ChallengeHER Success Story: Erica Courtney Draws on Military Experience to win Contracts and Helps Others do the Same

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.’”

ChallengeHER Stories: Chaunty Spillane wants to expand a new film production venture into government contracting

Knowing businesses struggle with building an online presence, Massachusetts-based Chaunty Spillane is embarking on a new film production venture that will help businesses stand out among competitors.

She is also looking to expand her reach to government contracting, which led her to a recent ChallengeHER event in Boston.

“I learned a lot about the different organizations that are available to help women business owners with the technicalities of qualifying and competing for contracts,” Chaunty said of her experience. “ChallengeHER helped me realize this is definitely the right path for me.”

Chaunty began working in the film industry as an actor and a model, but fell in love with production and the equipment used to make film. She recalled making movies on a camcorder as young as 6-years-old and wanting to share her skill with others.

“I love helping out people and providing artistic value to what my customers are doing,” she said. “Video marketing allows businesses to be more relatable, not only to claim their identity in a visual format.”

Since going into business for herself recently, she has done subcontract work on a government contract and wants to earn her own contracts. She plans to certify as a woman-owned business and register with the federal system, two important steps she learned about during the ChallengeHER workshop.

Sponsored by Women Impacting Public Policy, the Small Business Administration and American Express, ChallengeHER events are designed to be a one-stop-shop opportunity to gather resources and learn from the experiences of other women entrepreneurs who have successfully navigated the world of government contracting. Panelists share tricks of the trade, like how to market your business successfully through capability statements and build your reputation to earn repeat business.

“One of the things I was surprised by was everyone’s willingness to offer support,” Chaunty said. “I am realizing that I can do this, and it feels like the next level of my career.”

News You Need to Know: December 2017

Emily Murphy

Longtime WIPP friend Emily Murphy, right, was sworn in as GSA administrator this week. She’s pictured here with WIPP Chief Advocate Ann Sullivan at the ceremony.

Longtime WIPP Friend Emily Murphy Sworn in as GSA Administrator

Longtime WIPP friend Emily Murphy, was sworn in as the 41st administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) this week. Murphy’s Senate confirmation was strongly bipartisan, with leaders on both sides of the aisle praising her experience, qualifications and commitment to public service. The Senate’s unanimous consent decision came after Murphy’s confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, where she discussed her key priorities and vision for advancing the agency. Murphy will lead a workforce of 11,600 full-time employees and oversee approximately $54 billion in annual contracts.

“I look forward to working with our partners in industry, customer agencies, and Congress so that GSA can continue to fulfill its mission of providing the best value in real estate, acquisition, and technology services to government and the American people,” Murphy said last month.

Deadline to Apply for 2018 Health Coverage Friday

The final deadline to apply for 2018 health coverage at HealthCare.gov is this Friday, Dec. 15. Visit www.HealthCare.gov now to apply. You can also find a host of nonpartisan information about health coverage costs, requirements and options on the Kaiser Family Foundation website.

Burdensome Regulations

The SBA Office of Advocacy is asking for input on burdensome regulations as part of the office’s Regulatory Reform Efforts. You may fill out the form at www.sba.gov/advocacy. You don’t have to an expert to comment. The office is seeking to engage small business owners on their everyday pain points with respect to federal com

Appropriations & Continuing Resolutions

Faced with a December 8 deadline, Congress passed a short-term continuing appropriations resolution (CR), funding the federal government through December 22. Designed to give Congressional appropriators time to negotiate funding for the balance of FY18, Congressional GOP leadership must now decide whether to negotiate an FY18 omnibus with Democrats to ensure the eight votes needed to pass the bill in the Senate. House Republicans have proposed a hybrid means of funding—a bill that would fund defense for the remainder of FY18 with the remainder of the federal government operating on a CR—which Democrats strongly oppose. The other option is to punt funding for the government into January with another short-term CR.

A major issue surrounding the decision is the level of spending caps imposed by the Budget Control Act. Congressional GOP leadership wants to lift the caps and pass a $230 billion increase in defense spending over two years. Democrats also want to lift the caps, but are insisting that any increase in defense spending be matched by increased non-defense funding.

Additionally, there are two measures under consideration for inclusion in the CR legislation, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and the Alexander-Murray healthcare bill which restores cost sharing subsidies for participating insurance plans. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) made her support for the tax reform bill contingent on passage of the healthcare fix.

NDAA Signed into Law

 

Joni Ernst

Sen. Joni Ernst, who along with Sen Kirsten Gillibrand sponsored legislation requiring the SBA to study small business participation in large government contracts, accepted an award during WIPP’s 2017 annual leadership meeting.

