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.”

WIPP Works in Washington: The Complicated Business of Changing Investment Behavior

I don’t know if you watch the Oscars, or like me, go to a party having barely seen any of the movies. I am usually pretty bored with the thank-you speeches from the winners, but this year one acceptance speech got my attention. It was the speech from the winner of

Anne Sullivan

Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

Best Actress, Frances McDormand, for her role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Referencing women in the audience who “had stories to tell and projects to finance,” she said, “don’t talk to us at the parties tonight, invite us to your office in a couple of days…and we’ll tell you all about them.” She asked the women to stand and told Meryl Streep, “if you do it they’ll all do it.”

The speech caught my attention because women entrepreneurs in all industries including Hollywood share the same vexing problem—access to capital. A damning statistic, women only receive 4% of all commercial loan dollars and 2% of venture capital, shows women entrepreneurs struggle with obtaining adequate capital. Yet, over 36% of businesses are women-owned and are growing at four times the rate of businesses owned by men, so it appears there is no shortage of women seeking operating or investment capital.

Asked why women get so little VC money in Fortune article, Julie Wainwright, founder and CEO of a consignment website The RealReal, thinks it comes down to the lack of female VCs. “When you have different businesses that aren’t proven that may appeal more to a female [customer], a female investor is going to be able to evaluate that” better than a male investor could, she says. “I think in general, most VCs are trying to do their jobs, but there are a lot of unconscious biases.”

A study from Harvard Business Review also points to an additional reason for this deficit—male and female entrepreneurs are asked different questions by VCs, which in turn affects the level of funding they receive. According to the study, when investors asked male entrepreneurs questions they used a promotion orientation, meaning they focused on their hopes and achievements. Alternatively, when questioning women entrepreneurs, they mostly used a prevention orientation, which focused on questions regarding responsibility, security and vigilance. Researchers found that this has a substantial impact on funding outcomes, thus helping to explain the large disparity in VC funding for women entrepreneurs.

Given these barriers, why are so many women starting businesses? It seems to boil down to two reasons: they were either inspired or frustrated. Inspired because they had a good idea, built a better “mousetrap” or decided to create wealth for their families by taking the risk of entrepreneurship. Frustrated because they weren’t getting equal pay for equal work, were tired of a hostile work environment or saw no ability to advance.

A case study by the National Women’s Business Council highlights both of these. The study examined reasons why women become necessity entrepreneurs and of the nine women interviewed, eight cited gender-specific issues, thus making entrepreneurship a necessity. The study also highlights the financial need as the driver to start businesses. “I can relate to many of these women because I’m a prime example of a necessity entrepreneur,” said Kari Warberg Block, NWBC council member and founder and CEO of EarthKind®. “I was fresh out of alternatives with no job options, and I had to do something, anything, to take care of my family. I had an idea to create a safe, natural option for pest control, and 10 years later that has turned into a $20 million-dollar business.”

What are some of the solutions to this vexing problem? Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet but rather a host of solutions necessary to turn this tide. For starters, investors and lenders can start asking the right questions and including women in their review process. Women who sit on the boards of these companies can monitor lending/investing in women-owned companies. And on the policy front, WIPP’s Economic Blueprint suggests a host of policy changes that will help.  They include understanding the data from lending institutions with respect to lending to women, freeing up a regulatory environment that discourages smaller banks from lending to small businesses and developing a track for women to become investors through government backed programs like the Small Business Investment Companies. Lastly, Congress should require a comprehensive review of the Small Business Innovation Research program, which awards only 16% to women.

Even though access to capital for women business owners requires changing cultural biases and policies, all of us can start by educating those around us. If one of us stands up, everyone will stand.

March Policy Update

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Policy Upate Graphic.pngSCOTUS Punts on DACA (For Now)

Last week, the Supreme Court sent the Trump Administration’s appeal on the President’s order to cancel DACA back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, leaving the program’s March 5 expiration moot. Dreamers will remain protected from deportation until the Court of Appeals renders a decision, which could take months.

Breaking the Bank: WIPP Weighs in on Access to Capital

The Senate continues working through amendments to bipartisan lending legislation today that would lighten regulations imposed on small and mid-sized banks through Dodd-Frank. WIPP has advocated for ending the “one-size-fits-all” approach by calling on Congress to enact legislation to address the regulatory relief needed for smaller lending institutions, thus freeing up capital for small businesses.

Read the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act here. Read WIPP’s Breaking the Bank platform here.

WIPP Urges Expansion of Association Health Plans

In January, the Department of Labor issued a proposed rule that would expand participation in Association Health Plans for small businesses and the self-employed. WIPP urged the department to implement a program that maximizes the number of businesses that can participate in the plans, so that women business owners can provide more choices for affordable health insurance.

Read WIPP’s comments here.

NLRB Reverses Joint Employer Standard

Obama’s legal standard for determining whether joint employers could be held liable for an intertwined business’s workplace issues is back due to a conflict of interest of a board member who did not recuse himself from the case. NLRB granted the parties in the original case the ability to appeal and could rehear the case later this year.

Read the NLRB’s press release here.

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.

Lisa_Firestone.jpg

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.

Proposed Rule Issued to Expand AHPs

Healthcare.jpgIn October, the Trump Administration issued an Executive Order directing the Department of Labor to expand access to Association Health Plans (AHPs).
On January 5, a proposed rule was published that would expand participation in AHPs for small employers and the self-employed. Specifically, the proposed rule would:
  • Treat AHPs as large employers (flexibility on pricing and products)
  • Relax the requirement that associations must exist for a reason other than offering health plans
  • Relax definition of “commonality of interest” as:
  • 1) Being in the same trade, industry or profession; or
  • 2) Being in the same principal place of business within the same state or common metropolitan area (even if the metro area extends across state lines) to make it easier for employers to group together
The proposed rule would also adopt non-discrimination protections that bar all health group plans from conditioning eligibility, benefits or premiums on health status.
The deadline to submit comments to the Employee Benefits Security Administration within the Department of Labor is March 6. Comments can be submitted 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.”