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Bunker Labs: Empowering Military Veterans to Become Leaders in Entrepreneurship & Innovation

#SFSBW2019 asked some of our resources to share insights, best practices, and examples of how they help small business owners flourish. Today we hear from Erik Casarez, Bay Area Chapter Lead of Bunker Labs.

bunker labs san francisco small business week

What is Bunker Labs’ Mission?

Our mission is to empower the military veteran community to become leaders in entrepreneurship and innovation.

What are your organization’s recent accomplishments that demonstrate how you have helped the small business community?

Bunker Labs is currently located in 26 cities across the country and will be in all 50 states by 2021. We have had our participating small businesses have generated $117,436,328 in revenue. Our small businesses have raised $80,120,447 in capital. Our companies have created 1,954+ jobs, of those jobs 418+ were created for military veterans and military spouses. We have run over 28,970 Bunker Brews Networking events across the United States.

What tools and resources has Bunker Labs created to help small businesses tap into new opportunities to reach new customers, increase their revenue, and grow their business?

The three core tenants of Bunker Labs are to Inspire, Equip and Connect military veterans and spouses in entrepreneurship. We do this through a few different means. We have our Launch Lab Online platform that helps idea-stage entrepreneurs frame in very clear terms their personal financial readiness to pursue entrepreneurship as well as test their business idea using the business model canvas. We run networking and experience events that feature guest speakers from the local business community and networking opportunities. These events encourage veterans to join the Bunker Labs’ community as well as find business opportunities and make valuable connections. We have our national partnership with WeWork which is for entrepreneurs starting a business, the WeWork Veterans in Residence Program powered by Bunker Labs is a 6-month in-person cohort for veterans and spouses to gain a rich network, free workspace, and mentorship for 6 months while they work to gain traction in their business. We also support more mature entrepreneurs who are interested in growing and scaling their ventures through our CEO circle, which is a monthly mastermind group.

What is your organization doing to attract and support new and younger small business owners? What resources do you offer to entrepreneurs and small businesses to get started?

We have established the first ever startup incubator for veteran founders in the Bay Area. This program runs alongside our WeWork Veterans in Residence cohort and provides a world-class startup curriculum that was designed in partnership with Wildcat Venture Partners from San Mateo. This program brings in subject matter experts from around the country and has hosted sessions in various locations throughout the Bay and Silicon Valley Areas.

San Francisco is known for its diverse culture. How does Bunker Labs ensure that the small businesses that make this city unique are able to stay in San Francisco?

Bunker Labs is intentional in creating a community that reflects the diversity of the U.S. military and we are proud that our programs have exceeded national averages in terms of diversity and demographics often underrepresented in entrepreneurship. We have established a central hub for a diverse group of military veterans and entrepreneurs in the heart of San Francisco.

What words of advice or wisdom would you like to share with small business owners?

Don’t be afraid to take that leap of faith, feel confident in knowing that you have a community in San Francisco, and across the country, with Bunker Labs who are dedicating to helping you achieve your entrepreneurial goals.

Please share with us some real-life examples of how you’ve supported small businesses.

“Bunker Labs has helped me see myself more clearly which has grown my confidence exponentially. I have become more accurate in the assessment of others around me, learning to create strong and vital working relationships as having the right team around me is crucial to my success.

The Launch Lab program provided me with the quintessential tools for leveraging my strengths and getting more precise and intentional about my goals and dreams so that I can build a foundation of achievement.” – Lola Freeman, Founder of NYA Skin Care Company.

“Having a supportive environment in which we can discuss challenges is incredibly important. Bunker Labs, both through the mentors as well as the talented entrepreneurs in the cohort, has helped make connections to prospective new hires and investors, provided a solid sounding board for strategy discussions, and has provided a community to share successes and challenges with.” – Andreas Neuman, CEO of UAV-IQ

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