The Coolest Thing I Saw at SXSW – I Employ Veterans (Your Help Needed)

My partner Ryan and I just returned from SXSW.  We spent a lot of time meeting with entrepreneurs, spending time with some of our companies and catching some great music.  (In short if you don’t know who L.P., Punch Brothers and Ed Sheeran are, find out immediately – amazing music).

But the coolest idea that I ran across was part of my office hours at Startup America.  The entrepreneur is Eric Fitzsimons and his company is IEmployVeterans.  The concept is simple, create a line of food and clothing products (akin to the Newman’s Own brand) that provides great quality at similar prices to other brands, but where 100% of the profits go to supporting our military veterans in their civilian job lives.  Currently 30% of veterans looking for work are unable to find it and the number is expected to rise in the future.

Eric has entered his company into a contest sponsored by Walmart, called Get On The Shelf.  In short, Walmart is crowdsourcing what new product to put on their shelves.  If Eric were to get one of his products sold at Walmart, it could have a huge impact on his efforts.

Eric’s first product is bottled water.  In a 100% biodegradable form, it’s simple, it’s neat and it’s easy to buy rather than your current brand.  And the profits go to those who help us so much.  Eric needs votes.

You can vote once per day and here is the link

Want to “meet” Eric?  Here he is below.  Good luck Eric!

  • Great work Jason. My father has lots of friends from Vietnam that were qualified to lead troops into combat, but were not qualified to work for a company, he being one of them. ESGR (Employer Support Of The Guard and Reserve) is another great group to help out. They are a non-profit and he did consulting work for them when Iraq and Afghanistan wars started. Thank you

  • James A. French

    Yes, since I retired from the Army after serving 25 years,
    finding a job is very difficult. It is hard to maintain a positive attitude
    when your experience and education gets passed over for a much younger person
    with no education or experience. After serving your country honorably one would
    think that employers would show a little respect toward a veteran. I have
    worked in IT for years, and have set up networks all over the country after
    9/11 while in the Army. Now trying to land an interview for an IT position is
    like slim, and none. I don’t understand the resentment employers have toward
    veterans. I don’t require any training, or supervision to do the job. The good
    thing is I have a loving wife that has supported me for 25 years, and 2 beautiful
    daughters that make me smile. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what I’d do. Thanks for understanding!

    • fitzeric

      Hi James,

      This contest is just the beginning, if I don’t win (which very well might happen) I have several backup plans. This would be a home run, a dream come true, however, if I have to start at some small grocery store chains and build a business slowly so be it. Please send me your email and I’ll keep you apprised of my progress and if this goes well, a job opening. 

      Thank you for your service,

      Eric

  • Seems to be a bit of a disconnect here.  Do veterans make the bottled water?  I would be less enthused buying a product whos profits flow to some mirky “we help veterans” fund, then I would buying a product that was made my veterans.

    • fitzeric

      Hi Jess,

       

      There are a number of jobs that
      will be created from this project, but first a little history on this
      company and why it was created. Hopefully, this will give you a better
      understanding of our mission and clarrify what you describe
      as “murky” waters.

       

       The project originated from the idea
      that there is plentiful amounts of money out there to employ our country’s
      veterans, we’re just looking in the wrong place.  If you look at it from
      an industry that’s stable and will continue to grow, the food,
      beverage and clothing industry, the issue can be solved on a national level.
       Absent significant incentives, the private sector can only hire so many veterans and
      without some very large, heretofore untapped,  source of revenue, no
      one person or company can create tens of thousands of jobs.  We can,
      however, create a company where the revenue from a number of products is evenly
      distributed to all its employees instead of a select few. 
      It’s like running a food co-op with a mission of employment as the
      goal, created by the profit from all their goods.  So how does one
      create so many jobs and what will those jobs be?

       

      To start with, as you mentioned, you can have
      veteran manufactured/processed products such as bottled water, poultry, milk
      etc.  This is a good starting point, however, you are very limited
      to geographic locations and for the sake of profit, at the mercy of
      automation.  Our bottled water manufacturer has six bottling
      plants in the U.S. so if you don’t live near them, you’re out of luck.

       

      Secondly, and that about which I’m most
      excited, is the profit generated from the sale of that item.  Let’s
      say you manufacture 10 million cases of water (Wal-Mart sells about 333 million) you might create 25 jobs in
      the bottling plant (which in this economy is great but not good enough). 
      If your profit was .50 cents per case, you gross profit would be 5 million and
      your net for the sake of easy math would be 3 million dollars.  Every
      employee will earn a livalbe wage (calculated by geographic area in which they
      reside)  regardless of position so we could create 46 to
      65 full time positions.  The bottled water industry is over 10
      billion dollars a year, with the beef, poultry and pork industry each being 6
      to 7 times that much.  If you look at it from a multi-model view and
      use multiple staple items most people buy when they go to the grocery
      store, that’s where you will see the largest number of jobs created and I
      already have an agreement in place with a major meat processor as well
      as all the other items I mentioned.   So if a certain manufacturer
      would hire a given amount of veterans AND the profits from specific sales would
      also benefit veterans, then we can do a whole lot of good!

       

      The question always comes up, if all the proceeds go to veterans why are
      you doing this and where do you make money? 
      I’m doing this for a number of reasons. 
      The first is when a veteran takes their own life because of unemployment,
      this makes me sick.  Not all problems can
      be solved by employment, however, it does make some things easier.  The second is my grandfather was a POW and he
      was treated very poorly back at home and had a very tough time getting a job.
      To say the least, he went through a terrible ordeal and came home to an
      unloving country.  He couldn’t even get a
      menial job. The third is at the end of the day, if I can change the way people
      buy food and put in motion what I think can employ thousands of very worthy
      people, I can sleep well at night. As far as the profit, I  will not now or ever make any money off the
      sale of these items.  I can make a living
      off advertising or what I currently do now, medical device sales. Our company
      will be transparent in everything we do from salaries to expenses.  When I was trying to get the VA to support
      me, I asked for someone in their office to do an audit every quarter, I have
      nothing to hide. 

       

      Thanks again for your comments. 

       

      Eric

      • Thanks for the clarification Eric, makes sense now.

  • Here’s a great accelerator for Vets: https://www.vetransfer.org/

  • The good thing is I have a loving wife that has supported me for 25 years, and 2 beautiful
    daughters that make me smile. http://www.ticketsinventory.com