Program Overview

The mission of Virginia Small Business Development Center is to contribute to the development of Virginia's economy and provide technical business assistance to small and medium sized businesses throughout Virginia. From the Federal mandate of the Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999, Public Law 106-50, plus a deep sense of indebtedness to all veterans, Virginia SBDC has continued to include Virginia veterans as a target group for special assistance. The Virginia Small Business Veteran of the Year Award has been established to recognize the accomplishments of this special group of Virginia entrepreneurs.

Program Objectives

  1. Recognize veterans who have made a significant contribution to the economy through ownership in a Virginia small business.
  2. Recognize veterans who have made a significant difference in their communities by promoting a sense of duty, volunteerism and an appreciation of country, democracy, and freedom.
  3. Provide VSBDC and veterans in their service area, opportunities for mutual networking, thus increasing awareness of the Small Business Development Center's (SBDC) services, and allow the SBDCs to make veteran's business needs assessments.
  4. Increase the number of Virginia veterans served by the SBDC.

The Small Business Veteran of the Year Award has been established to recognize the accomplishments of this special group of Virginia entrepreneurs.

Announcement of Award

The Virginia Small Business Veteran of the Year Award is a specially designed and crafted plaque, which is given to the winner. In addition, each winner will have his/her name inscribed on the base of a Virginia metal crafter’s brass urn that is permanently and prominently displayed at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond. We are greatly indebted to the director and members of the Virginia War Memorial Foundation for allowing the Virginia SBDC Network to display the state award at the Memorial.

Virginia Small Business Veteran of the Year Award Application



Fred Wellman2015 – Fred Wellman

LTC Fred Wellman, US Army retired, is a revolutionary businessman and passionate supporter of the veteran’s community. He led a distinguished military career after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy that included airborne combat service in Operation Desert Storm and three tours in Iraq. He was selected by General Petraeus to be his public affairs officer in Iraq, then served as spokesman for Gen. Martin Dempsey before he became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.   Wellman retired in 2009 and started ScoutComms, a public relations, advocacy and corporate social responsibility firm that focuses exclusively on veterans and military family causes. Within a year, ScoutComms was the first certified B Corp in the Fredericksburg region and the third in the world to focus on veterans’ issues as a social cause. His firm donated over 30% of their profits to veteran-focused nonprofits last year.

2014 – Michael Leigh

Michael Leigh began his military service in 1988 by joining the US Navy Nuclear Power Officer Candidate program while still in college, and served in the Navy for 10 years, retiring as a Commander.   He went to work at GE Energy.  His career culminated as a leader in GE Energy's Global Central Lean Office, where he developed Lean programs, implemented Lean concepts, and trained site leaders and executives at over 25 different businesses, both domestically and internationally.  Since he was also in the reserves, Mike was recalled to active duty in 2001, following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and remained on active duty for almost eight months.  Mike left GE Energy in 2012 to start OpX Solutions and, with George Repa Kaizen Healthcare Innovation.  Mike takes great pride in helping local businesses and leaders become more successful, especially veterans.  Actively involved in local charitable and civic organizations, Mike is also a board member of the local Military Officers Association of America chapter and supports numerous veteran causes.  He recently went to DC with fellow veterans to thank Virginia law makers for their support of veteran causes and provided a new golf cart for the SW Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Dublin.

2013 - Staci Redmon

Veterans_finalA 3rd generation service-disabled veteran, Staci Redmon started SAMS in 2007 to “exceed expectations with people who make a difference.” As fiscal belts were tightening, Staci knew she had to exceed expectations, including taking care of her employees.  If they took care of their employees, the employees would take care of their customers.   SAMS closed their 2013 financial year generating more than $10 million and 105 employees, all in just 5.5 years.  Over 90% of SAMS’ staff are veterans or family members of vets.  She has devoted countless hours counseling and mentoring emerging small businesses, and she never misses an opportunity to meet with entrepreneurs to share her lessons learned.  SAMS frequently teams with emerging companies to give them a leg up.

