Thanks to generous support from the PwC Charitable Foundation, the Ambassador Program is back and better than ever. Bunker Labs created the Ambassador Program in an effort to cultivate leaders within local business ecosystems across the country. Think you have what it takes to grow and lead your local business community? Learn more and apply today.

What is the Ambassador Program? 

The Ambassador Program helps develop and connect the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, and ensure there is a clear path for Bunker Labs entrepreneurs to access the local resources and networks they need to successfully launch and grow their businesses. 

What’s Changed Since Last Year?

For those already familiar with the Ambassador Program, you’ll remember one of their contributions was facilitating our Veterans in Residence (ViR) program huddles. We’re taking this task off the Ambassador’s plates and moving toward professional facilitators, empowering our Ambassadors to focus on what they do best: ecosystem building and making connections to benefit the entire veteran and military spouse entrepreneur and small business community. Ambassadors are now also responsible for completing an Ecosystem Leadership Project (ELP). 

What do Ambassadors Do? 

Becoming an Ambassador means making a real commitment to volunteer a year of leadership to your local entrepreneur community. You don’t necessarily have to be a veteran or an entrepreneur yourself to be an Ambassador, you just need to have a passion for helping people, enjoy networking and problem-solving, and be willing to contribute an average of five hours a week to your role. There are many tasks Ambassadors perform throughout their 12-month tour, most of which fall within two categories. 

Ecosystem Developers 

Ambassadors are charged with growing and maintaining their local entrepreneurial ecosystem. For a lot of early-stage entrepreneurs, being welcomed into a community of fellow entrepreneurs who can share local experiences is a great help. When that community also creates opportunities for funding, exposure, and industry-specific partnerships, it’s even better.  

This means building a rolodex of veteran and military spouse entrepreneur-friendly investors, event organizers, and support services that can help local Bunker Labs entrepreneurs take their venture to the next level.  It also means that you aren’t JUST building a personal contact for yourself, but a relationship that future Bunker Labs Ambassadors can continue to grow. Ecosystem development is about building long-term relationships over time. Ambassadors also undertake an Ecosystem Leadership Project (ELP) during their tenure, creating something that helps grow and leaves a mark on the local community. 

Developing a local entrepreneur ecosystem is only the first step, though. The next part is introducing the entrepreneurs of your cohorts to the right parts of that ecosystem at the right time. That means knowing what stages your entrepreneurs’ ventures are in, what they need right now, and who in the ecosystem might fulfill that need. Ambassadors attend thirteen local huddles over the course of the year for their local Veterans in Residence (ViR) program, spending some time each month networking with their local cohort, getting to know them and what they need to take the next step, and make those introductions. 

Hosts 

Ambassadors serve as event hosts. Their work with their local ViR program culminates every six months in a capstone showcase, a major event that happens simultaneously in dozens of ViR cohorts across the country. The Showcase is an amazing opportunity for local veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs to address and network with the local business community you’ve been cultivating for the past six months, and meet with any key contacts you’ve invited to the event.   

Ambassadors can also host local Bunker Connect and Roundtable events, bringing together elements of the local business ecosystem to network, address local business issues, and come together as a community. While not mandatory, Bunker Connects and Roundtables can be an opportunity to see your ecodevelopment efforts in action, and make a huge difference for the veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs in your ViR cohort. 

Ecosystem Leadership Project (ELP)

During their tenure, Ambassadors devise and complete an Ecosystem Leadership Project (ELP). This project creates a long-term benefit for veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs in the local area, making it easier for them to do business and launch ventures in your region. Ambassadors create their own project, evaluating their city or area of responsibility and determining the best fit between what entrepreneurs in their region needs the most, and what their skills can best accomplish.  An ELP might be creating a capital access resources list with veteran-friendly points of contact, or it might mean throwing a networking event or a pitch competition. It could mean creating a detailed entrepreneur ecosystem map or calendar for your region, listing some of the best resources, capital access opportunities, and partners in your area, and softening the ground with them so they’re ready to hear from veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs. 

And you don’t have to do it alone, you can bring a battle buddy with you. Ambassadors might team up with their local partner to take on a more challenging ELP, or maybe you’ll team up with an Ambassador in a different region to create a pipeline between the two, like connecting entrepreneurs in one region to retailers in another! What your project is, and who you do it with, is entirely up to you! 

Why Should I Become an Ambassador? 

Ambassadors are, at their core, guides to their local business communities, and the glue that connects Bunker Labs’ cohorts across the country. It’s an opportunity to mentor early-stage entrepreneurs, and connect them with the resources and networks that lead them to success.  

Being an Ambassador is a lot of work, but it’s also very rewarding work. You’re helping fellow veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs build something for themselves, and you’re growing the local business community for your entire city. It’s an intrinsically rewarding pursuit, but it has a few other benefits, as well.  

Position Yourself Center Stage 

As an Ambassador, you are at the center of your local veteran entrepreneur community for an entire year. The nature of the work means you’ll become an expert at navigating the geography of your local entrepreneur landscape, and you’ll become well-known to many more folks within it.  You’ll grow your prestige and influence locally, which is going to open doors for you personally long after you’ve hung up your Ambassador spurs. The credibility that comes with being a Bunker Labs Ambassador can create trust with other organizations, knowing you’re someone Bunker Labs has vetted as having their heart in the right place. 

In addition to being a master of your local scene, you’ll have access to fellow Ambassadors across the nation. This can give you access to unique partners when your venture hits growth-stage and is ready to expand regionally or even nationally. Getting an introduction from a fellow Ambassador who has a history with a contact is a much better situation than coming in cold from out of town.  

Develop Your Skills

Ambassadors have a unique skillset, some of which they should already bring to the table. However, Bunker Labs does provide three fly-ins where Ambassadors receive training on business ecosystem development, networking, event planning and hosting, project management, mentoring, and resource management. So while you might already be an expert in one or two of those areas, you’re going to shore up your skillset in those other areas as you undergo training and fulfill your role as Ambassador. These skills can pay dividends in future business endeavors. Knowing how to develop the local ecosystem for entrepreneurs means when you launch your next venture, you’re going to know exactly how to lay the groundwork and take optimal advantage of local opportunities and resources. 

Gain Insight 

The nature of your role is going to expose you to a variety of industries that might benefit your own business. You’ll gain insights into industry trends, challenges, and opportunities as you work with other entrepreneurs and resource managers. Being this close to the beating heart of entrepreneurship in America is a unique position that affords you to have a perspective on the marketplace few ever experience. You might find you have a sense of what trends are poised to sweep across the country just before they do, and insight like that can lead to opportunity. 

Think You Have What It Takes? 

Apply or submit you interest form to the Bunker Labs Ambassador program today!

Bunker Labs is Now Part of IVMF

As of January 2024, Bunker Labs is now a part of Syracuse University’s D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF). In addition to ongoing Bunker Labs programming, we’d encourage you to browse IVMF’s deep wealth of entrepreneurship programming, much of it available virtually or at locations across the country. Find the program to help your business take the next step today!