On a blustery Thursday this past November, over five hundred people gathered in a tent outside of the PenFed Credit Union headquarters in Tysons. With the smell of smoked pork perfuming the late fall air, the crowd, mostly PenFed employees joined by a sprinkling of local dignitaries and military VIPs, was there for more than a barbeque lunch. This was a celebration of the PenFed Foundation’s Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program (VEIP) and its first beneficiary, Abe Kamarck, a naval aviation veteran and Founder/CEO of Virginia-based True Made Foods.
Out of the 250,000 veterans who transition from the military every year, one in five will start his or her own business – some in Northern Virginia. Because of their specialized training, tested leadership and varied skillsets, many veterans leave military service personally empowered and goal oriented, uniquely suited to run successful businesses of their own. However, what these veterans often lack are the traditional business experiences and professional networks available to their civilian entrepreneurial peers. But PenFed Credit Union, with its long commitment to assisting the men and women who defend our country, is helping to close this gap through VEIP.
First announced in April of 2018, the VEIP initiative promotes the success of veteran-owned businesses by providing the seed money needed to get started along with a support network of over 1,700 business partners. Returns received on VEIP investments go right back into the program to support future veteran-owned business ventures. With more than $1.4 million raised by year-end 2018 and made possible in large part by the enthusiastic backing of PenFed Credit Union, VEIP is able, as Kamarck says, “to help me and other veterans grow companies in ways we couldn’t do on our own—the support is invaluable.”
James Schenck, President and CEO, PenFed Credit Union and CEO, PenFed Foundation explains, “Abe Kamarck and True Made Foods—which produces a line of condiments that substitute vegetables for the sugar found in popular national brands—were chosen for the first VEIP investment because we believe in his mission and his product. Through his healthy food products, Abe is helping to attack a serious health issue: obesity among our youth. One in three young people cannot join the military today because they are obese. With its emphasis on healthy foods without sugar, True Made Foods helps make the healthy choice an easy choice for Americans.”
Abe Kamarck, Founder and CEO of True Made Foods was honored as the first PenFed Foundation Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program recipient at the PenFed Foundation Army Navy tailgate event.
Attendees of November’s “Red, White and True Made Tailgate” got to taste “success” for themselves, sampling whole-hog chopped pork topped with True Made Foods’ signature vegetable-sweetened BBQ sauce.
The positive impact of the VEIP initiative is unmistakable: Kamarck has experienced remarkable success taking his business to the next level, with True Made Foods products now found in over 2,400 stores across the country, including major grocery chains like Safeway, Wegman’s and ShopRite.
PenFed and the PenFed Foundation are changing lives through financial education, credit building, home ownership and short-term assistance. Visit penfedfoundation.org to learn more.
Pictured at top: PenFed Credit Union’s Tysons, Virginia headquarter hosts “Red, White and True Made Tailgate”
to support the PenFed Foundation’s first Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program (VEIP)
Left to Right: Rear Admiral Thomas Lynch (USN, Retired), USNA 1964, General John “Mick” Nicholson (USA, Retired), USMA 1982, and James Schenck, President and CEO, PenFed Credit Union and CEO, PenFed Foundation, USMA 1988, with the 2017 Army Navy game ball West Point sent to General Nicholson when he commanded U.S. troops in Afghanistan.