Last week, the Council hosted our 1st Public Meeting for fiscal year 2016. This web conference included updates from the Council on our research and engagement efforts, remarks by special guests, and then a panel discussion titled “Beyond Sole Source: Strategies to Reach the 5% WOSB Goal.”

Our Public Meetings are an opportunity for us to share with the public our latest researchand findings. Council Chair Carla Harris kicked us off with a reminder that the NWBC is a non-partisan federal advisory council created to serve as an independent source of advice and counsel to the President, Congress, and the U.S. Small Business Administration on issues of impact and importance to aspiring and current women business owners and leaders. It is the Council’s job to equip the nation’s decision makers, public and private, with policy recommendations that will impact and improve the business climate for women in our country.

She also introduced and welcomed our newest member to the Council: Kristie Arslan, Executive Director of Women Impacting Public Policy. She leads the organization in its efforts to advocate for women and minority business owners on economic policy and current legislative initiatives that impact business health and growth. WIPP is an important member of the Council, and we are excited to continue our ongoing collaboration with them and to have Kristi’s expertise, particularly in the realm of federal procurement on the Council. Carla then introduced Kim Blackwell and Laura Yamanaka to report on the Council’s exciting research updates and engagement efforts.

Research Updates

Entrepreneurship Resource Platform for Growth-Minded Women Entrepreneurs: After surveying the entrepreneurship ecosystem for high-growth women entrepreneurs and conducting many conversations with our stakeholders, we got to work developing and designing a potential solution – an online resource platform for the growth of women-owned businesses. This platform will serve as a resource of valuable information and guidance for women entrepreneurs seeking to grow and scale their businesses. The website is currently in beta testing and is expected to go live in spring 2016.

Exploration of Entrepreneurship Ecosystems:  The Council is looking at regional ecosystems in an effort to identify what is working well and to better understand how these ecosystems are meeting the needs of women entrepreneurs. The Council will visit six ecosystems in 2016 and bring together key stakeholders— entrepreneurs, government, business support and professional organizations, universities, investors, media, and others – to examine the conditions for the success and the opportunities for additional support. First up is San Francisco at the end of January.

Growth and Development of Women-Owned Business between 2002 and 2012:We have commissioned a project to do a deeper dive into the 2012 Survey of Business Owners, which is expected to be released on December 15th. This project will focus on the nuances, trends, and patterns of growth for women’s entrepreneurship since 2002 to clarify and describe the country’s WOBs.

Engagement and Communications

We have had a great and engaging few months – with record high rates of media placement and public interest in women’s entrepreneurship. There is a deep interest and enthusiasm for the current state of women’s entrepreneurial endeavors:

  • In October, we celebrated National Women’s Small Business Ownership Month and also our 27th birthday. We started the month with a visit to New Orleans, Louisiana for a Women Power Social Change Roundtable, hosted by Propeller, the NWBC and the SBA District Office. The second stop was Baltimore, Maryland. Amanda Brown, the Council’s Executive Director, participated in the Athena Powerlink’s Baltimore Business Women’s Roundtable. There was also a trip to Stamford, Connecticut for the CT WBDC’s 14th Annual Business Breakfast.
  • We released a Social Network Analysis Toolkit. This toolkit was inspired by the NWBCs research on the structural differences of women’s and men’s social networks, which was released in August. The new toolkit is designed to be a practical guide to assessing your current network as well as developing a plan to maximize your future network.
  • The Council created a Media Resource for journalists and other media makers who want to more effectively cover women entrepreneurs. The toolkit includes tips on how to talk about women entrepreneurs, resources for how to interview women business owners and how to find women business owners.

Following these updates, the Council Chair shared a sneak peak of the soon-to-be-released Annual Report, titled “10 Million Strong – The Tipping Point for Women’s Entrepreneurship.” There is great progress and a steep growth trajectory — but we have yet to see women-owned and women-led firms given the access and opportunity necessary to live up to their fullest potential. There is still a ways to go to achieve economic and leadership parity in this country. We are at a tipping point; it’s a time for celebration and a call to action to effectively sustain this momentum.

