The Barstool Fund and Black Rifle Coffee Want to Help Veteran-Owned Businesses

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Evan Hafer and Black Rifle Coffee Company employees. (Courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)

Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy was sick of how lawmakers in Washington were (or weren't) supporting American small businesses, so he decided to do something about it.

In December 2020, he created the Barstool Fund with $500,000 pledged to support anyone who asked until the end of the pandemic.

Evan Hafer, an Army Special Forces veteran who started Black Rifle Coffee Company in his garage, is now joining Portnoy and the Barstool Fund's 215,000 backers to get more help to veteran-owned small businesses.

(Black Rifle Coffee Company/Twitter)

In little more than two months, the Barstool Fund has raised $35 million for American small-business owners to help them stay open and provide income for their employees.

Any small business is eligible to apply to the Barstool Fund for help. All you have to do is email the fund -- barstoolfund@barstoolsports.com, tell them how much your business needs to survive, and the fund will cut a check every month until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

The one rule is that all Barstool Fund recipients must keep their employees on the payroll.

The government-funded Paycheck Protection Program provided funds for only eight weeks of support, with businesses allowed to apply for 250% of their operating expenses. But COVID-19 restrictions have been in place for nearly a full year in many places.

"How do you expect these people to survive?" Portnoy says in a video on the Barstool Fund website. "Small-business owners are losing their livelihood through no fault of their own."

Pandemic-related restrictions have hit veteran businesses hard. According to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, an estimated 30% of the 21.2 million veteran-owned businesses in the U.S. were shuttered by June 2020.

"I don't care how I'll get the money," Portnoy said. "If I have to raise more money, if I have to pay it myself, whatever it is, I'll get creative."

For veteran-owned businesses, that's where Black Rifle Coffee Company comes in. Aside from throwing in an additional $150,000 to the Barstool Fund, BRCC has a donate at checkout option for its customers to contribute to the fund to support veteran business.

On Feb. 11, Black Rifle co-founder and Executive Vice President Mat Best announced that he would throw in another $100,000 of his own money to support the fund for veteran-owned businesses.

"Working with the Barstool Fund is a no-brainer for us. What they're doing for small businesses is incredible, and supporting their efforts gives us the opportunity to stand by our own community -- the military and veteran community," Hafer says. "The strain that COVID-19 and related measures have put on small-business owners is staggering and -- in addition to that -- veteran entrepreneurs face stresses that are often invisible to the civilian community. By donating to the Barstool Fund, we're elevating those issues and helping out our own."

The Barstool Fund raises money the way many crowdfunding sites do, but operates separately from those sites. Donations go toward individual businesses until they're fully funded; then, the next business is put up for crowdfunding. Donations to Black Rifle's efforts will go specifically toward veteran-owned businesses.

Barstool is also using its only store to sell merchandise with various small-business logos, with 100% of the proceeds going to those businesses.

Recipients of aid from the Barstool Fund are not expected to repay the funds once restrictions are lifted. If they reach solvency before then, they are encouraged to "pay it forward," contributing what they can to the fund to help others.

In less than two months, the Barstool Fund has kept 216 small businesses and their employees working, raising more than $35 million. The site is updated every five minutes.

To support the Barstool Fund or learn more about it, visit the website.

To specifically support veteran-owned businesses through the fund, make a purchase at Black Rifle Coffee Company. Once a product is added to your cart, a green "Donate Direct to Charity" dropdown menu will appear. Simply select the Barstool Fund.

Veteran-owned businesses in need can apply for Barstool Fund support like any other business. Just email barstoolfund@barstoolsports.com and tell them about your business and what it needs to stay open -- and keep employees on the payroll.

You can also apply online through the Barstool Fund's form page.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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