In the highly competitive government-contracting field, small businesses often struggle to find footing amongst big-name, high-power, established contracting firms. Through the Small Business Act, the federal government hopes to encourage small women- and veteran-owned businesses to participate in bidding on federal contracts.
However, breaking into government contracting can be a bit of a minefield, littered with unexpected hurdles and hidden challenges. To help navigate, government and private-sector programs have sprung up.
The federal government is working with various agencies and advocacy groups to promote small, women- and veteran-owned businesses. The Small Business Administration reports the federal government aims to award 5 percent of its contracts to women-owned small businesses, and 3 percent to service-disabled, veteran-owned businesses with a total prime contracting small business goal of 23 percent.
The Small Business Administration founded the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program to help women-owned small businesses compete for federal contracts. In partnership with American Express, the SBA launched its Give Me 5 program in 2008.
Since the program’s inception, American Express says 200,000 women have been educated on federal contracting opportunities and the number of women-owned businesses registering with the Central Contractor Registry has increased by 36 percent. Through SBA’s network, 110 Women’s Business Centers have accessed the Give Me 5 curriculum.
“What we are celebrating today is it increases the number of the industries that are able to participate in the 5 percent set aside for women business owners, and brings opportunities for about 680,000 women business owners to compete for these contracts that would be set aside for just women business owners, ” said Karen-Michelle Mirko, director of customer advocacy marketing of American Express OPEN at a recent Give Me 5 event in Washington.
With networking, advocacy and mentorship programs, small women- and veteran-owned businesses are drawing more contract work than ever before. Although still below the 5 percent threshold, women-owned businesses are claiming larger slices of the contract pie every year.