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Where to Begin in Federal Contracting

My dear entrepreneurial friends, do you know the government is expanding opportunities for certified woman-owned businesses to get into federal contracting? This means if you have a product or service the government buys, there are opportunities to grow your business. And if you follow me you know that I often say “it takes just as much effort to grow a small business as it does a large business. So… think big!”

Becoming a government contractor is one of my company’s top strategic priorities for this year. Why? Because the government wants to work with certified Small Businesses and Women-owned Businesses. In fact, it was recently announced that the SBA will make changes to its Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program to help women-owned small businesses get more federal contracts and help the federal government meet and exceed its statutory five percent women’s contracting goal. Ding, ding, ding — my company can help solve that contracting goal!

Admittedly, pursuing contracting is complicated and not for the faint of heart. It requires dogged persistence. However challenges like that have never deterred me. My team has started the journey and I’m sharing it with you because it is my passion to help women entrepreneurs get over the $1MM annual revenue mark.

Hopefully, my experience can save you time and short circuit the process so you can get going and growing! Here is what I’ve done so far:

1. Read and Research. The two books and other primer material I’ve read to get an overview and familiarize myself with the lingo are :

a. The Basic Guide to Government Contracting by Gloria Berthold Larkin

b. Winning Government Contracts by Malcom Parvey and Deborah Alston

c.  “Understanding the Federal Marketplace” on the SBA website in the section about Federal Contracting

d.  Government Contracting “Classroom” which is an online training course by the SBA

e.  Overview PDF  prepared by Lourdes Martin Rosa for the Give Me 5 program created by WIPP (Women Impacting Public Policy) and Open Forum by American Express

f.  Contracting Resources for Women-Owned Small Business from the SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership

2. Find a mentor or an advisor. One of my mentors is Carlos Guzman, a consultant who formerly worked with the MBDA (Minority Business Development Agency) who is now helping larger companies get government contracts. His knowledge and guidance has been invaluable to me.

a. If you don’t have a mentor, find people who have been successful at government contracting, let them know you are interested in getting into it and ask if they would be willing to take the time to talk to you about it. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to help. If you get a “no”, reach out to someone else.

b. Contact your local SBDC (Small Business Development Center) and PTAC centers and let them know you are interested in getting into government contracting. These are resource centers funded primarily by the SBA and the government at large which offer free and very low cost services and counseling to business owners to grow their businesses. They have advisors who help entrepreneurs through the procurement process. My SBDC business advisors have been invaluable.

c. Contact your local SBA office for assistance, guidance and resources.

3. Look for Federal Agency Procurement Forecasts from the agencies you’re interested in possibly working with to see what products and services they are buying. Make sure they are buying what you have to offer. If not, focus on another agency.

Michele Ruiz meeting with Federal Agencies in Washington, DC.

Michele Ruiz meeting with Federal Agencies in Washington, DC.

4. Look up the OSDBU (Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization) for government agencies. These are offices within Federal agencies which exist specifically to help small, small disadvantaged, women-owned, and service disabled veteran-owned businesses with assistance in contracting opportunities. Leonardo San Roman from the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization within the Office of the Secretary of Transportation and Mark Oliver, Director at the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization within the U.S. Department of the Interior in particular have been amazingly supportive of our company’s goals and guiding me through the process. Their top tips are:

i. Prepare

1. Check with the SBA if your business fits small business standards or other certifications

2. Obtain a DUNS number from Dun & Bradstreet which is needed for the next tip

ii. Register

1. Register on the System for Award Management (SAM)

2. Identify the NAICS code(s) for your product or service

3. Create a capability statement specifically for government contracting (Refer to the overview PDF in the Read and Research section near the beginning of this blog)

iii. Certify

1. 8(a), WOSB, SDVOSB, Hub-zone, GSA Schedule Contract # and/or any other contract vehicles, s.a. BPA’s, IDIQ’s, MATCO etc. Click here for an overview.

iv. Attend outreach events and agency sponsored matchmaking sessions to meet key people and decision makers

1. Research ahead of time who will be there (agencies and specific people if possible)

2. Know in advance what they buy, what they do and what their objectives are which are all explained on each agency’s website

3. Be prepared to succinctly explain how your company can provide value to that particular agency

4. Use an iPad to call up their website and specific information to reference when you’re meeting face to face with agency representatives as you talk about your value proposition

v. Start with a goal to obtain a small contract first which is between $3k and $150k as the purchasing cycle is less time and it’s easier to potentially to win your first contract. This is important as each agency wants to know your previous record of doing business with the government so go for an opportunity that is easier to obtain at first

vi. Identify just a couple of agencies to market your services too at the beginning as it can be overwhelming and you can spend a lot of time trying to win a contract. So stay focused on three to five federal agencies at most

5. Plan strategically to be at events, conferences where federal agencies are represented so you can meet numerous people at one time saving yourself time and valuable capital. For example, I recently attended or plan to attend:

a. 8(a) Conference in Orlando

b. CEO Summit put on by the Minority Business Roundtable (MBRT)

c. Federal Procurement Matchmaking event at the USHCC Legislative Summit

d. WBENC National Conference & Business Fair this summer

e. Annual National Small Business Federal Contracting Week Summit in DC

6. Join business organizations and chambers that have programs and relationships that can help you grow your business with government contracting.

There’s a lot more we’ll be doing in this process. I’ll keep you posted and tell you about my experience with the various federal agencies and their representatives I meet. The best advice I can give you if you’re at the stage we are, is that it takes time, persistence and diligence. It can be intimidating so take it one step at a time and access the resources available. Start with reading up on government contracting and then I suggest take the next step as I’ve outlined.

One more thing … Your success is my goal! Un abrazo!


What About You

What do you need the most help with to grow your business? Do you have tips to share? Please comment below.

Like this? Please share with friends and colleagues.

Michele Ruiz ~ Empowering Entrepreneurs to Empower Themselves!

I’m a former news anchor/reporter turned entrepreneur. I blog about my Life as a Latina entrepreneur which includes being a Mom, a Latina woman in the business world, and an entrepreneur. I share real life, tips, know-how, lessons I’ve learned and insights I think might helpful to you as I launch and build my next company. Hope you’ll join me! You can follow me on my website, on my Facebook Page , Twitter (@micheleruiz01), LinkedIn,Google+, YouTube vlogs, and  Pinterest . Thank you for support! Mil gracias por su apoyo!


  • Jes

    Love this one! Awesome read!

  • Graciela Tiscareno-Sato

    I was at HCC CA convention last week and learned of state-level CPUC MBE, WBE certification which I’m completing. I want to work with state-level agencies first (although I’ve already registered/been approved in SAM to sell educational services and books to DODEA.) Wish me luck and yes, I’ll be looking for a mentor….Thanks Michelle!

    • Michele Ruiz

      Way to go Graciela!

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