Reuniting Families Just Part of the Job for Local Entrepreneur

Sanjeev Sharma business owner smiles for the camera

Hugs, smiles and tears of happiness. Those joyous moments occur when thousands of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UC), apprehended at the border, finally are reunited with their families.

Seeing his work play out in real time gives great, personal satisfaction for Sanjeev Sharma and his team at Applied Intellect – the 12-year-old data-driven company providing the necessary analytics making those stories possible.

“We bid on and won a contract from the Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to build, operate and maintain a data tracking system for UC arriving at our southern borders,” Sharma explained. “Right now, there are approximately 150,000 minors in the system. We intake everything, from names, medical, dental and psychological evaluations to sibling names, with the goal of providing housing until children ultimately are united with their own family or a sponsor family.”

Starting his company from his home as the sole employee, the Indian-born Sharma probably never realized the impact he would create in the United States and around the world. “I’ve only had two jobs in my life, this and working in the corporate world,” he explained. “I wanted to create a local business and share my ingenuity; I had a sense of entrepreneurial spirit, so I started my own business.”

Sharma’s fledgling company completed two projects that year. He hired his first employee in two months and was cash positive in a mere four months.

To sell his services -- analyzing information technology to facilitate fact-based decisions – to the federal government, Sharma quickly began learning the ropes obtaining necessary certifications to bid on federal solicitations.

“I went online and figured out how to register in Systems for Award Management, he stated. “I then got a Commercial and Government Entity code number that identified my company, Applied Intellect, as a government vendor.”

Sharma soon discovered he also qualified for the SBA’s (U.S. Small Business Administration) 8(a) Business Development Program. The 8(a) Business Development Program is a nine-year program established to assist eligible socially and economically disadvantaged individuals to develop and grow their business through one-on-one counseling, individualized and group trainings and match-making opportunities with federal buyers.

“My team helped Sanjeev with an application to join our 8(a) Program,” explained SBA Western Pa  District Director Dr. Kelly Hunt. “Not only was he accepted into the program, but he is one of our most successful graduates, winning 21 federal contracts and bettering the workforce hiring 33 full-time and 31 part-time employees; his staff also is working on making the Allegheny and Daniel Boone National Forests in Pennsylvania and Kentucky safer for the environment and visitors.”

Partnering with United States Forest Services, Sharma’s 50-member-team is conducting boots-on-the-ground and drone campaigns identifying old oil and gas wells. The old wells potentially pose a hazard to both the environment and outdoor enthusiasts. “In the 1880s, wildcat drillers left the wells abandoned,” Sharma explained. “Some [wells] can leak methane gas, which contributes to global warming while others are a danger to hikers who can fall over the pipes and break a bone.”

The precise locations, spanning thousands of acres, are stored in a government database. The wells, now waiting to be capped and remediated are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Infrastructure Act. “It will take about five years to finish the project,” Sharma added. “It’s beautiful up in the Allegheny National Forest and it makes me happy being a good steward of the environment and our forests.”

Sharma, who is bettering America one keystroke at a time, said small business ownership is about combining your passion with value. “It’s easy to be a naysayer,” he explained. “Understand your competitive niche that differentiates your business idea and see yourself through it.” 

This article does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the SBA of any opinions, products, or services of any private individual or entity.