Remarks from Special Guests

We were thrilled to be joined by Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and member of the Small Business Committee. She is a strong advocate for women entrepreneurs. Senator Shaheen has worked to keep the U.S. economy competitive in the global marketplace through her efforts on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and through legislation, such as the Small Business Jobs Act and the Small Business Innovation Research program. The Senator affirmed her support of small businesses and reflected on her own experience as a business owner. She and her husband owned a family business which taught her why it is so important to support small businesses. Now she has two daughters who are entrepreneurs and have started their own small businesses. The Senator remarked on the amazing small business economy in her state where 96 % of the employers are small businesses. She noted that while the U.S. spends 91 billion on goods and services, it spends less than 5% on WOBs, and confirmed that sole source is critical as WOSBs compete for government contracts.

We were then joined by John Shoraka, the Associate Administrator of Government Contracting and Business Development at the U.S. Small Business Administration. His team supports thousands of small businesses every year as they compete for over $500 billion in federal prime contracts and billions more in subcontracts. In his current role, John is responsible for overseeing the umbrella office with jurisdiction over the Agency’s offices of Size Standards, HUB Zone, Government Contracting, and Business Development/8(a). Shoraka noted that changes to the National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA), which includes sole source provisions have significant implications for WOSBs. Shoraka expressed great enthusiasm about the bipartisan support and dedication to increasing government spend with small businesses. He highlighted a current study by the SBA that examines women’s underrepresentation in industries according to their North American Industry Classification Codes (NAICS) classification. Currently, WOBs are “underrepresented” in 83 industries and have set aside privilege. This study may increase the number of industries that have set asides for WOBs. It is expected to be published in early 2016. Shoraka also shared that the SBA will be issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on certification in the coming weeks. This will be an opportunity to get public feedback on how to implement the statutory provision of the NDAA concerning WOSB and EDWOSB certification. He closed by answering a question about the mentor protégé program and confirmed that the rule has gone out for public comment. He hopes that it will be finalized and a paper will be published in the first quarter of 2016. The SBA hopes to have a pilot program running by summer 2016.

Panel Discussion

When the federal government falls short of its minimal procurement goal, it’s a huge loss for the government and women-owned small businesses in terms of number of awards and the size of the awards. According to estimates made from the fiscal year 2014 Procurement Scorecard, it was a potential opportunity loss of $1.2 billion. During this panel discussion, the moderator and panelists discussed strategies and tactics for reaching, and one day, exceeding the 5% WOSB goal. The discussion was thought-provoking and constructive.

The amazing panelists included:

Erin Andrew is an Assistant Administrator of the US Small Business Administration and Director of the Office of Women’s Business Ownership. She oversees the agency’s efforts to promote the growth of women-owned businesses through advocacy and programs that provide business training and counseling, access to credit and capital, and multiple business and networking opportunities.

Elise Hernandez is the CEO and President of Ideal System Solutions, Inc.(ISSI). Founded in 1997, Ideal has been a leading provider of information technology products, solutions, and professional services throughout the U.S. to government agencies, prime contractors, educational institutions and commercial organizations nationwide.

Teresa Lewis is the Director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is responsible for developing policy and initiatives; implementing and managing the Department’s small business program.

Rose Wang is the CEO and Founder of Binary Group, Inc. an information technology services firm recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest growing privately held businesses in the country.

There were many nuggets of wisdom and resources shared, including:

At the end, panelists shared closing remarks – the best advice that they have for a women in pursuit of a federal contract. Here’s what they said.

  • Have Tenacity!
  • Be Strategic
  • Understand government contracting – know the regulations and read the contracts
  • Remember that you don’t have to go at it alone

With the continued progress and efforts, the sky is the limit for women-owned businesses. We are confident that we will not only meet the 5% government-wide prime contracting goal for spending with WOBs, but we will surpass it.

The full web conference is posted online at: