Never Quit, Never Quit, Never Quit
In its 15th year of business, Athena Construction Group, a contracting and construction company, employs 55 people, has four offices, three company vehicles, and operates in two-time zones. Back when the company started operating in 2003, it was serving a very different market, residential remodeling. The business was struggling from the get go, juggling zoning and safety regulations. Athena’s current president, Amber Peebles, then a government contract paralegal, was managing a gargantuan law firm merger that included a $20 million construction project. In that role she learned about veteran set-asides. When Athena’s founder, Melissa Schneider desired to grow the remodeling firm, she brought Peebles aboard as the firm’s president, and the pair turned its attention to government contracting. However, analogous to the chicken or the egg dilemma, government contracts were hard to come by without bonding and past performance.
Susan secured an SBA 504 loan, investing approximately $900,000 of her own equity, and was able to build her own location that houses a full-size Olympic pool as well as a training pool.Through what Ms. Peebles refers to as a “steady, constant, search for achievement” Athena’s management keyed in on attaining subcontracts for federal work and slowly built up their portfolio. Ms. Peebles noted that she wanted to ensure that Athena Construction Group has disciplined growth. She assured, “too much work too quickly wouldn’t be healthy for our company”.
Amber is a service-disabled veteran, and her business partner is also a veteran. The firm is located in a HUBZone and both owners are female, which qualifies Athena Construction Group for service-disabled, women-owned small business, and HUBZone set-asides for federal contracting work.
About a year ago, the firm was accepted to the SBA 8(a) business development program. Peebles notes that although their application was rejected a few times, through their grit and persistence, the firm made the cut. Peebles notes that her goal and promise to Jackie Robinson-Burnette, of SBA’s Office of Government Contracting and Development, is to be the “shining-jewel of the 8(a) program”.
Through the past 11 years that Peebles has been with the company, Athena Construction Group has utilized SBA guaranteed loan programs and joined the 8(a) business development program for small businesses contracting with the federal government. Ms. Peebles notes that “half of your success is understanding your paperwork.” The 8(a) program helps small businesses navigate the world of federal contracting, including paperwork. When asked a word of wisdom for aspiring business owners, Peebles advises, “never quit, never quit, never quit”, a value she practiced and cultivated while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.
- In 2010, Athena utilized an SBA backed 7(a) and 504 loans in order to move into a permanent location for their business. Athena owns both their land and an 11,000 square-foot building, located in a Historically Underutilized Business Zone or (HUBZone).
- In 2017, Athena Construction Group was awarded the Prince William Chamber of Commerce Government Contractor of the Year Award
- Currently, the firm has focused on cultivating capabilities of their 55 employees.
- Recently, the firm was granted Security Level Clearance, and can now compete for work on high-security government projects.
“We have absolutely benefitted from the tax cuts. Specifically, it gave our company a strong sense of stability which was missing previously. As a result of the tax cut we issued bonuses and increased our health care benefit from 50 percent to 100 percent fully paid by Athena.”