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Leveling the Playing Field
The month of March has been designated Women’s History Month in the United States, when the nation celebrates the great achievements of women leaders, educators and entrepreneurs. The number of women-owned small businesses continues to grow, and many have done so with the assistance of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Entrepreneurs like Dawn Ochman, President of Dawn Incorporated of Warren, a trucking/general contracting company, are making tremendous contributions to the Ohio economy. In 2009, Dawn’s company was certified in the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program as an economically disadvantaged women-owned small business. The 8(a) program assists socially and economically disadvantaged businesses better compete in the American economy and access the federal procurement market.
Thanks in part to SBA’s assistance opening up federal contracting opportunities, Dawn has seen her 20-year old company’s revenues grow by 102%.
Prior to obtaining its 8(a) certification, Dawn’s firm had no success landing work with the federal government. The company was surviving with commercial work, but it had limited prospects for growth. She saw the 8(a) program as an opportunity for growth. “There was not an abundance of work available, so, to survive, we knew we needed to explore other markets,” said Dawn.
The 8(a) program has helped Dawn find some success in the federal arena, winning government contracts and helping the company has also added employees, and its professional staff now numbers 13 full time employees and 5 part-time personnel.
The 8(a) program has also provided Dawn with learning and mentoring opportunities that have helped her to better compete in the business world. The program enhances the capabilities of its participants and improves their ability to successfully compete for federal government contracts, including subcontracting on current contracts, teaming on new opportunities, and joint venture proposal development. 8(a) also offers participants periodic, no-cost training opportunities. In addition, in 2011 Dawn participated in the Youngstown Emerging Leaders Initiative. The SBA Emerging Leaders (e200) Initiative is a federal training initiative that specifically focuses on executives of businesses poised for growth in historically challenged communities. The initiative provides these executives with the organizational framework, resource network, and motivation required to build sustainable businesses and promote the economic development within urban communities.
SBA continues to work to increase contract opportunities for women entrepreneurs. The agency recently announced a new Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program which allows contracting officers, for the first time, to set aside specific contracting opportunities for certified women-owned firms and will help federal agencies achieve the existing statutory goal that 5% of federal contracting dollars are awarded to these firms. This new Program also identifies over 83 industries in which women-owned businesses will benefit from such opportunities. For additional information, visit www.sba.gov/wosb.
As a woman-business owner in a “non-traditional” field, Dawn Ochman knows all too well about the difficulties women-owned small businesses have endured in competing for federal procurement contracts in certain industries. SBA is helping her overcome some of these obstacles.