Administered by the Small Business Administration, the 7(a) loan program is a loan guarantee program designed to encourage lenders to provide loans to small businesses that might not be able to otherwise obtain financing. During the first half of FY17, the 7(a) loan program saw an increased demand with approvals 9% higher than in the first half FY16. This lead Congress to include an appropriations provision to increase the program’s authorization limit to $27.5 billion for FY17 from $26.5 billion in FY16.
The just passed continuing resolution to fund the government included a provision on the program. It authorized SBA to use more funding so they could administer the 7(a) program with increased demand.
After a three-day shut down, Senate leaders reached an agreement to fund the government through February 8. The Senate voted 81-18 to pass the measure, shortly followed by the House, which passed it 266-150. The deal was based on a commitment by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to find a solution for Dreamers to remain in the U.S. until February 8. The agreement includes:
- Authorizes the Small Business Administration to shift funding to administer increased 7(a) loan demand
- Delays the re-implementation of the Obamacare medical device tax through 2019
- Delays the re-implementation of the tax on “Cadillac” health plans through 2022
- Suspends the Obamacare tax on insurance providers for 2019
- A provision to provide back pay to workers who were briefly furloughed
- A six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
The continuing resolution (CR) includes other provisions which can be found here.
This is the fourth CR for FY18. As a reminder, a CR funds the government at current levels, in this case, FY17 levels. Having trouble keeping track of the CRs for FY18? See below.
CRs for FY18
- September 30, 2017: First Deadline for FY18 – CR extended funding through December 8, 2017 (passed by Congress on September 8)
- December 8, 2017: Second Deadline for FY18 – CR extended funding through December 22, 2017 (passed by Congress on December 7)
- December 22, 2017: Third Deadline for FY18 – CR extended funding through January 19, 2018 (passed by Congress on December 21)
- January 19, 2018: Fourth Deadline for FY18 – CR extended through February 8, 2018 (passed by Congress on January 22)
- Note: The House passed a CR on January 18 to fund the government through February 16. After House passage, the Senate amended the CR by changing the expiration date from February 16 to February 8 and including the back-pay provision. The Senate then passed the amended bill yesterday afternoon, with the House following suit on January 22. President Trump signed the bill into law that night.
January Letter From WIPP President Jane Campbell
Happy New Year!
Washington was hit by a deep freeze at the beginning of January, causing a bit of a slow start for Congress. But national politics has already resumed its’ torrid pace.
Don’t worry, Women Impacting Public Policy, with cool heads and thoughtful deliberation, will continue to advance and advocate for meaningful public policy that has a positive impact on women business owners.
We are off to a great start. This week, we held an informative and well-attended policy briefing to help our members understand the intricacies and impacts of new developments, like the tax law, in Washington. This will be a new monthly series where members can ask WIPP’s Chief Advocate Ann Sullivan and me questions about the rapidly shifting policy landscape.
On top of our policy work, we are planning a new series of ChallengeHER events across the country to deliver the information and connections women need to succeed in government contracting. We are also busy lining up an informative slate of GiveMe5 webinars to provide members with government contracting knowledge delivered by experts in the field. From taking the first steps into contracting to learning what to do once you’ve landed a big government contract, these webinars are an indispensable resource!
As you can see, WIPP is on track to accomplish many amazing things this year. But it’s your voice and membership that makes us powerful in Washington. And it’s more important than ever that women entrepreneurs make their voices heard. After all, if we are not at the table, we will only get the scraps.
WIPP is a nonpartisan organization that brings women from all walks of life and both sides of the aisle together to speak with one voice about what women in business need to succeed. Please consider joining us today.
As an in-demand video producer, Nashville-based Alba Gonzalez-Nylander is experienced at making others feel comfortable in front of the camera.
Although resistant to taking her own advice, Alba overcame her shyness on August 2 to join other women business owners to speak on a ChallengeHER panel in Nashville. Organized by Women Impacting Public Policy, the Small Business Administration and American Express OPEN, ChallengHER workshops throughout the U.S. are designed to connect women-owned businesses with the resources they need to successfully pursue federal contracts. The government, historically, has fallen short of targets set for contracting with women entrepreneurs—an issue ChallengHER seeks to address.
