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On the Road with ChallengeHER: Lessons Learned

posted Apr 25, 2014, 6:47 AM by Ann Sullivan   [ updated Jun 10, 2014, 9:23 AM ]
Boise, Idaho Edition
By Ann Sullivan

April 23, 20014 -- The ChallengeHER event in Boise, Idaho was very special.  Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) kicked off the event and the new Administrator of the Small Business Administration, Maria Contreras-Sweet, came to show her support.  She chose a women's business event to be the first one outside of Washington to attend.  Her words, as you might expect, were supportive and insightful.  Needless to say, the women in Idaho should feel assured that their support is deep and wide in Washington.  The new Administrator said that a legacy she would like to leave is that the federal government met its 5% contracting goal with women-owned businesses.  We were bowled over that both Senator Risch and Administrator Contreras-Sweet brought their teams to show support for our program.

Lessons learned

Now, to my takeaways from the contracting panel—this one had two participants that were government contracting officers and one prime contractor:

1.    The FAR directs agencies to go to the GSA schedule first to buy anything under $150,000. This begs the question:  How is this a good business decision for small companies?  Are they really going to go
through all the hassle and expense of getting a GSA schedule for buys under $150,000?  We need to look into that.

2.    Prime contractors that run the Idaho National Laboratory do not publish opportunities in FBO—period.  They choose to whom they want to send out an RFP to.  They will not share any information on who won the bid or what bids are available.  I’m not sure if this is at all DOE labs, but a note to self:  transparency would be beneficial to WOSBs trying to get work from labs. 

3.    Prime contractors have Small Disadvantaged Business goals from the SBA and many women would qualify.  This panel said it was not easy to fill contracts with SBDs.  Look into also getting that certification. 

4.    Make sure your paperwork is in place.  Keep your SAM registration current and register in the SBA's Dynamic Search database.  Every year, your SAM registration is up for renewal and an agency cannot award a contract to you if your registration is not current.

5.    The Air Force is embracing strategic sourcing.  My editorial comment:  That is not good news for women owned businesses because buying in certain categories will only be awarded to a preselected list and it's not easy to get on the list.

People you need to know

The panelists gave excellent insight and offered to be a reference point for interested women-owned businesses.

Tracy Stephens, Army National Guard, Idaho: tracy.stephens@anf.af.mil
Cindy Dixon, Mountain Home Air Force Base: cindy.dixon@us.af.mil
Stacey Francis, Idaho National Laboratory: stacey.francis@inl.gov

Next Stop: ChallengeHER New York City, New York on May 21, 2014.