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SBA’s 2017 Minority-Owned Business of the Year for Eastern Missouri: Geodata IT, LLC

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SBA’s 2017 Minority-Owned Business of the Year for Eastern Missouri: Geodata IT, LLC

Glance at any number of magazine articles or websites devoted to entrepreneurship and a recurring theme quickly emerges. Entrepreneurs often want to solve a problem, fulfill a need or make the world better. But they want to do it on their own terms.  That pretty much describes Justin Bennett, President and CEO of Geodata IT, a St. Louis based technology company.  Bennett, a U.S. Air Force veteran, sought the freedom to solve difficult challenges using the methods and technology of his choosing.  After being honorably discharged from the military, Bennett expanded his experience base through his work with various federal contractors including NJVC, Raytheon, and SAIC.  In 2012, Bennett gave in to his hunger for independence and founded Geodata IT, a business specializing in providing solutions to national security and geospatial mission requirements.  Early in the process he connected with the Small Business Administration and its resource partner SCORE.
“When I wrote my business plan, I was looking for help around the local area.  I noticed that SCORE was available and was in the SBA office location,” Bennett recalls.  “I decided to visit the SBA office to find out about loans, support, and any programs available.”
The relationship with the SBA became stronger as Bennett’s business grew.  Geodata IT became certified under the 8(a) Business Development Program in 2015 and Bennett entered SBA’s Emerging Leaders executive level training in 2016. He has high praise for the training he received and credits it with helping him address areas in which he needed improvement.
“The intense work helped me identify the areas where I needed the most help. For me, my weakness was the love of independence. The Emerging Leaders Program taught me how to delegate to those who could fill in my own skill gaps.”
In 2015, a decline in revenue forced Bennett to choose between closing his company with a profit or restructuring operations for long-term sustainability. He invited his employees to help him make the final decision and together they created an operational framework that put Geodata IT on the path to sustainable success. The struggles and hard work Bennett and his teammates have endured led to the company’s selection as the SBA’s Minority Owned Small Business of the Year for Eastern Missouri.
“It’s an incredible honor,” said Bennett. “It can be hard to thrive as a small business.  The award really signifies to the team that all our hard work and sacrifices prepared us for a prosperous future.”
The award is significant for its recognition of a small business owner who has experienced the difficulties and rewards of being a minority business owner.  But in this case the term “minority” had nothing to do with the usual suspects: race, gender, and ethnicity. Instead, the struggle came as a small business owner competing with large corporations for federal contracts.
“I remember how hard he worked to win those government contracts and to make his company known,” says Angie Wells, SBA St. Louis’ program coordinator for the Emerging Leaders Initiative.
Bennett repeatedly points to the SBA and the knowledge base it’s given him as a huge reason for his success in competing in much larger arenas.  But as the world moves to cloud technologies, his team’s ability to conquer the most difficult data challenges sets it apart from the pack and makes Geodata IT a rising star to watch.