Last month, the Senate passed the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was signed into law by President Trump on Tuesday. One of the few must-pass bills in Congress, the measure included WIPP’s top priority requiring the administrator of the SBA to conduct a study and submit a report to Congress on the utilization of small businesses (WOSBs, HUBZones, 8(a)s, and Service Disabled Veterans) with respect to Multiple Award Contracts (MACs). The effort was spearheaded by Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Also included in the NDAA is the creation of Federal Online Marketplaces, similar to Amazon and Walmart, for purchases under $250,000. This would drastically change how the federal government buys its products. It should be noted that the Congress increased the micro purchase threshold from $150,000 to $250,000. These purchases are reserved for small businesses.

Tax Plan Steams Ahead

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House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas discusses tax reform during WIPP’s 2017 annual meeting.

Last week, the Senate passed tax reform (H.R. 1), setting up a conference to produce a united bill with the House. Versions passed by the Senate and the House contain significant differences which must be resolved before final passage.

Proposed business tax changes are listed below, highlighting the differences in the House and Senate version.

  • Individual Tax Rates
    • House: Four Brackets—12%, 25%, 35% and 39.6%—allows an additional rate for higher income earners
    • Senate: Seven Bracket—10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 38.5%
  • Pass-Through Treatment
    • House: tax rate for qualified business income 25%. Only 30% of business income is eligible for this rate. Personal services companies are not eligible for this rate.
    • Senate: Deduction allows for 23% of qualifying business income, up to $250,000 for single filers or $500,000 for joint filers (expires after 2025)
  • Corporate Tax Rate
    • House: Permanent reduction to 20% (effective 2018)
    • Senate: Permanent reduction to 20% (effective 2019)
  • State and Local Taxes (SALT)
    • House: Preserves property tax deduction of as much as $10,000
    • Senate: Preserves property deduction up to $10,000 (expires after 2025)
  • Estate Tax
    • House: Doubles the exemption to $11 million for single tax payers and $22 million for married tax payers (repeals in 2025)
    • Senate: Doubles the exemption to $11 million for single tax payers and $22 million for married tax payers through 2025 (no repeal)
  • Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
    • House: Repeals the AMT for individual and corporate filers
    • Senate: Retains the AMT for individual and corporate filers and raises the individual threshold
  • Healthcare Mandate
    • House: Maintains the individual mandate requiring the purchase of health insurance
    • Senate: Repeals the individual mandate requiring the purchase of health insurance

A Senate and House conference has met to come up with a single bill to send to the president. Republican leaders in the Congress hope to vote on the conference version next week.

 

Letter from WIPP President Jane Campbell: December 2017

Winter is here and the weather is chilly, but things are boiling over in Washington. Congress is running full-tilt to try to complete a herculean amount of work before year’s end. In this newsletter, we cover developments in taxes, the National Defense Authorization Act, the deadline to sign up for health coverage and a looming deadline to appropriate  funds for the 2018 budget.

Jane Campbell photo 2 2

WIPP President Jane Campbel

We saw record support in 2017 from business organizations, with more than 575 organizations nationwide supporting small businesses on Small Business Saturday—an 18 percent increase over previous years.

WIPP, in conjunction with American Express, founded the Small Business Saturday Coalition in 2011. This year, 7,200 events and activities celebrating Small Business Saturday were held nationwide, engaging more than 2.2 million small businesses.

Every year, WIPP is proud to work with public officials at all levels of government and hundreds of organizations and thousands of small businesses to encourage all Americans to “shop small” at local businesses and “dine small” at local bars and restaurants.

As you do your last-minute shopping, consider going to a small business to get it done.

Happy Holidays!

ChallengeHER Success Story: Debbie Banko, CEO of Link Technologies

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.

October Policy Watch: Taxes, Budget & More

WIPP Government Affairs

GOP Releases Tax Reform Proposal: What’s in it for you?

Congress has finally taken the long-awaited steps toward implementing tax reform. GOP leaders released their framework for tax reform in a proposal entitled, “Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code.” Provisions pertinent for small business in the plan include:

  • Limits the maximum rate applied to pass-through entities to 25% (currently 39.6%)
  • Reduces the corporate rate to 20% (currently 35%)
  • Consolidates the seven individual tax brackets to three: 12%, 25%, and 35%
  • Allows room for Congress to add a fourth bracket for high income earners
  • Repeals the Estate Tax
  • Repeals the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
  • Eliminates taxes on the first $24,000 of income earned by a married couple and the first $12,000 of income earned by a single individual (currently $12,700 for married filers and $6,350 for single filers)
  • Eliminates the standard deduction and personal exemption for filers
  • Allows businesses to expense the cost of new investments in depreciable assets for five years
  • Partially limits the deduction for net interest expense incurred by C corporations
  • Eliminates some itemized deductions (but does not specify which provisions)
  • Eliminates § 199 manufacturing deduction
  • Retains tax benefits for retirement security (401K, IRA)
  • Implements territorial tax system

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady (R-TX) attended the WIPP Annual Leadership Meeting Luncheon to talk about the plan and to answer questions from members.

Finalizing the Budget: Why Does It Matter?

