WIPP and WBENC Join Forces to Further Support Women Entrepreneurs, New WIPP President Announced!

Today, Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) are announcing a new partnership that will enable both organizations to strengthen their education and advocacy efforts to support women business owners across the country and at the public policy table.

Candace Waterman

Candace Waterman

WIPP and WBENC have forged a National Partner Organization agreement that will make WIPP’s public policy advocacy and federal procurement education programs a key part of the benefits that WBENC’s 14 Regional Partner Organizations offer to their members. In return, WBENC will add the voices of its 14,000 certified women-owned businesses to WIPP’s national advocacy work in Washington.

“WIPP’s legislative and regulatory successes directly impact the success of women business owners. Our presence in Washington is enhanced by WBENC’s powerful network of women businesses beyond the Beltway. WIPP’s education and advocacy tools will strengthen the fastest growing business sector of our nation’s economy,” said WIPP Board Chair Lisa Firestone.

WBENC is the largest third-party certifier of businesses owned, controlled, and operated by women in the United States. WBENC provides business development opportunities for member corporations, government agencies and more than 14,000 certified women-owned businesses at events and other forums.

“I am so excited about this new partnership opportunity and strengthening our relationship with WIPP,” says Pamela Prince-Eason, president and CEO of WBENC. “I have no doubt this will have a positive impact on our network of women-owned businesses and those who support them.”

In addition, Candace Waterman, WBENC’s vice president of certification and program operations, will join WIPP as its President on May 1, 2018. Waterman’s tenure at WBENC ensured a world-class certification standard now relied upon by thousands of corporations and government agencies, and that leadership experience in the development of women-owned businesses will provide immediate value to WIPP.

“Through its tireless advocacy efforts and valuable educational offerings, WIPP has been a true leader in the effort to give women entrepreneurs a seat at the table. I’m thrilled to be joining an organization that has accomplished somuch,” Waterman said. “I look forward to building on those accomplishments and working to ensure women’s entrepreneurship continues on an upward trajectory of growth and success.”

“Candace has proven herself a fierce advocate for women business owners over the years,” Firestone said. “The breadth of expertise and experience she will bring to WIPP is invaluable and we’re honored to have her join our team.”

This Women’s History Month, Show the Power of Women Business Owners

Happy International Women’s Day—let’s celebrate by showing our might online! March is Women’s History Month, and throughout the month WIPP will be coordinating a Twitter campaign that highlights those who make the women’s business community an economic powerhouse. Join us in demonstrating how important women business owners are by tweeting about women business owners you find inspiring, either from history or the modern day, and tagging @WIPPWeDecide. We’ll amplify your post with our audience. Keep an eye on Twitter as WIPP members discuss the women they find inspiring. There are sure to be some great stories!

Speaking of inspiring women, we want to give you the opportunity to get to know WIPP’s board better. We’re starting with Board Chair Lisa Firestone. Here is a short Q&A with Lisa.

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Lisa Firestone, WIPP Board Chair

Q. How long have you been a member of WIPP?

A. I have been a member of WIPP since 2009.

Q. Why did you join WIPP?

A. In 2005, my company Managed Care Advisors, won its first government contract and it quickly became very clear that contracting with the federal government was incredibly complex—from understanding its culture to navigating its regulations and best practices. After receiving certification through WBENC, I was told WIPP was “the organization to belong to if you were interested in government contracting.” I went to my first WIPP annual meeting and was immediately impressed with the speakers, the caliber of women who attended, and resources that are available. I knew that if I had time to get involved with one organization, WIPP was it!

Q. What about WIPP is most beneficial for your business?

A. When I first joined, I needed to get educated in federal contracting. WIPP provided me with educational resources, access to technical experts and introductions to other women business owners who were experienced contractors and willing to mentor, educate and guide me. In addition to becoming well-versed in government contracting, I had the opportunity to work with WIPP members with expertise in cyber security, contracting law and government relations. They all played significant roles in the continued growth and maturity of my company. Personally, WIPP has also given me the opportunity to do things that I would have never dreamed possible—testifying on Capitol Hill, meeting legislators, and mentoring other entrepreneurs.

WIPP has not only supported the growth of my company, it has supported my growth and confidence as a leader. This organization is special—its culture is supportive, positive and uplifting and one of advocating on behalf of ALL women entrepreneurs. At WIPP, you are among people who you truly enjoy and trust and you are in an environment where you will celebrate each other’s success.

Tax Withholding Guidance Released

Taxes 2.jpegThe IRS recently released a notice providing the 2018 income tax withholding tables, showing the new rates for employees. The tables reflect changes made by the tax bill that was signed into law last month, including the increase in the standard deduction, repeal of personal exemptions, and changes in tax rates and brackets. They are designed to work with the Forms W-4 that employees have already filed with their employers.
The IRS is directing employers to implement the new withholding tables as soon as possible, but no later than February 15, 2018. This guidance is the first of several items that the agency plans to release this year in order to simplify the transition of the new rules.
For the IRS’s FAQ on the Tax Withholding Timetables, click here.

Need For 7(a) Lending Addressed in CR

WIPP and SBALinda 2.jpgAdministered 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.

Government Shutdown Comes to an End

capitol building.pngAfter 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.
Members Answer WIPP’s Call to Action!
On January 19, as the Senate was trying to find a way to keep the government open, we issued and Action Alert asking WIPP members to contact their senators about the shutdown. We’re proud to report that the Action Alert resulted in nearly 50 letters sent to Senators urging them to keep the government operating and telling them that shutdowns are bad for women business owners.
Thank you for making your voice heard and watch for future opportunities to engage!

2018 will be a big year for WIPP. Please join us!

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.

Jane Campbell photo

WIPP President Jane Campbell

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.

Jane Campbell
WIPP President

ChallengeHER Success Story: Alba Gonzalez-Nylander is the Picture of Success

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.”

ChallengeHER Success Story: Neva Gardner Won’t Be Fenced In

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.”

ChallengeHER Success Story: Lisa Phillip Finds Exporting Success

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.”

ChallengeHER Success Stories: Ready to Expand into Government Contracting, Yvonne Ballard Found a Helping Hand

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.”