV – The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities MCCC National Center for Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP) SEED SPOT Booz Allen 2 Day Launch Camps Eastern Foundry workplace and accelerator for government contractors SBA Access to Capital Platform/ Seminars / Online / Monthly/

Approach to financial wellbeing: does your project focus on creating financial wellbeing through innovating on any of the following?

  • credit
  • education / literacy
  • entrepreneurship
  • loans
  • payment
  • saving

Innovation type: Please select which of the following types of innovation best characterize your work

  • Product innovation (Introduction of a good or service or improvements made to existing products)
  • Process innovation (execution of a new or considerably improved production or delivery method)
  • Institutional innovation (Creation or changes in organizational structures, the setting up of new types of financial intermediaries, or to changes in the legal and supervisory framework)

Partnerships in detail: tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.

We are seeking to secure the following partnerships to specifically increase our capacity to source and deploy capital in the most efficient and effective way achieve scale and impact. Community Banking Partners- CRA motivated banks that provide investments, grants, loans and volunteer services. Strategic Development Partners- Bunker Labs, EBV and BNY Mellon aligns with our scaling strategy for geography and dollar volume. SBA Partnerships for capital access programs and Changemaker Campuses

If you won the Unlocking ₵hange Challenge, how would you invest the prize money of $50,000?

Winning the Unlocking ₵hange Challenge would allow us to build out our white label loan digital platform with Sou Sou ($10,000), hire 1-2 part-time interns ($5,000) to support our content development and marketing strategy and leverage ($35,000) for increased lending capacity of microloan program.

Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions has the project received?

2018 FUSE Corps- Senior Executive Fellow Finalist 2018 National Minority Technology Council Senior Executive Fellow 2018 Community Foundation Discretionary Grant $10,000 for Vets Prog 2018 George Mason School of Business - BP Contest- Social Entrepreneurship Finalist 2016 Social Venture Network- Innovation Entrepreneur 2016 USASBE - WOMAN/MINORITY ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR 2016 Net Impact

Evaluation results

2 evaluations so far

1. Overall, would you champion this entry as a excellent example to move forward to the next phase of the challenge and become a semifinalist?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

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Maybe - 100%

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2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

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Yes/maybe - 50%

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No - 0%

3. Is this entry IMPACTFUL on financial wellbeing?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 50%

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4. Is this entry SUSTAINABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 50%

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Maybe/no - 50%

No - 0%

5. What are some of the HIGHLIGHTS of strengths of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 50%

Clarity of Model - 0%

Clarity of Writing - 0%

Idea Originality - 0%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 100%

Impact measurement - 0%

Impact Potential - 0%

Financial Sustainability - 0%

Team - 0%

Partnerships - 0%

Potential to scale - 50%

6. What are some of the areas for IMPROVEMENT of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 0%

Clarity of Model - 100%

Clarity of Writing - 100%

Idea Originality - 100%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 0%

Impact measurement - 100%

Impact Potential - 0%

Financial Sustainability - 100%

Team - 100%

Partnerships - 100%

Potential to scale - 100%


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