Few titles in American culture earn such wide reverence as that of “veteran.” John Krotec, an enlisted man in the Army himself, knows that from life experience, but also from market research. The founder of GreenZone Hero commissioned a consumer survey in December and found that 97 percent of Americans said they would rather do business with companies that publicly supported veterans. “It was eye-opening,” the Sarasota entrepreneur says. “And it reaffirms we are creating a national movement.”
Krotec launched GreenZone Hero last year as a way to create a network of businesses that include the support of veterans in their business models, be it through special discounts or hiring programs. Those enlisted in the campaign get vinyl medals that can be displayed in storefront windows, lobby walls or other marketing material, from the green “Offers Discounts” to the purple “Hires Disabled Veterans” ribbons.
Since the online launch, Krotec has signed up more than 150 businesses in 14 different states, from Sarasota-based companies such as Benderson Development to national brands like Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q. And the program continues to expand into more specialized services as well. GreenZone last year held its first Blood, Sweat and Craft Beers campaign to recognize craft breweries that back servicemen and women. This year, Krotec hopes to find a brewery in all 50 states that will brew a special GreenZone Hero beverage on a single day.
Krotec’s newest campaign celebrated Gold Star families—those who lost a family member in combat. From the launch of GreenZone, Krotec quietly offered free listings to businesses owned by Gold Star families and now, he wants to launch a wide celebration of these business people’s personal sacrifice. “This whole thing started out basically as a niche marketing campaign,” Krotec says, “but now it’s so much more.”