2012 - Thomas E. Keogh

Veteran 2012A highly decorated Marine officer, Thomas E. Keogh retired in 2009 to start Corps Solutions to provides training and educational services to the Department of Defense. Within three years, there were 35 employees, a 252% growth rate, almost no turnover in staff, and incredibly high customer satisfaction rates. Corps Solutions hires mostly Marine veterans and keeps them employed by keeping teams together even when contracts end. He would rather carry people from month to month and reduce profit margins, Keogh explained, than lose talent and cause undue burdens on employee and their families. In addition he is a supporter of Toys for Tots, the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank, the Wounded Warrior Project, in addition to coaching youth soccer and baseball.


2011 – KIRBY MILLERKirby Miller, the only child of a coal miner, served in the US Navy for 21 years, retiring as a Chief Navy Counselor in February, 2005. His second career was in the home healthcare business. After being an account executive for five years, became the founder of Divine Home Care, Inc. Miller was joined by his wife, Kimberly, a registered nurse with 20+ years of experience in home healthcare. After just 15 months, Divine Home Care employed more than 40 people and served more than 100 patients Miller is also an ordained minister and an evangelist, providing special help to the sick and disabled veterans.

 2010 - PERRY C. CASTO JR.

2010 - PERRY C. CASTO JR.After an illustrious 28-year career in the US Army, Perry Casto retired as a Colonel, and became CEO of ARES Corporation, where he took the company from a $2 million yearly loss to profitability in less than two years. In 2008, Casto started Allied Associates International (A2I), a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, specializing in engineering, technology, and management solutions for a broad spectrum of federal agencies. A2I was profitable in its full first year of operation and continues to grow at a rapid rate with operations in Colorado, Indiana, and the United Kingdom, in addition to its Virginia-based headquarters. His most recent endeavor is starting a university, the Institute for Veterans’ Education and Training, to help veterans earn two-year, four-year, and higher degrees in a veteran friendly environment and to offer other help with their transition to civilian life. To this end, Casto is working in conjunction with George Mason University, Vint Hill Economic Authority, and Warrenton Board of Supervisors.

 2009 - MARK KLETT

2009 - MARK KLETTKlett Consulting was founded in 2002 and consisted of just Mark working out of his home. A graduate of the US Naval Academy who holds a Masters in Engineering Systems Technology from the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, he was able to capitalizing this extensive education as well as twenty years of operational experience gained in the Navy. Mark established himself as a Subject Matter Expert in the area of Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) and worked in providing the Navy with Enterprise Architectures within the Global Information Grid and Network-Centric Operational Environments. Since its founding, Klett Consulting has consistently grown in the total dollar amount of contracts successfully bid, but also both in the company’s reach which is now world-wide, but also in the services he provides to services other than the US Navy. Locally, his company have been recognized as one of the Chamber of Commerce’s “Rising 25” for the city of Virginia Beach, but also as the 2009 “Top 10 to Watch” in last year’s Small Business of the Year Competition. Mark is a strong supporter of the Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business Council as well as a member of the Tidewater Association of Government Contractors-Tidewater Government Industry Council.


2008 - BERNIE DUNNMr. Dunn is a service-disabled Vietnam Veteran and owner of BJD Tel-Com LLC. His exposure to Agent Orange during his tour of duty as a Marine left him totally blind for a period of 135 days in 2002. His doctors told him he would never see again. Through faith and determination and 22 surgeries Bernie regained 20/20 vision in his right eye. He remains convinced that his faith was the key to his miraculous recovery. Bernie has been doggedly determined to make his business succeed in spite of the obstacles fate has put in his path. He has been a steadfast friend to the principles of the Loudoun SBDC. In October 2008 he was asked to be a presenter at a seminar we were planning entitled “Selling to the Government”. He didn’t hesitate to accept, asking only where and what time he should be there. Of the speakers that night, Mr. Dunn was by far the one with whom the audience could most easily identify. His presentation generated the most enthusiastic audience response and participation in what was a hugely informative evening. Since that night, he has been called by no fewer than six of the attendees and he has met with each of them to provide assistance and guidance. This goes far beyond the normal expectations of our seminar presenters and indicates a true measure of the man. Bernie is actively involved with several Veterans’ groups and has successfully helped 25 disabled veterans receive the benefits to which they are entitled.