If both the House and the Senate do not pass an FY2018 Budget, the GOP tax reform framework cannot pass in its current form. Congress hopes to pass tax reform though reconciliation, a process that allows the Senate to pass budget-related legislation with a simple 51 majority vote, instead of the 60 votes typically required. The GOP has a 52-48 majority in the Senate. If the budget resolutions do not pass, the tax reform package negotiated by the Administration and GOP Congressional leaders would require at least eight Democratic votes.

Last week, the House passed their FY2018 Budget Resolution, H. Con. Res. 71, which contains reconciliation language that directs the House Ways and Means Committee to begin drafting tax reform legislation. The House resolution provides $300 billion over 10 years to pay for tax reform. The Senate Budget Committee also passed their FY2018 Budget Resolution.  The Senate resolution contains reconciliation language that provides the Senate Finance Committee with $1.5 trillion over 10 years for tax reform.

The bill will be taken up by the Senate when they return from recess next week.

SBA Issues Notice of WOSB NAICS Changes

SBA is responsible for implementing and administering the Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program. The WOSB Program authorizes federal contracting officers to restrict competition for an acquisition to WOSBs, provided that appropriate conditions are met. In order to identify the industries eligible for set-asides under the WOSB Program, the SBA administrator has to conduct a study every five years to identify which industries WOSBs are underrepresented in in the Federal marketplace. As a result of the 2014 study findings, SBA increased the number of NAICS codes authorized for use under the WOSB Program to 113 four-digit NAICS industry groups, effective March 3, 2016. Consequently, WOSBs have been able to compete for and receive contract awards in 92 four-digit NAICS industry groups or 365 six-digit NAICS codes. EDWOSBs have been able to compete for and receive contract awards in 21 designated four-digit NAICS industry groups or 80 six-digit NAICS codes, in addition to those authorized for WOSBs.

On August 8, 2016, OMB published its most recent update to the NAICS industry groups, NAICS 2017, “Notice of NAICS 2017 final decisions.” These went into effect on January 1, 2017. In order to align the WOSB Program with the Notice of NAICS 2017 final decisions and SBA’s adoption of NAICS 2017 for its size standards, SBA is issuing this notice to amend the NAICS codes eligible for use under the WOSB Program.

Changes to WOSB NAICS

  1. 2012 NAICS codes 333911 and 333913 à 2017 NAICS code 333914 [Due to merges from the four digit codes]
  • 333911: Pump and Pumping Equipment Manufacturing à 333914 Measuring, Dispensing, and Other Pumping Equipment Manufacturing
    • Measuring and Dispensing Pump à Measuring, Dispensing, and Other
  • 333913: Manufacturing à 333914 Pumping Equipment Manufacturing
  1. 2012 NAICS codes 512210 and 512220 à 2017 NAICS code 512250 [Merged Industries]
  • 512210 Record Production à 512250 Record Production and Distribution
  • 512220 Integrated Record Production/Distribution à 512250 Record Production and Distribution
  1. 2012 NAICS code 517110 à 2017 NAICS code 517311
  • 517110 Wired Telecommunications Carriers à 517311 Wired Telecommunications Carriers
  1. 2012 NAICS code 517210 à 2017 NAICS code 517312 [Changed without changing definitions or titles]
  • 517210 Wired Telecommunications Carriers (Except Satellite) à 517312 Wired Telecommunications Carriers (Except Satellite)
  1. 2012 NAICS code 541711 will correspond to 2017 NAICS codes 541713 and 541714 [New industries were created by splitting two industries into two parts with one part of each industry defined as a separate industry and combining other parts of the two industries to form a separate new industry]
  • 541711 Research and Development in Biotechnology will correspond to 541713 Research and Development in Nanotechnology and 541714 Research and Development in Biotechnology (except Nanotechnology)
  1. 2012 NAICS code 541712 will correspond to 2017 NAICS codes 541713 and 541715
  • Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Biotechnology) will correspond to 541713 Research and Development in Nanotechnology and 541715 Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Nanotechnology and Biotechnology)

How Government Contractors Can Handle Changes to the Project Schedule

If you missed Misty Mayes’ GIVE ME 5 webinar last week on Changes to the Project Schedule, you can check it out here.

The Give Me 5 Program, named after the 5 percent federal contracting goal for women-owned businesses, was created by Women Impacting Public Policy

Misty Mayes

and American Express OPEN to educate women business owners on how to apply for and secure federal procurement opportunities. 

Management Solutions’ founder and CEO Misty Mayes dedicates her time and energy to multiple programs that champion excellence in project management, small business, mentoring and community. She is a regular on the speaking circuit across the country, speaking on various aspects of project management, as well as other motivational topics. Misty serves as co-chair on WIPP’s Leadership Advisory Council, co-chair of WIPP’s healthcare committee and chair of WIPP’s membership committee.

For more information on Misty and her work at Management Solutions, please visit www.managementsolutionsllc.com.