About the Ignition Challenge

Amidst the pandemic, the PenFed Foundation Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program (VEIP) realized the opportunity to prepare and strengthen veteran-owned small businesses to better serve the economy and create meaningful jobs. Military entrepreneurs are perfectly poised to act on this opportunity, as they have the resourcefulness, grit, and flexibility needed to succeed.

VEIP’s Ignition Challenge is a competition in which military entrepreneurs with a new business or an idea for a business can identify their business impact and goals, compete for votes, and winners will receive both funding and mentorship.


The military provides veterans with the exact skills – leadership, teamwork, discipline, and flexibility – needed to launch successful businesses. Approximately one-in-four veterans has expressed interest in starting a business. When veterans are successful in launching businesses, they tend to out earn non-veteran entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, veteran entrepreneurship has declined because of limited professional networks, as well as lack of access to capital: veterans are 30 percent more likely to be turned down for a request made for credit than non-veterans.

VEIP’s mission is to provide veteran-owned companies the resources and network to access capital to build and grow their businesses, and we will support military entrepreneurs in the Midwest through the Ignition Challenge.


  • All veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or military spouses;
  • Living in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, or North Dakota;
  • With a business idea or new company that is at least 50% military-owned and operated.

Elements of a strong application may include the following:

  • Business plan or executive summary
  • Dynamic and deeply engaged management team
  • High impact on challenges faced during these uncertain economic times
  • Well-researched product market or audience
  • Military community impact – either through business practice or product/service



May 4 – 19, 2021 – Applications Open

May 28, 2021 – Finalists Announced

June 7 – 18, 2021 - Public Voting

June 19, 2021 – Top 5 Companies Announced

July 1, 2021 – Ignition Challenge Pitch


First Place: Full-length promotional video
Top Five Finalists will each receive grants of $15,000


- Pitch Preparation
- Digital Marketing
- Media Support
- Promotion