“It’s so funny—I’m very comfortable behind the camera telling folks what to do, but don’t put me in front of the camera,” said Alba, noting that her first experience speaking at a ChallengeHER event was nonetheless a great opportunity to share how she strategically grew her business through government contracting. “ChallengeHER is amazing. I wish I had been able to attend an event like this because there is so much to learn about becoming successful in government contracting. With the right tools, it can be a wonderful avenue for women to succeed in business.”
Born in Venezuela, Alba came to the U.S. in 1984 and attended UCLA before finishing her Bachelor’s of Arts degree from Southern California’s Columbia College in television engineering and production. While at school, she worked for Univision, which sponsored her to stay in the U.S., where she eventually became a citizen.
She worked in broadcast television in Los Angeles for many years, including stints at Fox Sports, E!, Disney and Sony before moving to Nashville to work for TNN. In 2010, wanting to start her own business, she met Jennifer Fritz, an experienced wedding videographer, and after two years of researching niche markets, the duo realized the potential in government contracting.
An early government gig for AJ Media Services was with the Ft. Lauderdale Fire Department in Florida, a job that afforded them the opportunity to defy perceived limitations based on their gender by shooting a series of physically challenging fire-training videos.
“Being a woman business owner, especially in the kind of business we are in, mainly male-oriented, the expectation is that, as a woman, I cannot be going around with a camera and taking the shot,” she said. “But then they realized we work really hard and can do things like anybody else. I was on a balcony with firemen around me and very close to the fire.”
Repeat business with fire departments and universities became an important path toward building a portfolio of government work. But Alba said building a strong business in contracting involves constant researching of requests for proposals and staying nimble enough to respond to fluctuations in the market.
“It all depends on when governments decide to do video production,” Alba said. “At the end of the year, sometimes governments and universities realize they haven’t used certain pots of money so they decide to do a video. It isn’t every single year. Maybe they will wait five years before doing another video.”
To other women looking to enter federal contracting, Alba recommended getting certified with the Small Business Administration and their home state as a woman-owned enterprise. The next step is registering with the federal contract management system, establishing an interesting and up-to-date profile, and searching procurement forecasts.
“You can get ahead of the crowd and really be prepared when those things come in,” she said. “And attend government contracting events. That is huge. People need to get to know you and see your capabilities.”
Now the sole proprietor of AJ Media Services, Alba is seeking approval for the General Services Administration’s 8(a) Schedule so she can be even more competitive in the contracting marketplace. She’s ready to take her can-do work ethic and diversify her client base using what she called “the magic touch.”
“I have to work 12 to 15 hours a day sometimes to go the extra mile,” Alba said. “I know what the clients want—giving the human touch to everything. I don’t know if it’s the feminine side, but I always find a way to make people cry, in a good way.”
Neva Gardner never expected to own a successful fence construction company let alone work directly with the U.S. government.
Yet, since 2004, the Idaho businesswoman has made major in-roads with Homeland Security and other agencies by strategically pursuing opportunities to compete, building a coast-to-coast reputation, and staying on top of regulatory shifts in the complex world of federal contracting.
Neva has twice served as a panelist at free ChallengerHER events in Boise, Idaho, to share her experience navigating a system that historically has fallen short of targets set for working with women contractors. The workshops organized by Women Impacting Public Policy, the Small Business Administration and American Express OPEN, are designed to be a one-stop-shop for connecting women-owned businesses with organizations and other resources to successfully pursue federal contracts.
In addition to launching as a woman-owned business to differentiate her company, Neva established a “set aside” as a service-disabled military veteran by joining the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program for socially or economically disadvantaged business owners.
Of her interactions with ChallengeHER participants, Neva said, “Several women asked me how I did this or that, and it encouraged them to follow through with things they already knew or it got them thinking, ‘Oh, I can do that.’ Everything I have, I had to work for. Just because I had a ‘set aside’ doesn’t mean I had people knocking down my door for a contract.”
