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Meet the SBA: Valerie Coleman, Helping Small Business Owners Contract with the Government

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Meet the SBA: Valerie Coleman, Helping Small Business Owners Contract with the Government

By janied
Published: December 14, 2011 Updated: December 15, 2011

When a friend or family member asks what you do to help small businesses, what do you say?  

As a Procurement Center Representative (PCR), my focus is to work with federal agencies to ensure that small businesses receive the maximum possible opportunities to bid on contracts. As a Commercial Market Representative (CMR), I work with the large prime contractors by monitoring their compliance with subcontracting plans. As both a PCR and CMR, I counsel and train small business owners on how to do business with the federal government and/or subcontracting. I also work on size determinations and certificates of competency as needed.

What’s your favorite thing about what the SBA does for small businesses?

SBA gives small businesses hope even when they thought there was none. I especially remember a story of a contractor who came into my office literally crying because he thought he was going to have to close his business because he was not able to get any contracts. The only thing I could advise him was to be “patient” with the system. A few months later, he was able to sign two multi-million dollar contracts that allowed him to continue to operate and he is still in business today.

Is there a particular small business “success story” that comes to mind when you think about how the SBA helps people?

After almost 38 years with SBA, there are many success stories, so to pick just one would be impossible. Having the opportunity to have beenable to work or do rotations in numerous divisions of SBA including financial assistance, portfolio management, disaster assistance, 8(a) and management assistance, success comes in many different forms. It might be the guaranty loan that a small business so desperately needed to keep their business going or it was that counseling/training session that an owner took that finally put “the pieces of the puzzle” together or seeing a family getting the disaster assistance that will allow them to have a home again after theirs was destroyed.  In my current capacity, it’s a small business that was awarded their first federal contract or being able to receive a subcontract from a large prime contractor that they never thought they would be working with.

Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs and small business owners out there? 

Two things -  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. SBA and its resource partners are there for you. Please use us! and  2. Support other small businesses and work with them as often as possible especially in the areas of government contracting.  If a federal contract requirement might be too big for you, find teaming partners and go after that opportunity.

“Don’t worry about failure. Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.” –Unknown. As a small business owner, you are taking the chances – Congratulations!

Anything else to add?

I am very fortunate to not only have a job in this economy, but to have a job that I absolutely love and gives me a feeling of fulfillment. When asked if I am going to retire soon, my answer is always, “Why? I am enjoying what I do too much” and very few people can say that.

Meet the SBA is a series of features on SBA employees -- both in Washington, D.C., and around the U.S. -- who work every day to help small businesses grow and create jobs. Employees were nominated by their colleagues to be recognized during Public Service Recognition Week 2011.

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Comments:

have read your site it is very helpful for me. I want to say thanks to you. I have bookmark your site for future updates. Keep up the good work!
Some of those are really inspiring! Especially the contractor. But what would happen if you can't pay off a SBA loan? Is there any lower payment plans?
I like that we're able to get to know more about the people behind the SBA. This is a very good website and an excellent source of information and an quite often an inspiration to small business owners.
As an alternative commercial financing broker I often encounter small businesses that the SBA can't or won't help. Many times it is simply because as a government agency you are unable to move fast enough to fulfill their need. When a subcontractor starts a contract they often have to wait 45 to 60 days to start receiving payment from the primary. The primary contractor waits 30 days for government payment and then has to process the payment and pay its subs. When a company is too young to have developed significant assets or is under 3 years of age the banks are no help. As a broker I often help these small companies locate payroll financing so they can hire and pay the employees they need to fulfill their opportunity.
While this article is encouraging, it is opposite of my experience with 8 ( a ) certification. I just received denial letter a couple wks ago, after 7 months awaiting an answer. Reasons - not economically disadvantaged (I am no where near $250K limit), business sales were lower for previous 2 years (bad economy, didn't many businesses show losses). Declined because determined firm lacks necessary financial capacity, does not have potential to successfully meet business objectives of 8(a) DB program. I went after this certification to make my company stand out to the primes that contract with the government. I plan to go through the reconsideration process, however it is so deflating when programs that one would expect to work for a company like mine appear to show preference for companies that will grow and expand without 8(a) certification. So after starting certification application Nov 2010, providing additional info in Mar 2011 and no contact til Dec 2011 denial letter. The guys that I employ are so grateful for the wages earned. And certainly I would be unemployed if not working for myself. SBA 8(a) sure burst my bubble.
SBA.gov has taught me a lot as a entrepreneur. Since I joined the community I was able to apply some of the tips I read on blog posts and discussion thread. Thanks SBA for sharing and helping small business owners. Apartment for Rent
SBA information has been helpful to me to start my business with confidence. I had many doubts that have been solved thanks to your advice, I think it's important to have clear ideas before beginning any activity.
I have been on sba since I started my small business and it helped me a lot with all the advice I need. Also the community here is very helpful which is great, especially the people that explain the little things which no one wants to teach you. Alex@jocuri de gatit

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