Q&A with Startup Standup Winner, Badges United Foundation

Read on to learn more about Kim DeFiori, Co-Founder of Badges United Foundation.

Capitol Post awarded Badges United Foundation a prize of $3,500 in Capitol Post’s Pitch Competition, Startup Standup last month. Startup Standup is the culmination of Capitol Post’s sixth cohort of Startup School class; a nine-week program where veterans and spouses can test their ideas, accelerate and build their businesses with expert thought leaders, mentors, and professionals.

Q: Tell us about your military background and how it has prepared you to be an entrepreneur.

Kim: My time at West Point and on active duty helped prepare me to be an entrepreneur. West Point pushed me as a person in every way, shape, and form. I was a Division I swimmer my entire time there and the co-captain my senior year. The balance I had to maintain to pass classes, excel at swimming, and handle everything else proved to benefit me the rest of my life. As an Army Officer, my time deployed and in command benefited me most. I deployed as an Executive Officer. We saw and did things that won’t ever be forgotten. I learned who I was and what I valued there. After the first time we were attacked by the Taliban, I discovered how all the training I had put in place the past seven years came out without even thinking. I turned to my Soldiers and told them, “Follow me,” and led them into the gunfire so we could defeat the attack. We trained for so many years both at West Point and in the Army to have that response. I didn’t have many thoughts that day about my safety, just that we needed to kill the enemy before they killed us. This experience as a combat leader helps me run my business and relate to other First Responders. They know I’ve been shot at and understand what it’s like to be in direct combat unsure of if or when you’ll ever go home.

My time in company command also helped me with my life as an entrepreneur. I commanded in Fairbanks, Alaska where temperatures would dip to -60 degrees. We were told we would be fired if any of our Soldiers got frostbite. Not only did I have to try to prepare my company to deploy anywhere in the world, but also had to constantly battle a nine-month winter. I learned how to manage my Soldiers outside of the office and how all my office work could be done at night. The time I spent with my Soldiers was ten times more valuable than inventorying equipment or signing papers. I was in charge of people and their lives. I learned that I value the connection and opportunity to help people out over everything else. I discovered my passion to help others while in the Army and my absolute hatred of sitting in an office.

As odd as it sounds, I’m grateful I left the Army with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As I was in the depths of my depression trying to hide my PTSD, I hit my rock bottom. A depth I never knew existed. After two years in intensive therapy, I had a chance to enjoy and appreciate this rock bottom because it gave me a chance to discover my true potential as a person. I found that true courage isn’t leading my Soldiers through gunfire. My true courage was when I was in the depths of my rock bottom, I looked up and finally realized the only way up was to open myself up to being vulnerable. My vulnerability has taught me how to be strong and truly be whole so I can help others once again.

Q: How did you get connected with Capitol Post?

Kim: I was a fellow at Dog Tag Bakery and we took a trip to visit Capitol Post. Emily showed us around and her enthusiasm caught my attention. I felt at home as soon as I walked in and knew I could depend on Emily and her team to help me with my business idea. Emily was a fellow West Point graduate and Military Police Officer so we shared the same background and passions in life.

Q: How has Startup School helped you?

Kim: Startup School helped me get to know and understand what the true needs of First Responders are. We had an idea of what they needed, but until we discovered how First Responders’ viewed their problems, we couldn’t deliver a viable solution. I’ve learned how to deliver and get comfortable with all my pitches. I had a chance to practice my off-the-cuff elevator pitch to a formal pitch. We were also connected to valuable resources in the First Responder and entrepreneur worlds. We have been introduced around and now the network we have that will support us through our ventures is truly remarkable. I came into Capitol Post moving from the idea stage and by the end of Startup School, I had a viable business.

Q: What have been some of the specific outcomes of being a member of Capitol Post’s Startup School?

We have a new set of network contacts that can make things happen in our business. 

We have a clean, rehearsed pitch that impacts everyone who hears it. 
We know how to appeal to every person no matter what their background is. We can make First Responders’ wellness important to everyone.
We have a financial strategy for our future and know how much we need and for what if ever asked.
We have the confidence to pitch to any audience to try to win more money for our nonprofit.
We have a co-working space and business mentors that can help us with any idea or problem we encounter.

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