Neva founded Purgatory Fence Company in 2004, remaking a previous fence business her husband, Gary Plumlee, had started under a different name. “I had built fences with a baby on my back, and then started to realize that maybe I better help in a bigger way.”
Neva started going after government jobs once she learned the highly technical process of successfully completing bids. As president and CEO, Neva has largely kept the company away from commercial and residential projects, opting instead for federal agencies that provide steady work and pay invoices in a timely fashion.
“We started with barbed wire and built fences for the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service,” she said. “Then, we got into a lot of chain-fence and high-security projects for military installations.”
Getting approved for the General Services Administration’s 8(a) Schedule was a boon as there are not many fencing companies that carry that designation. But, as she has warned ChallengeHER participants, “Don’t ever put all your eggs in one basket. We never said we can only do 8(a) contracts. We still look out there on the Federal Business Opportunities website. We do market research.”
Another key to success has been keeping costs low and responding only to bids her company actually has the capacity to tackle, typically contracts of $500,000 or less that don’t merit hiring a project manager, Neva said. Purgatory’s primary employees are still Neva and her husband, and they prefer to hire subcontractors near the locations where they earn contracts rather than employ a full-time crew.
ChallengeHER events provide a venue for Neva to lend useful guidance to other women building a federal contracting enterprise. In addition to helping them understand how to start the process and market their businesses, she encourages them to be thoughtful about their trajectory—wisdom that she did not have the benefit of when she got into federal contracting.
“I had to figure it out on my own. I never had anybody teach me. I just did my research and moved forward,” Neva said. “We started the company with a credit card, and everything was borrowed. Now we’re a multi-million-dollar company. We live in a small rural market yet we travel all over the country doing jobs. You have to figure out who you want to be. You can still be small and do big dollars.”
At the first export networking meeting Lisa Phillip attended, she was warned that, unless her family had been in the male-dominated export industry for generations, she had little chance to become an exporter, let alone be successful. Undaunted, she started her now hugely successful company in 2002 at home while pursuing a master’s degree in business administration.
“Two years after starting Hybas, I had the nerve to diversify the business and get into the oil and gas industry, too, which was really dominated by men,” Lisa said. I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’ But I remembered what my father told me as a little girl—you can conquer anything and succeed if you have confidence and self-discipline. I remember those exact words.”
With the Dot-Com economy improving, the former Exxon and Compaq employee earned her first contract six months before graduating. In an era before the Internet was widely developed, Lisa taught herself the ropes the old-fashioned way by doing research in the library, going to export workshops, networking at conferences, attending trade missions, and building on referrals.
Lisa’s Houston-based business, Hybas International, LLC—From American 2U, now exports a variety of American products overseas with three employees, three contractors and a supply chain of bulk carriers, vessel carriers and truck drivers. Responding to a need for more women and minority small businesses to enter the federal contracting market, Lisa added a new client to her portfolio in 2016: the U.S. government.
Her five-year contract provides chemicals and supplies to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which has added stability to the growth of her company—a success story she shared at a recent ChallengeHER event in Houston organized by Women Impacting Public Policy, the Small Business Administration and American Express OPEN.
“For the longest time, we didn’t even have an office,” Lisa said. “All of our business transactions were for hazardous bulk purchases that could never come to an office. My philosophy in business is, ‘Don’t buy what you don’t have to.’ We purchased an office/warehouse when we could buy one and when we needed one. As a result of this business practice, we are a debt-free company and own all of our assets. When the economy spirals downward, we can withstand it.”
Lisa had first sought a government contract about 10 years ago but didn’t know how to navigate the time-consuming, painstaking process of qualifying and competing. Now, at ChallengeHER workshops across the country, women can learn the ropes and make personal connections that empower and equip them to successfully pursue federal contracts by working through red tape.
“Understandably, a lot of people aren’t willing to do the homework required to learn how to submit bids correctly,” said Lisa. “That’s why it’s so important to attend ChallengeHER events. Not only are you exposed to all the resources necessary to be competitive, but you meet other women who have faced similar challenges trying to break into the business of working with the government.”
