You may not know the names, but you have undoubtedly felt the social impact of entrepreneurs Jeff Shuford and Drayton Florence. Both award-winning technologists, the duo has been credited with utilizing technology to help veterans struggling with suicide and feelings of hopelessness nationwide. Shuford, an award-winning nationally syndicated columnist, currently pens a nationally syndicated column that graces the pages of 43 physical regional business newspapers with the American City Business Journals. Florence, a veteran of the National Football League, played eleven seasons as a star defensive back with multiple teams. You would think that the journeys of both respected cultural icons would not have intertwined. Still, their paths led them to discover ways to improve the veteran community both locally and nationally. Before holding the distinction of becoming one of the country’s most syndicated black columnists of all time and one of the youngest nationally syndicated columnists in the nation, Shuford’s path started in the U.S. Army. Having deployed to Iraq earning a Combat Action Badge, Shuford knew the struggles facing military service members in and out of the service. “As I transitioned, I discovered that I had a passion for writing and marketing. I never imagined that I would have become syndicated nationally at the age of 30. However, Drayton (Florence) helped me realize that my columns for Forbes and Entrepreneur were worthy of syndication, and I appreciate his support,” stated Shuford.
Florence, an inductee of Tuskegee University’s Hall of Fame in 2014, knew that he needed to reinvent himself after transitioning from the NFL. Holding the distinction of being the highest drafted player to enter the NFL from Tuskegee University, Florence was continuously focused on impacting the black business community positively in and out of the league. With this goal in mind, Florence launched the Drayton Florence Foundation and mentors’ people of all walks of life, “I am blessed to be in a position to impact and help others, giving back what so many others have given to me over the years. Giving back provides me a feeling of wholeness and gives real purpose to my life,” stated Florence. Living a purpose-driven life is more than a sound bite for Florence. After exiting the NFL, Florence and Shuford launched a veteran-owned technology business that was bestowed a BizTech Award by Comcast Business and the Jacksonville Business Journal in 2017.
In 2019, the award-winning duo came together once again to launch National Invest In Veterans Week. The holiday has inspired countless veterans to start and grow businesses after transitioning from the military. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel wrote, “According to the Small Business Administration, there is about one veteran-owned firm for every ten veterans. #NationalInvestInVeteransWeek is about empowering the public to invest in these businesses.” U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler stated, “Those who serve and risk their lives in the name of our freedom deserve our total support when they return home. I encourage you to empower these brave patriots by investing in them, especially during #InvestInVeteransWeek.” U.S. Army Combat Vet and Purple Heart recipient Congressman Brian Mast wrote, “Veterans’ service doesn’t stop when we leave the battlefield. We go on to serve our communities, states, and country in many capacities, including as small business owners. Veterans invest in us, so let’s invest in our veterans – this week and every week! #InvestInVeteransWeek.” With the impact of National Invest In Veterans Week inspiring local and state legislators, it no wonder why National Invest In Veterans Week’s social impact is helping veteran business owners nationwide.
As veterans continue to exit the military, we need organizations like National Invest In Veterans Week to continue positively impacting our service members’ lives in and out of uniform. Recently named “Best Social Impact Initiative of 2021” by The Ritz Herald, the organization is focused on advancing the organization’s mission further. “Our team at National Invest In Veterans Week remains hyper-focused on advocating for veteran entrepreneurs. As we continue to inspire politicians to advance legislation to help veterans start businesses, we remain true to our core values,” stated Shuford. The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Centerstone named Shuford as a panelist for its upcoming Veterans Business and Entrepreneurship Virtual Town Hall. The event will be moderated by Brigadier General Michael Fleming and will help inspire and motivate veterans to start and grow businesses nationwide. “I am honored to have been selected as a panelist by Brigadier General Fleming, and I hope to continue providing value to veterans interested in becoming entrepreneurs,” stated Shuford.