Interview with Janice Hamilton, CEO and founder of CarrotNewYork.
1. Tell us a little about Carrot New York and its mission.
Janice: CarrotNewYork is an education-based, cause-related marketing company that partners with organizations to launch education social responsibility programs in schools, at home, in communities and online. We have over 37 years of experience in changing behavior and impacting lives for the better.
We create these programs for Government Agencies, Corporations and non-profit organizations. Our areas of Expertise include health and wellness, environmental stewardship, financial literacy and issues that affect youth.
Our mantra is doing good while doing well. We are dedicated to making a difference in people’s lives.
2. Have you always been an entrepreneur? If not, what inspired you to take the leap?
Janice: Entrepreneurialism is part of my DNA. Amazing women in my family dating back to the 1880’s exhibited entrepreneurial, “can do” spirit.
I value the time I spent teaching, travelling the 17 Midwestern states giving programs in schools and experiencing the diversity of America, holding a management position in a Fortune 200 company, however I found my true calling when I established my business based upon my values and passions. Being able to create and work on programs that make a difference in people’s lives is a gift. In our 37 years, we have stayed true to that visions.
3. Have you encountered any challenges you had to overcome as a business woman and if so, what have you learned from them?
Janice: We have not encountered gender issues when working with the government. In fact, we were nominated by a wonderful male client and won USDA Woman Contractor of the Year. Of course, there is a challenge of too few RFPs as women set asides.
For many years in the corporate sector we found it advantageous to always have a man on the presentation team, something that as a woman bothered me. However, after 37 years in business with excellent past performance, we haven’t faced this challenge in over ten years. The biggest lesson is to always know your audience.
Our first government contract was for FDA on the Science and Our Food Supply. It’s a program for middle and high school students. Our challenge was to engage the young people through fun science experiments, a video with Dr. X and his Search for Food Safety teacher engagement lessons and an resource guide Food Safety from A to Z
The video won an EMMY. We’ve updated the program three times and it still is used by thousands of teachers and students throughout the US thanks to the ongoing teacher training program.
5. What is the biggest lesson learned working with the federal government?
Janice: The biggest challenges relate to time – everything takes more time when doing work the government:
- At the beginning, it was the time to prepare the GSA submission (we did it ourselves – not recommended, then time to learn the government-eze and the differences between the agencies we work for plus all the compliance issues.
- Developing proposals for government RFPs and contracts is very different from proposals for the private sector. The proposals are much more detailed, and follow a strict format. They are very time intensive
- The long approval time, especially when the project has to go through OMB approval. This can put a project back four We have one client where approvals go through the department approvals, a dietary guidelines committee and OMB. Often the approval time is more than half the time scheduled for the whole project. This makes scheduling staff time very difficult.
6. Do you have any tips you would like to share with other women pursuing federal contracts?
Janice: Get help from professionals to prepare your GSA submission. They can save your months of trials and errors.
Relationships are imperative. People like to work with people they trust – government clients particularly are averse to risk.
7. Tell us about your experience as a WIPP member. What resources/value has WIPP provided that has been helpful to you and your company?
Janice: WIPP has been invaluable in our work with government. The Give Me 5 sessions have helped me and my team better understand the workings of government. They have been essential in keeping us up to date with what’s happening in the government space. Perhaps even more important has been the relationships formed – having someone to call when I need information, advice or other contacts. We value the many advances for women owned businesses due to WIPPs tireless work.