Veteran-made clothing business wins Ivy Tech competition

September 27th, 2013

News Coverage:

Veteran-made clothing business wins Ivy Tech competition

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 8:54 am, Fri Sep 27, 2013.

By Doug LeDuc

Robert Bibbo never stopped looking out for his fellow members of the Indiana National Guard when he came home from Iraq, and a business he started that could help them won this year’s New Venture Competition.

The annual Ivy Tech Community College-Northeast business plan competition awards $20,000 in startup funding to the student with the best business plan. The contest is sponsored by Dave Bear and JB Tool, Die & Engineering Inc.

A panel of more than 40 judges that included successful entrepreneurs, business owners, business managers and small business loan officers from area banks chose his plan for American Combat Veteran Clothing over plans for a photography business and an outdoor adventure gear rental business.

Sales projections for its third year of business were not the most ambitious among those forecast by the finalists.

But, Bibbo said, his contest strategy called for more conservative projections to make his numbers seem more persuasive to judges, even if that presented the risk of losing to a plan a finalist would portray as having greater earning potential.

“A few of them were concerned with my realistic financial projections,” he said. “I gave them an ultra-conservative presentation of financial expectations and I gave them one that more closely mirrored what my business model mentor, 9 Line Apparel, has done in the last six months.

“They are up to $1,000 a day in sales. I showed us meeting their level of success in Year 3. So I didn’t put up the $1 million third (year) because I know how hard it is to create a business with that type of revenue,” he said. “I thought it would be cool to do it but I wouldn’t dare say it.”

Participation in the contest is part of Ivy Tech-Northeast’s Business 280 50C course, also known as the Internship Launch: New Venture class taught by James Tolbert. The competition is in its third year. This year’s version started June 10 with 16 students and the field narrowed to the three finalists in August.

Tolbert said judges were impressed with the fact that Capt. Dan Merritt, founder of 9 Line Apparel, had agreed to serve as a business model mentor on American Combat’s advisory board.

Tolbert said what swayed judges the most was a goal Bibbo set to have American Combat employing three disabled combat veterans by the end of its first year of business.

“That demonstrates a very business-like compassion for combat veterans and I think that was an important consideration,” he said.

Bibbo said he was counting on persuading judges his concept was sound with “the marketing research we had that showed that 90 to 95 percent of the general public would rather have their shirt made by a veteran versus made by a civilian.

“I think they were the most impressed with the unique selling position I have,” he said. “If you were to look for a unique selling position with a combat veteran creating jobs for other veterans through a clothing line that is only made by veterans, it’s pretty strong.