Dog Tag Bakery previewed its upcoming grand opening — doors will be officially open in December — with an open house and a special screening of the veteran edition of the popular TV show ABC’s “Shark Tank” last Friday.
The bakery, located just off the intersection of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue on Grace Street, is an entrepreneurial effort focused on education and employment for veterans with disabilities and their spouses. Dog Tag Bakery has partnered with the Georgetown School of Continuing Studies and will offer veterans the opportunity to complete a program that provides both substantive work experience and a Georgetown education. Veterans will work at Dog Tag during the day and take Georgetown courses, focusing on small-business administration and entrepreneurship, at night.
“[We’re] proud to work with Dog Tag Bakery,” Blue Star Representative Kathy Roth-Douquet said. “Through self-employment and entrepreneurship, veterans are changing the business world, and we are excited to see what they can accomplish. Working with Dog Tag Bakery lets us serve our top priorities — disabled veterans and military spouses — even more effectively.”
The bakery’s name is derived from a unique donation system in which bakery supporters purchase a dog tag that is engraved and dedicated to a veteran of his or her choosing for $125. Dog Tag Bakery also has more traditional donation methods.
Dog Tag has partnered with Blue Star Families and the Small Business Administration to further its work for veteran support. Blue Star Families connects active duty, National Guard, reserve, wounded and transitioning service members and their families to civilian communities.
“We are the voice for the small business-community, and what Dog Tag Bakery [is doing] is taking that to the next level,” Small Business Administration Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, said. “There have been 56 months of consecutive job growth in the US, and one out of 10 of those jobs being created is directly related to the entrepreneurial work of veterans. The SBA looks forward to working with Dog Tag Bakery to further improve the entrepreneurial efforts of our vets as they work to better our community.”
The event, which prefaced the upcoming opening — the exact date is yet to be announced — served largely as a networking opportunity for veterans with entrepreneurial ideas to meet and share their future goals, as well as listen to speeches.
Fr. Rick Curry, S.J., a professor of theology and theater at Georgetown University and the director of the Academy for Veterans, is one of the founders of Dog Tag. Connie Milstein, co-founder with Curry, could not attend due to being out of the country.
“Everyone should make the most of this opportunity. All of you veterans have great business ideas and you may find someone here with a similar idea and the means with which to make your dream come true,” Curry said during a speech at Friday’s event.
Roth-Douquet and Contreras-Sweet also made presentations during the event.
Following the speeches, attendees were invited to watch a special episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank” that showcased four veteran entrepreneurs who presented their ideas to the show’s investors, who make investment decisions to help finance the company in return for some percentage of shareholders’ equity of the company.
The episode was part of the Small Business Administration’s national Veterans Small Business Week and featured a special appearance from first lady Michelle Obama.
Entrepreneur Marion Cain and his wife Parham both attended the event. Marion, an ex-army veteran, now works with the Department of Defense in order to find jobs for veterans in partnership with the SBA, while Parham created a company that helps veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder to gain skills and re-enter in healthy relationships. The company, Next Mission LLC, is part of the large movement of veterans to help other veterans rejoin the work force.
“As a wife of a veteran, I think this is very important,” Parham said. “Our younger veterans need a job opportunity in a welcoming community that is surrounded by other businesses that are also welcoming them. I think they have a place in our society that is important and growing.”