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Success Story_Leonard Lehman

The Little Limo That Could…

In 2008, U.S. Navy veteran Leonard Lehman saw a television news broadcast about an upcoming veterans business conference called Operation: Start Up & Grow. Leonard had been driving limousines for other companies for 17 years, and since he had always wanted to have his own business, he made it a point to attend the conference two weeks later. Leonard found a lot of the information he needed to pursue his dream and said to himself, “I think I can do this.”

While starting a business is never easy, Leonard found the tools available at Operation: Start Up & Grow helped him along the way. The Syracuse SCORE Chapter assisted him in developing a thorough business plan and financial projections. Leonard found financing to purchase a black SUV limousine with an SBA-backed Patriot Express loan from Adirondack Bank.

“Other banks didn’t want to take the risk on me because I was a startup, even though I had 17 years of experience in the industry. I was very happy working with Mike Shaler at Adirondack Bank and with the interest rate on my loan,” said Leonard of his loan experience. “It was a lot of paperwork, but it was worth it.”

Three months after attending the 2008 Operation: Start Up & Grow conference, Leonard opened the doors of Legacy Limousines in Clinton, New York with a focus on offering top service at reasonable prices for his customers. After years of working for other limousine company owners in the area, Leonard knew the average prices for limousine service and stayed within a competitive range. Legacy Limousines provides transportation for weddings, proms, Finger Lake wine tours, and concerts as well as to the Albany, Syracuse and Rochester airports.

Legacy Limousines celebrated its third anniversary in 2011 and with Leonard’s leadership, the company has achieved profitability and a great reputation in Central New York. Leonard’s donated limousine service for charitable events such as the Alzheimer’s Walk and the Diabetes Association events has helped add to his best form of advertising-“word-of-mouth”. With many satisfied customers, Legacy Limousines has a head start on the road to success.

In March, Leonard attended the 2009 Operation: Start Up & Grow conference to network with other veteran business owners and learn new ideas to optimize his business. “If I didn’t go to the first conference, I wouldn’t be living my dream right now. The tools I found at the conference were excellent and helped me start my business. It’s a lot of work but I think anyone can do it if they put their mind to it,” commented Leonard.

Successful 8(a) Firm Acquired by another Former 8(a) Firm

On January 1st, 2005, Computer & Hi-tech Management, Inc. (CHM) announced that it had been acquired by FCBS, Inc., a former SBA 8(a) firm based in Northern Virginia. CHM had been in business since 1994 and has seen ten years of success in the government contracting marketplace. James S. Cheng, Founder and Principal stockholder of CHM, attributes a great deal of CHM’s success to the support and efforts of the US Small Business Administration, especially the Administration’s 8(a) program.

The 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. Participants can receive sole-source contracts, up to a ceiling of $3 million for goods and services and $5 million for manufacturing. While SBA helps 8(a) firms build their competitive and institutional know-how, the agency also encourages them to participate in competitive acquisitions.

To qualify for program certification, a small business must be owned and controlled by a socially and economically disadvantaged person. Under the Small Business Act, certain presumed groups include African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, Native Americans, and Subcontinent Asian Americans. New rules make it easier for non-minority firms to participate by proving their social disadvantage.

CHM was founded in 1994, when Mr. Cheng purchased the assets of a small computer repair contractor. The company started in Virginia Beach, VA with 6 employees and sales of about $300K. CHM received its SBA 8(a) certification in 1995 and by 1996, it was awarded its first major contract – $25 Million multi-year Information Technology support contract with the Navy at the Washington DC Navy Yard. With that contract, CHM gained financial stability and was able to hire the support staff and infrastructure to grow in future years. But more importantly, CHM was able to leverage the experience and track record from the successful performance of this contract, and win several other contracts.

By 1999, CHM’s sales had grown to about $20 Million. The company’s remarkable growth resulted in the company winning the Virginia Business Magazine’s 1999 Vanguard Award as the fastest growing private company in the Commonwealth of Virginia and achieving national ranking in Inc Magazine’s Inc. 500 for several years (including #12 fasted growing private company in 1999).

CHM continued to grow and open offices. The company wisely competed to win several important “Government Wide Acquisition Contracts” (GWACS). This would prove to be a great strategy, as GWACs were becoming the contracting vehicle of choice for government agencies. Since most of these contracts were fully competitive, it was also an important part of the company’s plan for survival in its “post-8(a) life”.

In recent years, In 2001 Mr. Cheng was awarded the KPMG Entrepreneur of the Year for Hampton Roads. In 2003 CHM was recognized as the first Greater Washington Area Government Contractor of the Year (for businesses under $100Mil) by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and the 7th largest Asian-American owned business in the US by Asian Business News magazine. CHM has also been recognized as one of the top 100 Federal prime contractors by Washington Technology magazine, and had been in the magazine’s “Fast Fifty” for numerous years.

A large part of CHM’s success can be attributed the company’s commitment to quality and process improvement. By late 2003 CHM was independently assessed at SEI CMM level III for software development and was also certified as ISO 9001 compliant. In late 2004, CHM had also received certification for SEI CMMI Level II.

By late 2004, CHM had offices in Virginia Beach, VA; McLean, VA; St. Louis, MO; Pensacola, FL; Oklahoma City, OK and Shreveport, LA. The company had grown to over $85 million (2004) in annual revenues and a staff of over 500. By end of 2004, CHM’s DoD client base included DISA, Navy and Air Force. CHM’s Civil agency clients included Dept. of Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, State, Department of Homeland Security, HUD, DEA, AID, FAA, HHS, Justice, Transportation and GSA.

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.