After running a successful business for nearly 20 years, Debbie Banko, the founder and CEO of Link Technologies in Las Vegas, knows the importance of networking. And the importance of networking with other women business owners, in particular.
It’s why, after running a business that does nearly 40 percent of its business with the federal government, Debbie still loves attending events like ChallengeHER—a national initiative to boost government contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses—where she continues to reap the benefits of networking with other women business owners in the federal contracting space.
“Women have to help each other,” said Debbie, who attended a recent ChallengerHER event in Las Vegas. “It was great to meet all those wonderful women, and hear the questions they have—it almost made me feel nostalgic for building something. To be in a room with all these entrepreneurial women and hear about the options for us in the federal contracting space was great. What’s more, there are few things better than networking with and doing business with other women. I even have some dinners set up with potential partners that came out of the event!”
In addition to networking, Debbie said the information provided at ChallengeHER is invaluable. Given the speed at which rules and regulations change or are being updated, and the complexity of many of the regulations and processes, events like ChallengerHER are essential for women who want and need to keep ahead of the game.
“For a new business owner just starting their company, ChallengeHER is one of the best events I’ve seen—and I’ve seen a lot of them over the years,” Debbie said. “Even for someone like me who’s been doing this a long time, this event had something for everyone. The laws are changing, and everyone at ChallengeHER knew exactly what they were talking about and had the latest information.”
Debbie ‘s business, which is an IT engineering and consulting firm, has around 150 employees, some fulltime staff and some contractors. She specializes in IT security, compliance, governance, information sharing and project management. Debbie started the business by herself, armed with $10,000 in start-up capital she had saved herself and a whole lot of drive and ambition.
That drive, her work ethic and a little “right time, right place” synergy helped her land her first government contract in her first year in business at the Naval Air Station in Fallon, Nevada, several hours north of her headquarters in Las Vegas.
Doing business with the federal government has been a boon to her business.
“I like the government contracts,” Debbie said. “If you are a good partner and do good work, you’re good. It’s hard to get in, but once you get in, you’re definitely a partner.”
For women business owners who haven’t been able to land a government contract, events like ChallengeHER are excellent ways to learn exactly what they need to do to become one of the government’s go-to partners.
“For any woman business owner out there struggling to understand, help is out there,” Debbie said. “There are no silver bullets, and you have to help yourself, too, but resources like ChallengeHER, the Small Business Administration, Procurement Technical Assistance Centers—they’re all there to help. Any woman business owner who wants to get into government contracting should use them.”
What’s more, events like ChallengeHER show women business owners that they can partner with other women business owners to increase their chances of winning government contracts, or simply boosting their businesses.
“The best lesson I’ve learned is to try always try to partner with other women business owners like yourself,” Debbie said.