Reed Nyffeler likes what he sees when he hires military veterans to work for his Omaha-based security company. But the CEO and co-founder of Signal 88 Security also notices that many capable veterans miss out on job opportunities.

So he, along with a Signal 88 team, designed a five-month essay contest — called Operation American Dream: From Battlefield to Boss — to offer veterans access to money to start their dream business or open a franchise.

“We’re bridging the one missing gap because they already have the desire and experience,” he said.

A monthly winner will receive $500 and be eligible for a grand prize — either $5,000 to start a business or $10,000 to open a Signal 88 Security franchise.

Eligible applicants include United States residents who are military members in good standing or retired or resigned veterans in good standing.

To enter, applicants must submit a 500-word essay on why they want to open a business to winner will be chosen monthly, with each deadline on the 15th of the month. The first deadline is Jan. 15 and the final is May 15.

At the end of each month, Signal 88 will select three finalists and the public will select via the Signal 88 website a winner, who then is eligible for the grand prize.

“We’re giving them freedom to invest in anything,” Nyffeler said, “but they get a little more money with the grand prize to go through our concept.”

In all, the company will give away up to $12,500.

Signal 88 was founded in 2003 in Omaha and started franchising in 2007. Today, the company has 98 franchises in 36 states and employs 250 people in Omaha and 3,500 people altogether.

About 60 percent of the employees have military or police experience, Nyffeler said, and the contest was aimed at veterans specifically because he knows from hiring many that they often have good character and are well-trained at protecting people.

“Veterans possess many of the traits needed in entrepreneurism,” he said. “Their leadership, teamwork and problem-solving skills are second-to-none, in my experience.”

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