About Us

CONNECTING CORPORATE AMERICA & VETERAN-OWNED BUSINESSES

HERE IS WHAT WE DO


Our History

In 2001, Navy veterans Chris Hale, Rich McCormack and Scott Shaw founded a veteran-owned business named Victory Media. That same year, they launched G.I. Jobs®, a print and online magazine that assists veterans in finding civilian employment. For the past six years, G.I. Jobs has marketed veterans, as employees, to corporate America – to convince corporate America to “Hire Veteran.”

Corporate America is under no mandate to “Hire Veteran.” But G.I. Jobs has made them want to do so. In fact, the G.I. Jobs approach has had such a profound impact on corporate hiring policies that nearly all large companies now have a “Hire Veteran” program in place. And they compete vehemently for that veteran talent.

In 2004, they launched Veterans Business Journal (now Vetrepreneur®) magazine and started holding VOBE, the Veteran Owned Business Expo, events. They used that same “G.I. Jobs” template to market vetrepreneurs as suppliers to corporate America. Their work is paying off. Corporate America, which they’ve convinced to “Hire Veteran,” is now starting to also “Buy Veteran.”

In 2005, they attended the National Minority Supplier Development Council Annual Convention in Dallas. What they witnessed was an incredible display of minority business unity, power and opportunity. They couldn’t understand how veterans, who were such a close knit family while in the service, became so fragmented as business owners.

They left Dallas with an idea – an organization that would take the veteran business movement beyond the beltway, provide intellectual research leadership, assist community advocates in their work of lobbying the government and, perhaps most importantly, to convince corporate America to “Buy Veteran.” That profound desire became a reality with the creation of NaVOBA early in 2007.

And there could be no better vetrepreneur to deliver that unifying “Buy Veteran” message to the world than a man for whom the word hero seems mild. A man for whom description as an over-acheiver is a clear under-statement. And a man who bleeds red, white, blue…and black and gold. Mr. Rocky Bleier joined NaVOBA as its national spokesman in early 2007.

Our Mission

NaVOBA’s Mission is simple — to create opportunities for all of America’s veteran-owned businesses. More than 3 million men and women who have defended our nation’s freedoms by serving in America’s armed forces have made the choice to start their own small businesses after their military service. We call them vetrepreneurs.

Whether they are looking to start a pizza shop on Main Street, open a franchise, sell to large corporations, or contract with local, state or even federal government agencies, NaVOBA is here to help. Our advocates fight every day to ensure that America’s vetrepreneurs attain the opportunities they’ve earned.

Vetrepreneur magazine is the only national publication in the country dedicated exclusively to covering the veteran-owned business movement. As the watchdog of the government, advocate to corporate America and journal connecting the community of vetrepreneurs across the nation, NaVOBA and Vetrepreneur is the voice of the veteran business movement.

VETERAN-OWNED BUSINESSES

Caucasian
55%
AFRICAN AMERICAN
21%
Hispanic
14%
Asian & other Minorities
10%

Veteran-Owned Businesses

Corporate Members

Opportunities

Corporate Suppliers

ADVOCACY

HERE IS WHAT WE DO


Veteran Advocacy

NaVOBA works all angles to advocate for VOBs. Whether it’s in the board room of Corporate America or the floor of congress, the interest of veterans and their businesses is always the task at hand.

Local Government

NaVOBA and its Regional Advocates Board (RAB) works with local governments around the country to convince city, county and municipal governments to create special programs to buy from veteran-owned businesses.

Your Hometown

NaVOBA’s innovative Buy Veteran Campaign brings the success of the national veteran business movement to Main Street businesses in every city and small town in America.

Corporate America

NaVOBA works hard to convince major corporations to recognize the value of veteran-owned businesses, increasing the number of vetrepreneur-friendly by more than 50% over the last three years.

State Government

NaVOBA works hard and has been successful convincing state governments to pass legislation favorable to veteran-owned businesses.

Federal Government

NaVOBA takes federal agencies to task ensuring they issue the required contracts to America’s vetrepreneurs.

MEET OUR TEAM

GET TO KNOW YOUR ADVOCATES


Laxmi (Mimi) Lohm

VP of Development & Corporate Relations

As a minority female and a non-veteran, Mimi brings a valuable diverse perspective to the NaVOBA veteran business advocate team. A staunch patriot, Mimi breathes great passion into her work, advocating the value of using veteran-owned businesses as suppliers to corporate America. Her high degree of advocacy of veteran-owned businesses, coming from a non-veteran, accelerates the veteran business movement. This “third party” endorsement on the value of using vetrepreneur suppliers is powerful. Mimi brings over 10 years of sales and marketing experience in corporate sales, management and real estate. Prior to joining NaVOBA, she served as Director of Recruiting for RE/MAX Pittsburgh. She currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Washington / Greene County Board of Realtors in Pennsylvania. Mimi earned a BS in Social Work from California University of Pennsylvania. Her community service includes volunteering for Special Olympics, Girl Scouts Of America and the PA West Soccer Association.