2007 - J. PATRICK GREENPat Green served in both the active and reserve duty of the U.S. Army from 1960-1993 with 101st Airborne Division, the 116th Infantry in the Virginia National Guard and with the 80th Division in the Army Reserves. Pat retired as a Lt. Colonel in 1993. Pat started several companies to include Green & Associates, an aftermarket products for the automobile industry; Body Glo East which was involved in the reselling of reconditioning products for the auto industry and Tire Pro which is a business selling Road Hazard Protection. Pat sold all of these businesses in 2003. Later in 2003 Pat started a new business, Integrity Burial Boxes, which sells custom built wood urns. His business is also a reseller of Infinity Columbarium Walls. Pat has been involved in veteran causes for many years to include Chapter president of the local VFW, Board member for MOAA (Military Officers Association of America), appointed by Governor Mark Warner as a board member for the Virginia Joint Leadership Council and appointed by Governor Timothy Kaine to serve on the Virginia Board of Veteran Services. Pat has also been the main driving force behind the development of the veteran's cemetery to be built in Dublin Virginia. Pat is also a 1969 graduate of VPI.


2006 - JAMES FULLER and HAROLD FULLERThe Town of Haysi, Virginia is home to these two brothers, who after serving their country during the Vietnam era, returned home and purchased the Haysi Dollar Store. The brothers later renamed the business Fuller Store, Inc. Adding a broad coverage of hardware items and sporting good products allowed the business to begin growing and with honest dealings, fair pricing, and product coverage, through good times and bad, the Fuller brothers guided the business to success. They have consistently kept the business profitable and aided Dickenson County’s economy with additional real estate and personal property taxes, as well as the steady employment of five people. Harold Fuller has served on the Dickenson County Electoral Board for approximately ten years. Roger Fuller has served as president of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and the local chapter of the Disabled Veterans of Virginia. Both brothers have been members of the Haysi Kiwanis Club and are held in high esteem by the Haysi community.


Mensel D. Dean served in the US Army during the Vietnam era and is currently a partner in the accounting firm of PBGH, LLP in Harrisonburg. Since 2001, Mr. Dean has been recognized by Virginia Business magazine and the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants as a Super CPA, a recognition bestowed on a select number of practitioners in the service areas of small business consulting, government and not-for-profit. Not only has Mr. Dean built a successful business, but through the years he has supported many community organizations and projects. Mr. Dean serves on the board of directors of Rockingham Memorial Hospital and Rockingham Heritage Bank. Previously he has served on the boards of the Blue Ridge Community College Foundation, Bridgewater Retirement Community and Friendship Industries. Mr. Dean is a decorated veteran, a distinguished business owner and dedicated citizen of the Shenandoah Valley and the Commonwealth.


Mr. Shelor owns Shelor, Inc. a family-owned general contracting business located in Dublin. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 1943 to 1946 as a radio operator in the Pacific Theatre. In 1946, he was honorably discharged and returned to Virginia and joined the Virginia Tech Corp of Cadets graduating with a degree in Civil Engineering. After his start with the Chicago construction firm Bates and Rogers, Paul joined Wasser, Trinkle and Dobyns in Dublin in 1963. In 1975, Paul and Richard DeBusk formed DeBusk and Shelor, Inc. which is now simply Shelor, Inc. Mr. Shelor manages the firm together with his wife Helen and his sons Donald and Patrick. Throughout his career, Mr. Shelor has contributed to the New River Valley community in many ways—his firm employed up to 50 people and was involved in significant projects at Radford University, VA Tech, local public schools and the airport. Mr. Shelor has been an active member of the Pulaski Chamber of Commerce, his church and professional organizations. Mr. Shelor is a veteran, a distinguished business owner and dedicated citizen of Virginia.


