Woman-Owned Businesses Navigating the SBA Resource Partner Network for Success! (RSVP 7/31 HUBZone Certification Event at Suffolk University Law)
Article by Norman Eng
Economic Development Specialist/Public Information Officer at US Small Business Administration (Posts & Opinions Mine)
The SBA is making it easier than ever for women entrepreneurs to access resources.
The newly reimagined SBA is modernizing its’ service delivery experience so entrepreneurs like Lilian Radke
, can efficiently connect to government contracting opportunities and lending programs.
Recently launched is Certify.SBA.Gov – an online portal that allows entrepreneurs to prescreen for certification eligibility and streamlines the application process for federal contracting programs.
Also new is SBA.gov/LenderMatch – an online referral tool that connects entrepreneurs with SBA-approved lenders through a streamlined business loan application process.
In recent years, Lilian Radke has taken advantage of both programs to propel the rapid growth of her company, Unic Pro – expanding her client portfolio at a rate of about 45% annually and increasing her overall staffing level to over 120 employees.
TOP-RATED VOLLEYBALL PLAYER TURNED TOP-NOTCH ENTREPRENEUR
A native of Brazil, Radke came to the United States as a teenager in early 2000.
Radke was a top-rated volleyball player who was recruited by a visiting coach from the University of Arkansas. She was one of five players who were offered a full scholarship – but the only one from her group accepted after passing all of the required tests.
Lilian became a star for Arkansas volleyball and in her second year on the team, named captain and awarded the MVP. In the last year of her collegiate career playing volleyball, she met her husband Silvano who is also from Brazil and was living in Massachusetts – where they settled to start a family and a small business.
As a new American, Radke first gained experience working – and then tapped into as many resources as possible to get her business off the ground, relying not only on the SBA network – but also her faith.
“It is impossible to run a successful company without surrounding yourself with great people and resources. In the last few years I became more involved with programs by SBA, CWE and the Cristian CEOs Group (C12 Group) that helped me become a better leader,” said CEO Lilian Radke. “Through these programs, I learned to implement a mission statement and core values that prepared me to grow my business and hire great people.”
This year as part of 2018 National Small Business Week, the SBA named Radke and Unic Pro the Woman-Owned Business of the Year for Massachusetts. A testament to her drive and determination in utilizing all that the SBA offers to create dozens of new jobs and successfully grow her business. Unic Pro earned the recognition for its success as a commercial cleaning company with rapid growth in sales and job creation. Unic Pro’s cur clientele includes: medical facilities, YMCAs, child care centers, universities, schools, government buildings, and professional offices.
How did she get there? What resources did she tap into?
Parts of Radke’s blueprint for success consisted of:
- Counseling that taught her industry practices and how to penetrate the government sector
- Getting matched with a lender to approve a Working Capital Loan to create new jobs
- Getting Certified to win government contracts that strengthened her company’s long-term financial health
WOMEN’S BUSINESS CENTER & EXPERT ADVICE
When Radke began looking for assistance to expand the business; she turned to the SBA’s resource partner network. She tapped into the Center for Women & Enterprise, PTAC, MSBDC, and other SBA resources for professional development and guidance.
Radke is actively engaged with a variety of women’s business programs, both as a participant in WBENC (Women Business Enterprise National Council) forum meetings and as a regular attendee at women's business conferences. She also attends workshops at the Center for Women & Enterprise to get connected with experts and build her business know-how and management capacity.
Radke received the most valuable counseling from Government Sales Advisor Sandra Ledbetter of MSBDC Central Massachusetts Office
, which helped her understand how to do business with the government; and also guided her through the process of getting the right certifications for her business.
Once the company started growing and getting more government contract work, Radke began preparing to get lender-ready. She received counseling from Paula Camara of the Clark University Small Business Development Center to understand the lending process and prepare financials and profitability projections for her bank loan application.
SBA LENDER MATCH
During her initial search for capital, Radke was turned down by several banks unwilling to approve her for a business loan. After attending SBA events and meeting Lead Lender Relations Specialist Ili Spahiu, she was introduced to SBA Lender Match – which finally connected her with several lenders that ended up competing for her business.
After being contacted by 9 different banks – she chose United Bank to do business with and was able to consolidate all of the company’s debt with a 7(a) Working Capital Loan in the amount of $245,000; and also secured a line of credit for $300,000 that would support ongoing needs and grow the business at a much faster pace.
SBA Lender Match took about 5 minutes to complete – just answer a few questions about your business and within 2 days, you will receive an email with contact information of lenders who express interest in your loan application. From there, you talk with lenders to compare rates, terms and fees; then simply apply for the loan.
Now in order for Radke to get awarded new government accounts with agencies such as: the FDA, U.S. Coast Guard, GSA, FAA, USDA and the U.S. Army; she needed the right certifications that would attract procurement officers to do business with her firm. Unic Pro was approved under NAICS Code 561720 for cleaning building interiors, interiors of transportation equipment and/or windows.
Radke made sure to certify her business with as many designations as possible, getting certified: 8(a), WBE, WOSB, DBE, and WBENC. Here’s a description of each designation and how to certify:
8(a) – The 8(a) Program is a business development program that helps small, socially and economically disadvantaged businesses grow by way of federal contracts. The federal government has a goal to award at least 5% of all federal contracting dollars to small disadvantaged businesses each year to level the playing field for socially and economically disadvantaged businesses. Certified 8(a) participants are eligible for sole source contracts, under four million dollars and competitive 8(a) contracts above that threshold. To certify, visit Certify.SBA.Gov and follow the directions, it’s as simple as answering questions and uploading the necessary documents. Check out the Preparation Checklist to get ready. To learn more, reach out to Lead Business Opportunity Specialist Nadine Boone at: Nadine.Boone@SBA.gov
WBE – This certification is required for women-owned businesses that want to bid on Massachusetts State contracts in the public sector. The Center for Women & Enterprise forged a relationship with the State of Massachusetts, allowing for WBENC-certified businesses to obtain MA State WBE-state certification through a streamlined process. To certify, WBEs must submit the two-page OSD-SDO application along with a copy of their WBENC certificate, and email both items to firstname.lastname@example.org. For full instructions, please click HERE.
WOSB – The government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate in the women’s contracting program. It tries to award at least 5% of all federal contracting dollars to certified Women-Owned Small Businesses in certain each year. To self-certify, visit Certify.SBA.Govand follow the directions. Check out the Preparation Checklist to get ready.
DBE – This certification is a federal designation used in conjunction with USDOT funded projects and contracts. Disadvantaged Business Enterprises are certified by the state, and are for socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who own at least a 51% interest and also control management and daily business operations. New applicants for DBE certification must complete their application with the certifying agency in their home state and participate in an on-site interview conducted by that agency. To certify, please reach out to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Supplier Diversity Office of the Operational Services Division or Massport-Massachusetts Port Authority.
WBENC – The Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certification is one of the most widely recognized and respected certifications in the United States and is accepted by hundreds of corporations, in addition to many federal, state and local government entities. To certify, reach out locally to the Center for Women & Enterprise and participate in a free certification webinar, “Why and How You Should Certify Your Business as Women-Owned,” offered monthly. To learn more, reach out to CWE Director of the WBENC program Jessica Yamas at: email@example.com