ChallengeHER participants connect with the Small Business Administration, Procurement Technical Assistance Centers and other government contractors to learn step-by-step directions on how to complete Requests for Proposals or Requests for Qualifications that determine who earns federal contracts.
“It’s a great deal of work to get a federal contract—putting the solicitation together, waiting to see if you won the bid, and if you lose, finding the energy to go after another one,” Lisa said. “While that’s true for any job you don’t get, knowing what you’re up against before you try is so critical.”
In addition to establishing a company within the federal contracting system, other topics explored at ChallengeHer events include marketing and writing proposals, funding a contract, subcontracting to vendors, and leveraging certifications as a woman-owned business. The opportunity for free networking with potential buyers and contacts outside the federal government is priceless for business owners.
“Building relationships takes place, but you have to be there,” Lisa said. “And you have to follow up with who you meet and what you learn to get the most out of it.”
Lisa is grateful for the opportunity to share her success with and learn from other women at ChallengeHER. She has also made business connections directly with other participants.
“We are dynamic people. We get things done,” she said. “If it’s something you want, you will work hard to do it.”
Yvonne Ballard learned a lot about decorating from her mother, most notably how to make a beautiful home on a tight budget. It’s a skill that is foundational to her interior design firm based in Cincinnati.
As a certified minority woman-owned business, Yvonne is ready to expand beyond private clients into the world of government contracting. She attended a ChallengeHER workshop in September to learn more about contracting and to meet with other women business owners who have successfully navigated that competitive marketplace.
“It was incredibly useful—I could talk to people directly who could help guide me through this process,” Yvonne said. “I was able to make some connections that will help me build relationships for the future.”
The event took place at the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority office she had visited numerous times growing up. She found herself dreaming of helping CMHA with design services for its subsidized housing units.
“The majority of my life we lived in poverty,” Yvonne said. “I want to take part in being able to give back to my community by elevating subsidized living environments.”
Held throughout the year in cities across the nation, ChallengeHER events are designed to be a one-stop-shop for women business owners who are either breaking into government contracting or are already serving government clients and want to keep up-to-date on the latest strategies. Sponsored by Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), the Small Business Administration and American Express, the free workshops provide resources and support, as well as expert panelists and networking.
Yvonne plans to register her business, which is called “NOVE home&body décor” on government contracting vendor lists to begin exploring opportunities. She opened her business in 2013 with the mission of blending interior design with fashion, and has been nominated for 2017 Women of Influence by Venue Magazine & Lead Cincinnati.
“Initially people didn’t understand how fashion and design could be married. But really, a space and a body are both canvasses,” she said. “My goal is to help clients transform and solidify their brand through style and design concepts to create an exclusive look.
Yvonne is the sole owner of the company, which has four employees and looks to hire another eight workers in 2018, as well as partner with architectural firms and pursue government contracts.
“That’s why ChallengeHER was so beneficial, because I was able to ask a lot of questions of people who have been through the process,” she said. “I could go on a website and read about contracting, but getting the chance to speak face-to-face with women from other companies is much more informative.”
Yvonne would recommend ChallengeHER events to other women entrepreneurs.
“We definitely need more programs like this, mainly because by being a woman you already face so many obstacles,” she said. “For women who were thinking about contracting, attending ChallengeHER will encourage them to actually take the initiative to get started. There is strength in numbers.”
WIPP was busy this year educating policymakers, women business owners, the media and the public about what women business owners need to succeed. From bringing women entrepreneurs directly to some of the most powerful lawmakers in the country, to meeting women entrepreneurs where they live and do business to educate them on how to bolster their businesses, WIPP was at the forefront of issues impacting women in business in 2017.
A sampling of our (many) accomplishments are highlighted below:
Educating Thousands of Women Business Owners Nationwide
- WIPP held 12 ChallengeHER events in cities across the country, training more than 2,100 women on the best practices for success in federal contracting; including 5 match making events with federal agencies and primes. WIPP has educated more than 10,000 attendees through its classes that range from those who are new to the process to those highly experienced. Learn more about ChallengeHER, and read about some of the success stories that have come out of the program.
