Military Spouse Magazine

MAR 2019

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Dee Dee Helfenstein leads Booz Allen's Solutions Business responsible for new product strategy, strategic alliances, and accelerating transformative and integrated solutions for clients through inclusive innovation. She is passionate about female entrepreneurship and sits on the board of The Vinetta Project, a non-profit partner of Booz Allen which focuses on providing women founders across the country equal access to support and capital. Booz Allen is committed to reducing military spouse unemployment from the inside out, which means hiring, retaining, and growing military spouse talent and also encouraging military spouse entrepreneurship. SEEK OUT SUPPORT TO MATCH YOUR MATURITY From identifying your NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) to registering in SAM (System for Award Management), the alphabet soup of getting started and certified can be dizzying. And for some small businesses, those "early" tasks are not even on the horizon yet. It's important to develop strategic net- works and partnerships along your journey to winning a federal bid. Early stage startups can look to organizations such as The Vinetta Proj- ect, a capital platform and Seed Spot, an incuba- tor, which help founders build credibility, obtain access to mentorship and capital, and launch a viable business. In differ- ent ways, they are each focused on supporting disadvantaged founders who have high potential businesses, but minimal access to the traditional investment ecosystem. In 2018, Vinetta part- nered with Booz Allen and the Small Business Administration to offer three sessions for women founders on how to work in the federal govern- ment and just last month SEED Spot and Military Family Advisory Net- work (MFAN) hosted a 2-Day Launch Camp for aspiring military spouse entrepreneurs. Par- ticipants included Dr. Ingrid Herrera-Yee who is building a nonprofit community of military spouses who are mental health professionals and want to reduce service member and veteran suicide rates. For small busi- nesses that are farther along in their lifecycle but would benefit from development support, the Mentor-Protégé pro- gram, administered by the Small Business Ad- ministration, is a way to accelerate this process. Mentors typically work with select small businesses in a capac- ity that varies based on specific company needs (e.g. technology transfer, security clearances, accounting systems, business development, and more). It's a valu- able way to start a long-term partnership and a good first step toward a joint venture. DO YOUR HOMEWORK TO STAND OUT Even though women-owned small businesses are sought after in the federal government, lean opera- tions sometimes lack the resources to gather intel about procurements or a program's history. It's essential to pay close attention to agency priorities and procurements planned for this year. Go after the projects that will be a good fit for your business by building agency relationships early on and develop- ing a procurement strategy using resources offered by regional and federal development centers. These development centers—such as the National Association of Women Business Owners, or another group depending on your classification—can help small businesses seek out specialists across agencies to build relation- ships that may yield valuable information about a program's mission, expected procurements, and even contracts where they may not be hitting their small business goals. This effort is exclu- sively about information-gathering and developing a landscape understanding, so you can better position your business when the time comes. I have seen and been personally impacted by the power and talent that comes from small businesses owned by military spouses, veterans, and others. The good news if you're a military spouse and small business owner: The federal government is increas- ingly opening opportunities for founders like you and is supporting high-potential companies that represent the diversity of talent in our economy. H 2 3 MARCH 2019 / MILITARYSPOUSE.COM 25

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