8(a) Firm Named One of the Fastest Growing Value-Added Resellers and Solution Providers in the Country
Ellie Nazemoff emigrated from Iran to the United States in 1977 seeking opportunities not available to women in her native country. She began her career 24 years ago as a college student studying computers at Southeastern University in Washington working as a programmer for one of her professors. After earning a master’s degree from Strayer University, she started her own consulting business, marketing an office management software program for doctors that she designed and developed. Marketing brought the realization that many doctors did not yet have computers in their offices, so she bundled hardware and software together and began to sell packages.
Four years later in 1989 she started seeking out federal contracts for her business. She was forced to subcontract instead since she had no track record with the federal government. It was not easy for a woman business owner in the information technology field. Nazemoff learned the pitfalls of subcontracting when DataTech lost a number of contracts after the prime contractor it was working with lost its contract or was acquired by another firm. By 2001 DataTech had built up sufficient credentials to become a prime contractor on state and federal contracts. However, the business suffered a setback after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when the federal government cancelled some of its contracts with DataTech. Ellie applied for and received an SBA loan and went after new contracts, redirecting the firm’s emphasis to include security technology. This strategy paid off, and the firm was ranked No. 2 in the Fast Growth 100 for the 12 months ending June 30, 2004.
Also in 2004, the firm was certified under the SBA 8(a) Program. The firm is an SDB (Small Disadvantaged Business) and HUBZone certified. The SBA 8(a) Business Development Program is an essential instrument for helping socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs gain access to the economic mainstream of American society. SBA has helped thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs over the years to gain a foothold in government contracting. Participation is divided into two phases over nine years: a four-year developmental stage and a five-year transition stage.
Today DataTech Enterprises, Inc. has grown to 15 employees and reported over $2 million worth of business last year. DataTech now has a string of contracts to its credit. Their clients include the Pentagon, U.S. Postal Service, Defense Logistics Agency, the Dominican Republic, and the Federal Aviation Administration. The firm’s mission is to provide premier information technology, engineering and product sales and support to DataTech’s clients with maximum return on investment.
Nazemoff credits the firm’s success to passionate dedication to customer service and her talented, dedicated staff. The company is qualified to provide work in a number of fields, but specializes in project management and has developed several software programs to help businesses in the Fredericksburg area.
Elizabeth Kent’s interest in interior design and crafts began with sewing projects she was assigned as a child by her mother. She developed her abilities into a serious hobby over the next 35 years. With the assistance of the Richmond Career Advancement Center Elizabeth earned an Interior Design Career Studies Certificate from J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in 2001.
In 1993 she obtained a business license and began Decorative Walls and Creative Arts. Through this business she combined her love of craft and home design and specialized in faux finishes. Elizabeth’s Classic Designs (ECD) began providing interior design services to the public in 1994 through her business, Decorative Walls and Creative Arts. Although business was steady and the work interesting to the proprietor, Elizabeth Kent, she began to move toward specialty furniture design, particularly focusing on custom made upholstered ottomans.
In March 2001, Ms. Kent obtained a patent for her unique ottoman design which uses the interior compartment as storage space and creates a versatile top, to be used either as a table top or cushion. This design makes an especially useful ottoman, one that is comfortable, and adds to table surface and storage. The usefulness of the general design and the array of decorative choices also make these ottomans a practical and attractive choice in any space in the home or office.
Ms. Kent immediately saw the market in the custom-made ottomans and has created more than 50 one-of-a-kind pieces during the past several years, all of which can serve as prototypes in future production.
Ms. Kent stumbled on the Commonwealth collegiate theme and has developed those contacts and themes as a central portion of her business. She presented her University of Richmond spider mascot ottoman to the licensing agency for the college and was accepted as a vendor in September 2004. Ms. Kent currently has a license with North Carolina State University and is researching several other state colleges, including William & Mary, James Madison, UVA and Virginia Tech.
Last year when Elizabeth began researching manufacturing options for her collegiate ottomans, she contacted New Visions, New Ventures, an SBA Women’s Business Center in Richmond, for help. New Visions New Ventures helped Kent to create a business plan. They put her in touch Mississippi State University who has a furniture manufacturing program. Jilei Zhang of Mississippi State University has been working with Kent and suggested that she consider manufacturing her product in China. Kent recently sent her first samples to China to identify manufacturers who would be interested in producing the collegiate ottomans. Locally in Richmond she is setting up a Richmond warehouse and manufacturing location for her domestic line of ottomans at the Jefferson Davis Enterprise Center.
Along with the collegiate lines, Ms. Kent plans to develop a home interior line, featuring a diverse collection of floral and geometric patterns. Some will also have popular themes, such as chess, gardens and books. The home interior line will be manufactured in Richmond and features hand craftsmanship.
Elizabeth also shares her artistic talents with the local community. Last year she taught a Chesterfield County Adult Education Class on Innovative Decorating w/Stencils and Faux Finishes. In the past she has donated furniture items for a silent auction to support the PTA of a local elementary school.
Gourmet Gang, Inc. is a multi-location bistro style deli restaurant and catering business that has grown since 1991 to become one of the largest and most successful local food service operators in the Tidewater area. Through the leadership of its owner, Michella Guinan, Gourmet Gang has grown from a small door-to-door sandwich vendor to a four location restaurant and large catering business. Gourmet Gang also serves various airline operations flying out of Norfolk International Airport. Employment has grown from one employee in 1991 to fifty employees today.
Mia Guinan’s early interest in the restaurant industry led her to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Hospitality and Restaurant Administration from Florida State University. Following graduation, her first entrepreneurial enterprise venture began in 1986 when she conceptualized and co-founded Lettuce Souprise You, Inc. in Atlanta, GA. As Executive Vice President, she secured corporate financing and coordinated all aspects of design, development and construction, established all operating systems and programs and managed a team of 85 employees.
In 1991 Mia moved to Norfolk, Virginia where she developed a door-to-door sandwich vendor service. From the growth of interest in her sandwich business, Mia founded Gourmet Gang, Inc. Gourmet Gang, Inc. originally operated strictly as a food vendor service, but as demands for her products increased, Mia opened her first location. In 1996, she switched her business profile from food vendor to a pre-order delivery service and bistro style deli restaurant. As the popularity of the Gourmet Gang grew, and in order to more effectively serve her pre-order delivery service, she opened several satellite locations. In 2002, with the increase in her corporate catering division, Gourmet Gang, with the assistance of financing by Resource Bank, along with an SBA guarantee, moved her main kitchen facilities to a larger location that could serve her present and future needs. With the presence of the new location next to Norfolk International Airport, it was a logical next step to enter into the food service business for airlines operating from the airport.
Gourmet Gang’s commitment to unparalleled customer service, quality and value has been instrumental in its growth and success. Gourmet Gang has also given back to the community through assistance and contributions over the years. Some of the organizations it has assisted in 2004 include Jr. Achievement, Relay for Life, Virginia Ballet, Lynnhaven Business Association, Children of the Commonwealth Benevolent Fund, WHRO, Norfolk Rotary, EVMS Student Scholarship and Norfolk Botanical Gardens.
Mia is married to Neil Guinan, and they have two young daughters. Neil, a Lt. Commander with U.S. Navy Seal Team 8, is currently deployed overseas.