- WIPP produced 30 Give Me 5 training webinars increasing the free, on-line curriculum to approximately 120 downloadable recordings. Reaching over 3,000 people this year, these training webinars were taught by industry specialist and federal contracting experts.
- More than 200 women business owners joined WIPP and Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers for a discussion on venture funding and women owned small business. The discussion explored how to encourage venture capital investment in women, the process of lending for SBICs, and how women business owners can approach venture capitalists.
Impacting Policy at the Highest Levels
- The president signed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law, which includes a provision directing the Small Business Administration to study small business participation on Multiple Award Contracts. The SBA study is in response to a WIPP report revealing that women small business owners are being shut out of large government contracts. Learn more about WIPP’s study.
- WIPP surveyed 515 WIPP-affiliated women business owners nationwide on how they use the tax code and worked with American University’s Kogod Tax Policy Center to use the survey data to research how the tax code impacts women business owners. The survey data – together with Kogod’s review of existing tax research on the topic – suggests that many women-owned companies are unable to fully access more than $255 billion worth of tax incentives Congress has designed to help small businesses. The study was picked up exclusively by the Associated Press and was featured in hundreds of papers across the country. Learn more about the report in an op-ed WIPP President Jane Campbell authored in Entrepreneur magazine.
- WIPP brought women business owners to Washington to testify at tax hearings and help inform the framework for the House Small Business agenda.
- WIPP’s Economic Blueprint, which outlines a range of economic policy recommendations lawmakers can follow to help women entrepreneurs thrive, was featured in Forbes. Read WIPP President Jane Campbell’s op-ed outlining WIPP’s Economic Blueprint in The Hill.
- WIPP secured powerful politicians to speak at WIPP’s annual conference so they could hear directly from women business owners on what they want out of Washington. Lawmakers included House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), House and Senate small business committee tax experts and Senate Small Business Committee leadership.
- WIPP’s advocacy efforts throughout the tax reform debate—which included submitting comments to the Senate Finance Committee urging parity for pass through entities and repeal of the estate and AMT taxes—were instrumental in securing a pass-through carve out, along with the agreement to double the estate tax exemption from the current $5.6 million per individual to $11.2 million ($22 million for couples). WIPP members authored op-eds, letters to the editor and did interviews with reporters on the issue to ensure the women-owned business perspective was breaking through.
- WIPP’s advocacy team worked to maintain funding for programs important to WIPP, such as the Women’s Business Centers, microloan lending programs and more.
- WIPP submitted testimony to Congress and statements to the media urging stability of the small business health insurance marketplaces and that Congress keep in place a pooling mechanism for small businesses to buy health insurance.
- WIPP encouraged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to support the implementation of Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act requiring financial institutions to gather and report data on small business lending, including applications made by women and minority owners. Read our press statement and our comments to the CFPB.
- WIPP supported the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act.
- WIPP was mentioned in more than 60 news articles in 2017, ensuring the women business owner perspective was heard throughout national debates around tax reform, the federal budget, entrepreneurship and more. We had articles in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Financial Times, The Hill newspaper, The Atlantic, the Business Journals, Reuters, the Associated Press, Morning Consult, Bloomberg, the Chicago Tribune, NBC and many more.
Supporting Small Businesses on Small Business Saturday
- 2017 saw record support from business organizations through the Small Business Saturday Coalition, the national grassroots initiative that WIPP leads to promote Small Business Saturday, with more than 575 organizations nationwide supporting small businesses on Small Business Saturday—an 18% increase over previous years.
- Organizations WIPP engaged to support Small Business Saturday included the National Retail Federation, Association of Women’s Business Centers, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., and SCORE, as did local organizations such as the Chicago Public Library, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Iowa and many, many others.
- WIPP’s leadership around the Small Business Saturday Coalition was instrumental in promoting 7,200 events and activities celebrating Small Business Saturday nationwide, engaging more than 2.2 million small businesses.
