Women business owners don’t have their fair share of government contracts, at least not yet, supporters say.
To help remedy that, several advocacy groups and state agencies are meeting today in Philadelphia to provide the information to women business owners that they will need to secure both state and federal contracts.
Traditionally, women-owned business "have not looked at federal contracts as an opportunity,” said Barbara Kasoff, president of Women Impacting Public Policy, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group that goes by the edgy acronym, WIPP. "There is no reason women can’t. We want to open that window.”
To spread the word on how to hook up with Uncle Sam as well as the commonwealth, WIPP and American Express OPEN are partnering with the Pennsylvania Treasury Department’s Women & Money Project at Temple University’s Fox School of Business in Philadelphia for an all-day program entitled Give Me 5.
The program — which gets its name from the goal of getting 5 percent of government contracts in the hands of women-owned businesses — was established by WIPP and is presented in partnership with corporate sponsor Amex OPEN.
Give Me 5 has already been presented to women business owners in Scranton and Pittsburgh. Its next stop after Philly is Harrisburg.
Pennsylvania has been targeted by WIPP because it is currently on track to receive more than $26 billion in federal funds, $1 billion of which the groups would like to see Philadelphia women business owners get.
In the nation’s capital, the number is far higher. Every year, the federal government spends $400 billion on goods and services.
WIPP said at present women-owned businesses have secured a mere 3.4 percent of federal government contracts.
The Give Me 5 program aims to increase that number by providing resources and information to make it easier for women to register their business with the Central Contractor Registry, a requirement to gain eligibility to apply for federal contracts.
In dollars and cents, it means business owners could gain more than $5 billion in annual revenues by reaching the 5 percent federal contracting goal, according to a statement issued by the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee in March 2007.
The program comes at an opportune time.
Last week, the Small Business Administration released a proposed rule aimed at expanding federal contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses.
It identifies 83 industries in which women-owned small businesses are underrepresented, a substantial departure from a 2008 proposal that listed only four such industries.
That means women business owners have a much greater opportunity to tap federal monies set aside for women-owned small firms, including substantial stimulus funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, according to WIPP.
Kasoff said she will start today’s program by asking participants if they have a service or product to sell to the government.
If they do, Kasoff will talk about the steps needed to secure a contract.
The program at the Fox School on Temple’s main campus in north Philadelphia also addresses government funding.
Included in the program will be tips from other women who own businesses that have already secured government contracts, such as Tammy Camper, president of management consulting company Strategic Transformation Partners LLC of West Goshen.
Camper, whose company provides training and talent management and improved business performance for client companies, has contracts with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Veterans Administration.
"They were difficult to secure,” Camper said of the contracts. "You have to write a compelling enough story — without an introduction — to get their attention and show them you can do the work.”
To get the federal agency’s ear, the business must have a relationship with that agency.
"And women-owned small businesses don’t have deep pockets, don’t have lobbyist walking up and down the hall,” Camper said. "It’s hard to build a relationship in Washington.”
It is a different story if a company is selling widgets, where the lowest bid will land the deal. But, Camper explained, securing a government contract when a company is selling a professional service is a hard nut to crack.
Camper’s advice to the 175 participants expected today will be how the "navigate the system,” she said. "It’s not that easy. You really need to know what agency to target.”
The Veterans Administration, for example, is open to doing business with women-owned, minority-owned and veteran-owned small businesses. Camper said she intends to increase her presence with that agency.
Other scheduled speakers at today’s program are: Elizabeth Randol of the Women & Money Project, Pennsylvania State Treasury; Robert McCord of the Pennsylvania State Treasury; James Creedon of the Pennsylvania Department of General Services and Karen Mills of the Small Business Administration.
To contact staff writer Gretchen Metz, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org