2017: A Banner Year for WIPP & Women Business Owners

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.

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.’”

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.

10 Things You Should Know From the Linda McMahon Hearing

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

On Jan. 24, the Senate Small Business Committee held a hearing on the confirmation of Linda McMahon (former WWE CEO), to become Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA). Here are the 10 things you should know about her hearing:

  1. SBA is still part of the cabinet—President Obama elevated the position of SBA Administrator to cabinet level. President Trump is sticking with that change.
  2. Existing programs are safe…for now—When questioned by numerous senators on specific program commitments, McMahon repeatedly said that if the program is working then it should be continued.
  3. She will go to bat for small business in the executive branch—McMahon sees herself as the small business advocate within the executive branch, and will go to other agencies and make sure that more federal contracting opportunities are provided to small businesses.
  4. She will work to expand the 5% contracting goal for women—Senator Duckworth (IL), asked about the 5% goal, and McMahon expressed support for women entrepreneurs, broadly, “I have been very forthcoming in wanting women entrepreneurship to grow. And I will continue to support that, it is very near and dear to my heart.”
  5. She has a history working with Veterans—According to McMahon, WWE was always concerned about veterans and how to help create jobs for them. Senator Cardin (MD) discussed the Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP) program and noted its impact and high performance.
  6. Look for an emphasis on mentoring—Given McMahon’s background in business mentoring, she may focus on programs that incorporate mentorship. As co-founder of Women’s Leadership LIVE, McMahon’s organization educates entrepreneurs about all facets of starting and expanding their business.
  7. She wants to help free small businesses from burdensome regulations—While many senators asked questions about regulatory burdens on small businesses, Senator Ernst brought up the PROVE It Act—legislation passed out of committee last session that empowers the SBA Office of Advocacy to require agencies to analyze rules for their small business impact.
  8. Speaking of advocacy—McMahon expressed support for expanding the independent SBA Office of Advocacy to ensure that the voice of small business is heard on federal regulations.
  9. She wants small businesses to participate in anticipated Infrastructure projects—When asked about promoting fair opportunities for small businesses to compete for work in the highly anticipated infrastructure plan, McMahon stated that small business participation was a given.
  10. Streamlining cumbersome federal contracting—McMahon expressed support for streamlining the alphabet soup of federal websites and databases like SAM and FBO.

This was a conciliatory confirmation hearing. Given the contentious nature of other confirmation hearings, it was unknown what tone McMahon’s hearing would take. But the hearing went well. Senators were polite and McMahon was responsive to concerns. With so much partisanship in Washington, it was positive to see McMahon’s interest in working with the committee—both sides.

WIPP National Partner of the Month – November 2016

laurie-artis-pictureLaurie S. Artis – President & CEO of Civility Management Solutions

1.Tell us a little about your company and its mission.

Civility Management Solutions (CMS) was established to not only employ individuals in professional services but to also mentor and train them in becoming better workforce partners.  In the Marine Corps, we are constantly mentoring to improve others and ourselves, and for those that receive it, it can increase their life personally and professionally.  We are working hard to develop both an east and west coast office, and to add the HUBZone certification to our certifications.  Also, as a Woman Veteran, of course, CMS is focused on supporting both civilian and military, nationally and abroad.  My life story has well prepared me to work with a diversity of individuals, doing a diversity of work for this country, and I am honored at the opportunity to once again serve the United States.

2. Have you always been an entrepreneur?

Yes, I have always been an entrepreneur as I sold candy as a child from my parents’ home; modeled professionally as a teenager in high school; (tried) medical billing and was scammed; marketed holistic products that I still use; and began an outdoor BootCamp exercise program.  So, yes, I have always been an entrepreneur.

What inspired you to take the leap?  

Being inspired by seeing another woman, much younger than myself own and operate a company with over 200 employees was truly some revelation … I can do this!  After working onsite in the government, and inside the corporate office, I really enjoyed the work.  I have thanked her several times since leaving her company, as I am grateful that I had an opportunity to gleam this world before taking the leap.

3. What is your biggest lesson learned from working with the Federal Government? 

You must be a people person!  If you’re not, then you are depending on others to do that for you; whereas, there is no better representation of your company than yourself and being 100% owned, this is important.  You must enjoy working with people and be willing to work with them to give both satisfaction and appreciation despite the obstacles that may come from them.  I love people, and that allows them to appreciate me and relationships are important.

4. Do you have any tips you would like to share with other women pursuing Federal Contracts? 

Put on your big ones (smile) … as this business is not for the faint of heart. It is truly a marathon, and you have to stay focused, stay involved, stay teachable, and get connected.

5. Have you encountered any challenges you had to overcome as a professional business woman and if so, what have you learned from them? 

Yes, I have encountered several challenges, but the worst was dropping my salary to minimum wage in order to stay employed by my company and not seek a job.  In reality, in order to become SBA certified as a WOSB or EDWOSB you should be working for your company full time “during normal business  hours.”  Upon submission of required documentation to Department of VA to become verified I learned then that they can prove this through your tax returns.  So, what I learned is that you need to operate in integrity at all levels in order to ensure success that can be maintained for years to come and stay out of trouble with the government.

6. Do you have a success story that you are particularly proud of? Tell us about it! 

I have responded to a Sources Sought and helped influence the set-aside, then responded to the solicitation and won the opportunity!

7. Tell us about your experience as a WIPP member.

Wow, fascinating, as it is great to be surrounded by women on a mission.  As a WIPP member I have learned so much from great teachers through WIPP webinars; I have been ‘sold out’ on the fight for women in business due to participating in congressional sessions alongside WIPP; and lastly, I truly enjoy being surrounded by women that are determined to make a difference for themselves and others.

What resources/value has WIPP provided that has been helpful to you and your company?

Webinar sessions, Congressional meetings, and testimonies.

Revising the Veterans Certification – Top to Bottom

WomenVeteransAccording to the Small Business Administration (SBA) veterans own nearly 10% of all small businesses and those veteran-owned businesses generate more than $1 trillion dollars in revenue each year. In order to qualify for federal contracting preferences at the Veterans Administration (VA), these businesses have to certify as a veteran owned business. The Veterans Administration calls this program “Veterans First.” Government-wide contracting programs give preferences to service disabled veteran owned businesses (SDVOBs) which are required to go through the certification process at the VA.

The Veterans Administration is asking for comments on a new set of changes for the Veteran Owned Small Business program (VOSB). Among many other changes, the proposal would alter the definition of a veteran, a caregiver, the verification requirements for a VOSB, and requirements for joint ventures.

First, the definition of “veteran” in the program is now consistent with a recent update to the VA’s overall definition of veteran. This means owners who served in the National Guard or in the Reserves are still only eligible to be an owner of VOSB or SDVOSB if they received a service-connected disability. The single definition of “veteran” is intended to create consistency when applying to all programs within the VA.

Veteran owners would be required to oversee “daily business operations,” replacing the terms “daily business management” and “day to day operations” in an effort to simplify the application process. In addition, references to spouses and personal caretakers are removed, replaced by “permanent caretaker” to more clearly define a single role aiding the service-disabled owner. A letter outlining the service-disabled veteran’s disability and the need for the permanent caregiver must be included in order to qualify. The VOSB application process, which was required annually, would be expanded to last for two years if the proposed rule was adopted.

Last, language on VSOB joint ventures has been clarified, requiring at least one joint partner be a verified VOSB. Additionally, the same project and time restrictions that apply to other set-aside programs have been added. All these changes, and more, can be viewed and commented on here.

If you have an opinion on the VA certification, now is the time to submit them. Your comments will make a difference – agencies receive every submission and carefully review them.