Advertisement
  1. Business

Veterans Alternative Therapy Center wins inaugural SMARTstart Challenge

Janel Norton and Brian Anderson, co-founders of Veterans Alternative Therapy Center, leave the stage with a $5,000 check.
Published Feb. 5, 2015

NEW PORT RICHEY — The owners of Veterans Alternative Therapy Center stood on a wooden stage in front of a panel of judges.

As contestants in the inaugural SMARTstart Challenge, a Shark Tank-style pitch competition that began in November, Brian Anderson and Janel Norton had 10 minutes to prove that Veterans Alternative Therapy, which provides alternative therapy for veterans, is a viable business worthy of financial support.

After the judges watched five finalists vie for the top prize, Anderson, 32, and Norton, 48, emerged as the winner.

"Both Janel and I are combat veterans. She was a combat camerawoman, and I was a Green Beret in the Army. She served in Bosnia, and I served in Iraq and Afghanistan," Anderson said. "We both saw our fair share of traumas."

Their business, which has partnered with the Chris T. Sullivan Foundation for tax-exempt status, served its first clients this week and was established in response to a problem: "What we have in place for our warriors after combat isn't working," Anderson said.

The Veterans Alternative Therapy Center, based in Holiday, will provide fitness, accelerated resolution therapy and integrative restoration yoga nidra, which is a style of guided meditation.

"We are helping our warriors focus on post-traumatic growth," Anderson said. "We're replenishing camaraderie. We're training the mind, body and spirit to help our warriors reintegrate to be the leaders they've been trained to be."

To do that, veterans need help to heal "the invisible wounds of war," said Norton, a former Tampa Bay Times photojournalist who also co-owns Trinity Yoga. "I'm so glad (the judges) recognized the need. This is for the veterans. It's all for them."

Veterans Alternative Therapy's services will be free for veterans. The University of South Florida is providing the accelerated resolution therapy, and private donors and organizations are helping to cover the costs of the center's other services.

The SMARTstart Challenge, which concluded last week, sparked what Krista Covey wants to turn into a series.

"Hopefully this is the first of many (SMARTstart Challenges)," said Covey, the Pasco Economic Development Council's director of the SMARTstart Business Incubator Program and manager of economic development. She said the next SMARTstart Challenge probably will take place in the fall.

The contest, which was sponsored by the Pasco EDC, the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce, the New Port Richey Economic Development Department and SCORE, started with about 20 applicants, Covey said. Eight were selected to present five-minute pitches last month, and, of those, judges selected the five finalists.

Mark Pinson pitched Thank You Post, an app that consumers can use to write positive reviews of businesses and post them online. Thomas Giella Jr. pitched Techsoft Academy, a school that offers courses in Quickbooks, WordPress and Google Apps. Greg Smith spoke about Savealator, an inventory and information management app. Cavi Velasquez talked about Slide Creation, a visual design consulting firm. Anderson and Norton sold the judges on Veterans Alternative Therapy.

"Being able to tout the entrepreneurs we've got here is really important for Pasco County," said Covey.

And the prizes, she said, are important for the winners.

Giella, who won third place, will receive $1,000. Smith, who won second place, will receive $2,000. For first place, Anderson and Norton will receive $5,000, plus a six-month membership to SMARTstart, which includes office space at the SMARTstart incubator in New Port Richey.

"A little capital can go a long way," Covey said.

And, even the participants who didn't place gained something, she said.

"Feedback is extremely important," she said. "You don't know what you don't know."

Contact Arleen Spenceley at (727) 869-6235 or aspenceley@tampabay.com. Follow @ArleenSpenceley.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Guests of the Flying Bridge at the Tradewinds Resort, which is now under new ownership. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
    The new owner says he plans to keep its management and 1,100 employees.
  2. The University of South Florida has earned national accolades for its push to raise graduation rates. Student loan debt in Florida is so crushing that it makes it hard to afford a house.
    Staggering debt loads make it hard to buy a home.
  3. The “nakation” — aka clothing-optional tourism — is becoming one of the fastest-growing segments of the travel industry. Shirking that outer layer at nude beaches and resorts and even on clothing-optional cruises has become the vacation choice du jour for hundreds of thousands of free-spirited Americans. AP Photo/Caleb Jones
    It’s certainly bringing in big bucks in Florida, where the state’s tourism department reports that nude recreation made a $7.4 billion economic impact in the Sunshine State last year.
  4. Bay area gas prices increased by double digits since last week, according to AAA, The Auto Club Group. Pictured is a man in St. Petersburg filling up in 2017. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times (2017)] SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Oil refineries’ seasonal maintenance, as well as wholesale gas prices, pushed prices higher.
  5. Former Morgan Stanley investment broker Ami Forte has been permanently barred from working in the broker-dealer industry as a result of thousands of improper trades that were made in the accounts of Home Shopping Network co-founder Roy Speer during the last months of his life. (AP photo | 2016) TAMARA LUSH  |  Associated Press
    Financial regulators barred brokers Ami Forte and Charles Lawrence as a result of more than 2,800 trades on Roy Speer’s accounts in 2011 and 2011.
  6. A conveyor belt takes bags of food from ghost restaurants to a room where delivery drivers pick up orders at Kitchen United's Chicago location on Aug. 29, 2019. Kitchen United, a start-up that builds kitchen commissaries for restaurants looking to enter new markets through delivery or take-out only, has plans to open 40 more kitchens in cities across the U.S. through 2020. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford) TERESA CRAWFORD  |  AP
    Owner Michael Kudrna launched the four spinoffs earlier this year in a matter of weeks as he races to keep his Chicago-area business ahead of a growing trend.
  7. Ron Borresen  |  tbt* Cover art for tbt* Top Workplaces 4/11.
    The Times has extended its deadline to nominate the 2020 Top 100 Workplaces.
  8. Casey Cane, chairman of the Pinellas County Housing Finance Authority. Pinellas County
    An inspector general’s report says he also engaged in "unethical behavior'' as a contractor.
  9. [Getty Images] Gettty Images
  10. Tampa Bay homeowners are now able to sell their homes to Zillow. Zillow
    It joins Opendoor and Offerpad in making "instant'' offers.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement