SBA Offers Free Town Hall, Forums on Social Media, Exporting, and Contracting During National Small Business Week

WASHINGTON – Small business owners looking for ways to grow and develop their businesses are invited to take part in National Small Business Week’s free networking and educational forums and dialogue with leading business experts during National Small Business Week, May 20-22 in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Small Business Administration and its private sector partners are holding key business forums, and are encouraging small business owners and entrepreneurs to sign up, register and spread the word to other small businesses interested in attending.
The free forums include a town hall with SBA Administrator Karen Mills on why small businesses are good for the long-term health of any economy; a social media forum on best practices for putting new media tools to work for small businesses; and an exporting forum on how SBA can help businesses find customers abroad. The schedule also includes sessions on federal contracting, selling to large companies, and business matchmaking with major corporations and government agencies.
The town hall and forum events will be webcast live to allow business owners across the country to participate if they cannot attend in person. While registration is required to attend forums and sessions in person (onsite registration will be provided), the live online webcast will be available free at http://NationalSmallBusinessWeek.com. To register to attend, find more information on the live webcast, or for a detailed schedule of events and speakers, visit the National Small Business Week website at www.NationalSmallBusinessWeek.com.

Michigan Makes Venture Matching Funds Available

The Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF), through the Pure Michigan Venture Match Fund (PMVM Fund), is soliciting applications from for-profit Michigan-based companies that have received an equity investment commitment from a qualified venture fund for commercialization and growth purposes to provide a match of the investment as follows:

  • Qualified venture led investments from $700,000 to $1,000,000 will be matched by a 50% ($350,000 to $500,000) investment from the PMVM Fund.
  • Qualified venture led investments from $1,000,000.01 to $3,000,000 will be matched by a $500,000 investment from the PMVM Fund.

Applications are being accepted now at: http://www.michiganadvantage.org/Pure-Michigan-Venture-Match-Fund/

To see a list of incentives/resources for companies that are located (or want to locate) in Oakland County, Michigan visit: www.globaloakland.com

SBA Kicks Off Young Entrepreneur Series

The White House and the U.S. Small Business Administration announced today the launch of the Young Entrepreneur Series (YES), which will connect young and aspiring entrepreneurs with SBA officials, local business advisors and resources to help them start or grow their own small business. 

“For our economy to thrive in the 21st century, we must set about creating the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns.  “Young Americans need to know that starting a business is a viable alternative to going to work for somebody else.  There is a clear and urgent need to create more jobs for young Americans, and encouraging business ownership is an important way to meet that goal.” 

SBA will hold five YES forums that will reach a broad audience, including young veterans, urban and rural entrepreneurs, and others.  

Dates and locations include:

  • November 7, San Diego, Calif., Veteran Young Entrepreneurs
  • November 9, Ames, Iowa, Rural Young Entrepreneurs
  • November 17, Charlotte, N.C., Young Entrepreneurs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions
  • November 29, Tahlequah, Okla., Native American Young Entrepreneurs
  • December  1, Milwaukee, Wis., Apprenticeship to Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship among young people remains below average and young entrepreneurs face unique challenges.  With youth unemployment twice the national average in many communities, particularly communities of color and veterans, the Obama administration recognizes a need to promote and better support the efforts of young people to create jobs for themselves and others. 

Many SBA programs, such as microloans, business counseling and training, are useful to young entrepreneurs.  The YES forums are part of a larger effort to reach out to young people and let them know the federal government has tools to help them start, grow and succeed as small business owners.  

The forums will be livestreamed at www.sba.gov/youngentrepreneurs.  Participants can also follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #SBAyes.  For more information or to watch the forums live, visit www.sba.gov/youngentrepreneurs.

Statement from SBA Administrator Mills on new Federal ‘QuickPay’ program

WASHINGTON – SBA Administrator Mills statement on the President’s “QuickPay” announcement today to cut in half – from 30 days to 15 days – the amount of time it takes federal agencies to pay small businesses for the products and services they deliver to the federal government: 

“The thousands of small businesses that provide great products and services to the federal government have a big reason to cheer the President’s ‘QuickPay’ announcement today.  When small contractors get their money in 15 days instead of 30, it results in a permanent infusion of cash flow into their businesses.  They can put that money towards working capital, expanding their businesses, marketing their products, and creating jobs.  Their financial footing gets stronger – permanently.  With nearly $100 billion each year in federal contracts going to small businesses, cutting in half the time they get paid is a powerful way to help put America back to work now.  QuickPay is a smart and powerful boost that effectively delivers billions more dollars into the hands of small contractors so that they can do what they do best – create jobs.”

Leveling the Federal Contracting Playing Field – The New SBA Woman-Owned Small Business Program Explained

by Caron Beesley, Moderator

Congress has set goals to help woman-owned small businesses (WOSBs) gain their share of the federal contracting market.

However, without a specific set-aside contract program for WOSBs, such as those in place for small disadvantaged businesses (e.g., the 8(a) program), service-disabled veterans and historically underutilized business zones (HUBZone), WOSBs only received 4% of the $400+ billion contracts awarded annually well shy of the 5% statutory goal.

In an effort to address this shortfall and create a more level contracting playing field for women-owned small businesses, in late 2010 the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the final rule that would implement the  WOSB program. Formally known as the Woman-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program, the goals of the program were outlined by SBA Administrator, Karen Mills, in the agency’s press release:

Women-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy…That’s why providing them with all the tools necessary to compete for and win federal contracts is so important. Federal contracts can provide women-owned small businesses with the oxygen they need to take their business to the next level.”

While the WOSB Program was formally launched by the SBA in February 2011, it wasn’t until April 2011 that the federal procurement officials were able to set-aside contracts under the program.

So what is the WOSB Program and how can you take advantage of it? Here’s what you need to know and the steps you need to take to get your business certified to participate!

What is the WOSB Program?

The WOSB Program is a win-win for WOSBs and EDWOSBs (Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses) and the federal government.  WOSBs now have an opportunity to compete for and win contracts specifically set aside for WOSBs.

There are over 300 industries (PDF) (in the contracting world these are known as NAICS codes) where WOSBs and EDWOSBs have been deemed “underrepresented” or “substantially underrepresented”. Contracting officers can do a WOSB or EDWOSB set-aside contracts in these industries if:

  • There is reasonable expectation that two or more WOSBs/EDWOSBs will submit offers.
  • The anticipated award price of the contract does not exceed $6.5 million in the case of manufacturing contracts and $4 million in the case of all other contracts.
  • In the estimation of the contracting officer, the contract can be awarded at a fair and reasonable price.

Interested bidders can look on the Federal Business Opportunities web site to find federal government solicitations that may be set aside for WOSB or EDWOSBs

Are you Eligible for WOSB/EDWOSB Set-Asides?

To help determine your eligibility for the WOSB program you’ll need to be ask yourself a few eligibility questions:

  1. Are you a small business as defined by SBA standards for your industry? – Read “Am I a small business concern?” from the SBA to determine if you are. If you are not eligible you can still consider teaming with a small business prime contractor who is.
  2. Are you a woman-owned small business (WOSB)? – Your business must beat least 51% directly or unconditionally owned by one or more women. In addition, the management and daily business operations must be controlled by one or more women who are U.S. citizens.
  3. Does your business function within one of the over 300 industries (known as NAICS codes) for the WOSB program?
  4. Are you an economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business (EDWOSB)? You don’t have to be to qualify for the WOSB program, although you do for the EDWOSB portion. Here are the requirements:

Be a WOSB that is at least 51% owned by one or more women who are “economically disadvantaged”.  A woman is presumed economically disadvantaged if she:

      • Has a personal net worth of less than $750,000 (please note items that may be excluded)
      • Average annual income of less than  $350,000 for the three years  (please note items that may be excluded)
      • Value of total assets is less than $6 million (please note items that may be excluded)

How to Get Certified for the WOSB Program

If you meet the eligibility requirements above, you’ll then need to either self-certify or obtain third party certification (read more about the certification process here).

To ensure you can compete for these WOSB set-aside contracts as soon as possible, take the time to review all the program requirements on the SBA website and ensure your required documents are uploaded to the WOSB Program Repository. WOSBs also will need to update their status in the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) and the Online Representation and Certification Application (ORCA) to indicate to contracting officers that they are eligible to participate.

Training and Education on the WOSB Program

The SBA is engaging in a number of training and outreach activities to help small business owners understand the program – contact your local SBA Office for more information. The agency has also put together this easy-to-read handbook (PDF) for small businesses interested in learning about the WOSB Program, including eligibility requirements, federal contracting opportunities, and how the program works in general. 

Additional Resources

If you are new to the government contracting market or have questions about the process, take a look at these guides and resources on the SBA website:

Entrepreneurship – the Loneliest Adventure

A recent blog article by one of my fellow Michigan entrepreneurs,  Nancy Sherman of southwest Michigan-based Business Success Unlimited, caught my attention recently as she pointed out some of the pros and cons of going into business for yourself. As any of those who’ve done it know, the costs (not including financial) can be very high – but so can the rewards.

In her article she pointed out one of the issues I hear about most often from entrepreneurs, the isolation.  They don’t have anyone else they can talk things over with to help make the decisions they need to make.  In previous corporate lives, they had co-workers, bosses, or employees – now they have themselves, especially when they’re just starting out or if they’re running a virtual business. And that can be difficult. Not that they’re depending on others to give them the answers, but we all know, sometimes it can help just to talk it thru with an impartial party.  Nancy’s article pointed out an interesting solution that I would recommend all small business owners explore for themselves. Learn about it below, and if you’d like a referral to a co-working center, I bet Nancy would be happy to help you out, just reach out to her at Nancy@thessbi.com .

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In my 30 years of being an entrepreneur, I have spent time in my home office, in my brick and mortar office and in the coffee shops and restaurants around my town. Each has their own good points and bad, but I think the thing that I like least about any of it, is that I have no one to share with, no one to talk to except the cats.

I was married for 22 years to a really great guy (we’ve probably got the best divorce ever — we’re still great friends), but he just didn’t get it. He would tell me, why don’t you get a real job. You’re home all day, why don’t you do the housework, or cook or clean or whatever. I couldn’t talk to him about the isolation, about the needs for others to be around. When the office phone would ring at 11 at night, he’d complain because I didn’t answer it, and when people showed up at my front door at 7 am on Sunday morning, there would be more complaining. Then when I got a “Real” office and had monthly rent to pay (to the tune of $5000), he’d shake his head and say things like “here we go again. You’re just playing dress up”.

It was not easy. And he was not alone in saying — and thinking — such things. My best friend was right there with him. She works for the government and has tried since the ’90s, to get me to apply for a job there as well. “But what about the benefits? The health insurance? The regular schedule? The paycheck? These are all valid questions, but when you’re an entrepreneur, someone who wants to do it for him or herself, these are really irritating comments.

If you’re like me, you get the frustration of being alone and want to find someone else who also “gets it” to talk to, to share with, to be close to. But how do you do this? You can go hang out at the coffee shops, spend money on drinks and pastries, and maybe talk with someone else for a few minutes, but you don’t really find friendship or business collaboration there. The same is true for a library or restaurant. And how comfortable is it to hold meetings in your home office?

Well, now there’s a great new way to work on your own business while being in the company of like-minded individuals who are also working on their own businesses. It’s a place to rejuvenate your thoughts and ideas, a place to work on the Internet, to get help and support from administrative professionals, a place to sit and chat in the lounge, meeting rooms, private conference rooms, kitchens — all the amenities of an office space without the cost and politics of businesses. It’s a co-work center and they’re springing up all over the world; not just this country but literally around the world. If you’re a homebased business, a freelancer, or travel for your company, find one and check it out. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Last-minute Emergency Tips for Small Businesses

Here are a few last-minute emergency reminders:

  • Take seriously the evacuation orders issued by local officials.  If they say evacuate, please follow and leave immediately.
  • Extensive power outages are predicted.  There’s still time to assemble an emergency supply kit, which includes items like non-perishable food, water, cash, a battery-powered radio, flashlights and batteries. 
  • Visit www.ready.gov for tips on creating a plan to protect your family before the storm hits.
  • Business owners can visit www.readybusiness.gov for useful tips on how to reopen quickly and lessen the economic blow of the disaster. The Department of Labor has information on how to take care of your employees when an emergency strikes. Visit www.osha.gov/hurricane
  • After the storm passes and if you’re in need of shelter or other resources, visit the Red Cross atwww.redcross.org.   You can also donate to the recovery efforts at the Red Cross site.
  • For information on SBA’s disaster assistance programs, visit www.sba.gov/disaster, or call the Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955.
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