2003 - NATHAN H. TANNER, JR.Nathan H. Tanner, Jr. has served his country and his community. As a young man, he chose to serve his country over completing his college degree by enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1942. After the war, it took Mr. Tanner only six years to rise from the position of sales trainee to vice president to general manager of Swartz Enterprises. He later purchased and headed one of the organization’s companies, Roanoke Photo Finishing. In 1984, Mr. Tanner was one of the founders of Photo USA with his son Tom.. Rather than take time off for retirement, Mr. Tanner chose to continue to serve small business and his community. He has served as a volunteer counselor for SCORE, is an active member of Raleigh Court United Methodist Church, served as president of an Eighth Air Force Group and he is sits on the boards of many other organizations. Mr. Tanner is a decorated veteran, a distinguished business owner and dedicated citizen of Virginia. He truly represents the spirit of the Small Business Veteran of the Year.


Robert E. Plecker has served his country and his community. Mr. Plecker served in the US Army from 1942-1947 and he rose to the rank of captain. He was a platoon leader to the 502nd Parachute Infantry, 101st Airborne Division in Europe during WWII. After the war he became Company Commander of Company B, 502nd Parachute Infantry. Mr. Plecker was awarded the Order of Leopold with Palm and Croix de Geurre with Palm by the Belgian government in 1945 for "Meritorious Achievement in the Battle of Bastogne". He also received the Distinguished Unit Badge, American Service Medal, European African Middle Eastern Service Medal and the Bronze Star Medal in 1947 for "Meritorious Achievement in Ground Operations". Mr. Plecker returned to Virginia after his military service and attended Shenandoah University, Bridgewater College, and the University of Virginia. He then embarked on an ambitious and successful career as a business owner and currently owns and manages four transportation businesses in the Shenandoah Valley. In 1997, he sold his first company, Truck and Equipment, to the company employees through an employee stock ownership plan. Mr. Plecker is more than a successful entrepreneur--he is an inspiration and role model to employees, business leaders, and the community. Not only has Mr. Plecker built successful businesses, but through the years he has also generously supported many community organizations and projects. Mr. Plecker’s recent gift to Blue Ridge Community College supported the establishment of the Workforce Center, a facility that will house the Center for Training and Development along with classroom and meeting space. In his honor, the Center has been named the Robert E. Plecker Workforce Center. Mr. Plecker is a decorated veteran, a distinguished business owner and dedicated citizen of Virginia. He truly represents the spirit of the Small Business Veteran of the Year.

 2001 - A.W. 'JUNE' HORTON, JR.Mr. Horton is an excellent example of how veterans continue to serve their country and state long after their military service is over. In 1936, Horton earned his first job with McCall’s store in Raven, a small town in southwest Virginia. He was then drafted into the U.S.Army in 1941 and served in the 29th Division 116th Infantry Division, Company K. Horton participated in the Normandy Invasion on D-Day and received a Purple Heart Medal for his injuries. After just over four years of military service, he was honorably discharged and returned home. He became manager of the Raven Super Market, which in the 1970s, the Horton family purchased the market and established an affiliation with True Value Hardware. Horton continues to work in the store today with his son, Rocky. The Raven Super Market carries inventory reminiscent of the general merchandise store common in decades past - groceries, hardware, home and garden supplies, even clothing. The folksy establishment still uses the honor system for grocery check out--a practice unheard of today. Horton keeps a running log of purchases, and customers can reimburse him on pay day. "Veterans serve as excellent role models for future generations to come," added DBA's Director, Charlie H. Mills. "The Small Business Veteran of the Year Program brings much-deserved attention to the achievement and sacrifices that these individuals have made in communities throughout Virginia. I am proud that the Commonwealth.s SBDC program was the first in the nation to recognize our veterans in such a manner." "It was an honor to present Mr. Horton with this year's award," said Jim Boyd,director of the southwest SBDC and Chairman of the Veteran's Award. "He is so loved and respected---he is a cornerstone of our community." Horton’s letter to his wife during the war and excerpts from his personal diary have been the subject of feature articles in the local media. He has a very compelling life story, both as an entrepreneur and as a soldier.


Zane Showker, Chairman Emeritus of SYSCO Food Services, in Harrisonburg, was named the Virginia Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC) first annual Small Business Veteran of the Year.