Matthew Pavelek

Vice President of Membership

Matthew Pavelek serves as the Vice President of Membership for the National Veteran-Owned Business Association and also as executive editor for the association’s national publication, Vetrepreneur magazine. Pavelek has been quoted as an expert source in myriad media including, but not limited to: The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, The Asbury Park Press, and Crain’s Business. He’s also been a panelist in various national conferences including the national Veterans Small Business Conference and Expo and the Diversity Alliance for Science. Pavelek is a leading expert in matters concerning veterans and entrepreneurship. He’s written extensively about the federal government’s progress to achieve its goal of spending three percent of contract dollars with firms owned by service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses as outlined by Public Law 106-50. In addition, Pavelek has spearheaded NaVOBA’s State Tracker program that has assisted and covered the passage of vetrepreneur-friendly legislation in more than 27 states across the country as well as new programs at the local city and county government levels. Pavelek is currently completing a Ph. D. in communication in the College of Communication of Information at the University of Kentucky and a significant segment of his scholarly research focuses on mass media coverage of military veterans. Pavelek has also taught communication, journalism, and public speaking courses for the University of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University and Point Park University.

Chris Hale

NaVOBA President

Chris Hale is a nationally recognized thought leader, writer and speaker in matters relating to veteran employment, education, entrepreneurship and the military spouse community. The G.I. Jobs® Military Friendly® Employers (MFE) list he created in 2003 flourishes today as corporate America’s benchmark for military hiring practices. Since then, Chris has extended the Military Friendly® ratings program to benchmark schools and employers for military spouses, all serving as the gold standard in their spaces today. Chris is a pioneer in the veteran-owned business community. He created the Vetrepreneur of the Year® program in 2006, the National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA) in 2007 and a national “Buy Veteran” campaign in 2011. Building on the success of Vetrepreneur of the Year®, Chris created the Military Spouse of the Year® program in 2008, which provides a representative democracy for the nation’s 1.1 million military spouses. As Chairman and co-founder of Victory Media, Chris oversees the strategic direction of the company. Under his leadership, Victory Media has grown revenues 15x in the last eleven years and now employs over 50 people. Chris also serves as NaVOBA President, sits on the Military Affairs Council of Western Pennsylvania, and has taught entrepreneurship classes to veterans through Robert Morris University. He holds an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy.

Rocky Bleier

National Spokesman

As national spokesman for NaVOBA, Rocky Bleier advocates on behalf of the nation’s 3 million vetrepreneurs with the same optimism, passion and steadfast determination that were his trademarks as a four-time Super Bowl winning running back with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  In his role, Rocky writes and speaks to various constituencies of the value that vetrepreneurs bring.  He also heads most of NaVOBA’s grassroots membership drives. Rocky’s life story – a gripping tale of courage on both the football fields of America and the battlefields of Vietnam – has held audiences in rapt attention for years.  Rocky distinguished himself on the gridirons of the National Football League where he earned four Super Bowl championships with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The fact he was even on the “Super Steelers” teams of the 1970s is somewhat of a miracle. Drafted out of the University of Notre Dame in the 16th round in 1968, he was drafted again by the U.S Army late in his rookie season. After completing infantry training, Rocky was sent to Vietnam and was assigned to the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, stationed in Chu Lai. In August of that year, his platoon was ambushed while on patrol. Rocky received both rifle fire and grenade fragments in both legs. He was barely able to walk and prospects for a professional football career seemed a distant memory. For his service, he was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. With the determination and spirit that would become his trademark, Rocky rehabilitated himself back into playing condition over two years and eventually not only made the Steelers team, but worked his way into the starting lineup. In 1976, he and Franco Harris became only the second backfield in NFL history to record two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season. His personal story of triumph and perseverance was made into a television movie entitled “Fighting Back,” starring Robert Urich. Since retiring in 1980, Rocky has run his own successful small business – Rocky Bleier Inc. (www.rockybleierinc.com) – as a motivational speaker and instructor. Drawing on his personal experiences of overcoming adversity and reaching for goals, Rocky’s “Be the Best You Can Be” message is ideal for the development of corporate executives, enhancing sales and marketing, or offering inspiration to young professionals or practical advice for student athletes. He is also president of a service-disabled veteran-owned construction company – RBVetCo LLC.  Rocky is a 1968 graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a BS in Business Management.