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8(a) Certification Creates New Expansion Opportunities

A passion for helping people, opening doors in government contracting  

By Norman Eng, Public Affairs Specialist

Judith Joseph
After working for several years as a human resources manager in home health care – Judith Joseph saw a growth opportunity in the industry and began exploring business ownership.

Without any experience running a business, Joseph invested in a franchise operation – allowing her to launch 21st Century Home Care Inc. in January of 2004.  After a few frustrating years of trying to establish the business focused solely on home care services – Joseph almost gave up.  Faced with business development limitations, the firm couldn’t sustain revenue, often hitting discriminatory roadblocks from prospective customers who would often request “non-black” visitors to their home.

Joseph was forced to put the business on hold due to lack of business, she even looked for a temporary full-time job; but Joseph never gave up. 

 

Getting Certified and Landing the First Contract
Already certified by the state with the Commonwealth’s Supplier Diversity Office at that time, Joseph heard about SBA programs and federal certification through the years – but was reluctant to dive into more applications and cumbersome paperwork. 

It was a friend, already certified in the 8(a) program who she knew – that offered her assistance with the application and helped guide her through the process, paving the way for 21st Century to get 8(a) certified in September of 2020.  Because of the discriminatory barriers she experienced in the industry, Joseph was “socially and economically disadvantaged” – one of the main qualifications for the program. 

New Opportunities by Expanding NAICS Codes
While going through the application process, Joseph learned about how to win federal contracts and the different NAICS Codes (North American Industry Classification System) used to identify capabilities.  

“Through the SAM system, you can have as many NAICS codes as you want – that’s why we changed the name of the company from 21st Century Home Care to 21st Century Management Services Inc,” said Joseph.” We just didn’t want people to think we only do home care – so changing our name sets us up to create new opportunities for other non-8a firms to reach out to us and also to help others.” 

After changing the name of her business and a few months after getting certified, Joseph landed her first contract in December 2020.  The Defense Health Agency awarded her firm with a contract to support Integrated Referral Management and Appointment (IRMAC) at the Walter Reed Medical Center.

Today, 21st Century has about 75 employees, including: home health aides, certified nursing assistants, PCAs, companions and homemakers.  The business is based in Canton, Massachusetts and was able to keep running after receiving a Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loan from her bank and the SBA.

 

What Advice Do You Have for Other Black Entrepreneurs?

  • Part of what I have achieved so far was a result of persistence and devotion to my business. You have to work hard and be patient with bidding on government contracts.
     
  • Don’t look back and keep on moving forward – just do what you have to do and be persistent in any business situation.
     
  • There’s a lot of opportunities out there, so try different things and just do your best to accomplish whatever goal you have in mind. 
     
  • If something negative or discriminatory happens to you, don’t dwell, don’t look back – keep moving forward.  I did not stop; you must just keep working.

 

 

 

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HOW TO APPLY

The 8(a) Business Development (BD) Program offers a broad scope of assistance to firms that are owned and controlled at least 51% socially and economically disadvantaged individual(s).

To find out if you are eligible to apply, visit: certify.SBA.gov

Start preparing your application by collecting the necessary documents to submit to the SBA.

8(a) Business Development (BD) Program Preparation Checklist