…The Richard Z. James Grant…

When your best friend is KIA in Iraq when you’re 18 years old, it changes you. It can do a lot of different things to a person, it could send you into a state of depression, it could send you into a state of panic, or a numb shock. For me, it sent me down a path that I never quite saw coming. If you knew Ricky, you knew he was a number 1, a goofball. But, more importantly, he was a go-getter. He was the type of kid to set his mind to something and do it, period. He used to shoot hundreds of free-throws together because he wanted to be better at it. He used to play guitar for hours on end because he wanted to be better at it. That attitude sub-consciously wore off on me and sent me into becoming the person I am today, or at least the person I try to be…

I’ll never forget when I heard he was killed. I was standing on a pier somewhere in Ocean City, MD taking photos of the sunset because I wanted to practice… Like Ricky would. My phone rang, there was a tearful panicked voice on the other end from my friend Laura, and it was a blur from there. The ensuing days were awful. We cried, we laughed, we talked, we hugged, we cried some more. A mother lost her son, a father lost his boy, his brothers lost the wildcard of the group & we buried our best friend…

After the dust settled all I could think about was, “how would Ricky want me to live.” That has been an internal compass of mine ever since. The thought influenced the direction of my life in more ways than I could count. He was brave, so I tried to be brave. He was courageous, so I tried to have courage. He was a good Christian, so I tried to be one, too. I have fallen short in every category, but I’ve tried. Above all else, I have tried to never feel sorry for myself and never be sad and wallow in self pity. He would have literally ridiculed me to tears and subsequently beaten me to a pulp if he saw that. And if you knew him, you know I am right.

So, how do you honor someone like that? Well, you just live without fear and capitalize on opportunities when they arise. When I finished up sending out the proceeds of my print I sold during the COVID 19 shutdowns to help small businesses, I realized that we had helped so many people in so many small ways, but never a person in one big way. We’re changing that.

A few weeks ago I received a donation from a good friend of mine, Ricky’s sister-in-law, Peggy Re James. I’ve known Peggy for years now, and follow her instagram which is meant for Virtual Assistants, of which she is one of the best. She now posts regular content for people starting VA businesses in hopes of helping them along the way. Only the content isn’t just for people starting VA businesses. Any business anywhere would benefit from listening to what she has to say about marketing, time management, and sales. I watch her stories and have taken so much from them over the last year that I owe her a debt of gratitude for those pieces of advice. Anyway, when I received her donation all I could think of was how could I do something special with it, and this idea came to me while laying awake restless at 3am (as only the best ideas do) and I decided we had do something to help someone start a business and simultaneously honor her brother-in-law.

In honor of Ricky and his family, we’ve decided to give a $5000 grant to a veteran to start a small business.

We’re in a time of so much death, destruction, and the failure of so many small businesses, that giving life to something positive seems like the only thing left to do. There are very few guidelines this except that the business should do good for your community and you should meet the following criteria.

  1. Must be a veteran (not active, if you’re active, you probably have bigger fish to fry) of any US armed service branch.
  2. Must submit a video 3 minutes or under about your idea. 3 minutes and 1 second will result in disqualification. Be creative. High production value isn’t necessary. Good content, however, is…
  3. Must submit a business plan. The format of which is up to you, but it should be clear and concise, lay out your goals, the type of business you’re starting, and the good it will do for its community.
  4. A copy of your DD 214.

Those are our only guidelines. Creativity, ingenuity, integrity, good will, and challenge will all be rewarded. We’re open to any industry and any idea, but Ricks family will choose the winner. I will filter through the ideas I think are best and send them the final submissions. Submissions will be closed on Labor Day (September 7th, 2020) and we’ll notify the winner a few weeks after.

We are accepting donations to allow the grant to grow. If you’re interested doing so, please check out our GoFundme page.

Application Information

  • Please upload to YouTube/Vimeo and provide the link here.
  • Accepted file types: pdf, Max. file size: 100 MB.
    Please submit your business plan here. I don't care what the format is, just be clear & concise, and tell me what your plan is for your business. Be creative and dream big! PDF submissions only.