- The Coalition secured 653 mayoral proclamations in support of Small Business Saturday nationwide and ensure numerous public service announcements were issued promoting the day.
- WIPP secured passage of a Senate Resolution designating Small Business Saturday and introduction of House Resolution and engaged 240 Members of Congress in Small Business Saturday activities.
When Erica Courtney counsels women business owners about contracting with the federal government, she has a multitude of perspectives to draw upon.
During her 14 years of service in the Army, she was a buyer of goods and services from contractors. She knows first hand what federal procurement personnel are looking for when reviewing applications. And although not much has changed in the last two decades in terms of rules and regulations for contracting, Courtney has a few tricks of the trade to share now that she seeks contracts as an entrepreneur.
“It is certainly not an easy market to crack, but the bottom line is you are dealing with people, not with the government itself,” she said. “You have to be able in 30 seconds to give a solid pitch for your business that makes sense to them. What makes you different? Why should I care? And provide a total solution and best value because they want everything fulfilled.”
Courtney served on a panel at ChallengeHER in Silver Spring, Maryland in July 2017. ChallengeHER consists of all-day workshops—organized by Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), American Express and the Small Business Administration—that are designed to be a one-stop-shop for connecting women-owned businesses with organizations and other resources to successfully pursue federal contracts.
At ChallengeHER events, Courtney zeroes in on women veterans in the room to make sure they understand how the skills they learned in the service can translate to competitiveness in government contracting.
“In the military, we have to essentially compete in a man’s world and it’s hard for women to transition to what it means to be a woman in the business world,” she said. “Sometimes they lose the confidence they had in the service. But I got into the corporate world after my service and later started my own businesses, so I know how to bridge the cultural military-civilian divide and enjoy helping others ‘fast track’ their careers through a little bit of tough love and peer-peer mentorship.”
Courtney joined WIPP four years ago after attending one of the organization’s meetings in Washington, D.C. She realized she had a lot to share with other women business leaders, and a lot to learn from WIPP because it stays up to date on best practices for contracting. She was highly impressed by the caliber of other WIPP leaders, and therefore has continued her involvement.
“It’s good for women to hear perspectives from people who are knuckle-grinding because they’re new to contracting, as well as women who have been doing it for 20 years,” she said. “Most of the WIPP ChallengeHer events consist of start-ups so they appreciate when the women on the panel share our joys and pitfalls of small business ownership.”
During her service as an aviator, paratrooper and senior logistical and contracting officer in the Army, she was responsible for deploying 2,400 personnel, $750 million in equipment and $200 million budgets.
“I had to procure everything from barbecues to armament,” she said. “I became pretty familiar with vendors and knew as a buyer pretty quickly if contractors knew how to do business with the government. Understanding the language is crucial.”
After leaving active duty, Courtney earned her Masters of Business Administration degree and entered the corporate environment. So many business owners started seeking her advice about how to successfully pursue government contracting that she opened her own consulting firm, which she sold after five years.
She now serves in the Army Reserves working on international women’s initiatives and is focused on running her newest business, 2020Vet, a firm with offices in Virginia and California that offers logistics optimization performing everything from acquisition, inventory management, distribution and reverse logistics. The second focus is on forensic engineering capturing data and presenting it in a clear, concise way through aviation, scientific and engineering subject matter experts and technologies. Founded in 2014, the company helps commercial and government organizations make better informed decisions in a faster, cheaper and safer way than traditional inspection, surveying or delivery means.
Courtney said she has multi-year commitments with Pacific Gas & Electric, as well as First Five California, an education agency. Now she is looking to expand into federal contracting, which is familiar territory that she helps other veterans and women business owners navigate.
“I tell them, ‘You have to build a team, demonstrate that you have the best value and know how to market yourself,’” Courtney said of the women she meets at ChallengeHER events. “You have to have an effective capability statement. My business is registered as a woman-owned and service disability veteran owned. But I tell women business owners, ‘Don’t ever lead off with that. Tell them what you can do and leave a positive impression.’”