Nabbing a Government Contract
How to Get a Piece of the Pie as a Latina Minority Business Enterprise
Every fiscal year hundreds of state and city government agencies issue Request for Proposals (RFPs) where product or services providers within state lines can bid on projects that can range in the millions of dollars. Getting one can take the shape of hunger games. This is because of the many variables that come into play and go from having the right state certifications and MBE/WBE designations to lacking the scale to take on the project.
It can be a frustrating catch 22 that can leave many of us throwing our hands in the air and walking away. Olga Camargo, Founder, and CEO of FARO Associates will tell you “That is a big mistake”.
As a result of her efforts, her firm is now working with the Illinois State government. Here, Olga exclusively shares some of what she’s learned:
What is the most important thing an LMBE should know about government contracts?
LMBEs that seek to do business with the government will need to become a registered vendor with the government. Also, get their MBE/DBE designation to pursue government contracts with MBE/DBE mandates. I strongly recommend that LMBEs participate in any conference calls/meetings geared to better prepping all vendors who want to pursue government contracts—having all information for a responsible bid/response is crucial.
What if your business lacks the scale necessary?
If an LMBE is small and wants to work on sizeable government contracts, it’s best to either form a Joint Venture or find a prime to work under. This increases the chances to participate in the bidding process, gain experience, and ideally grow as an LMBE entity. LMBEs should network with other MBEs and prime companies that will enable them to move forward.
What are the key considerations during the paperwork submission process?
If an LMBE is not experienced in taking the lead in paperwork submission, partner up with a prime company or another experienced L/MBE/DBE so the LMBE, in this case, can learn. Also, participating in any scheduled conference call or meeting by the government is paramount. You’ll gain valuable information on the government agency’s needs.
What if you don't have MBE/WBE Certification?
If you are a Latina-owned business but you don’t have either MBE/WBE designations, are pressed for time but know you have the experience/services to deliver on a government contract, look to your network to find a certified MBE/WBE that can partner with you on the opportunity.
Should you have someone mentor you through the process initially?
The smartest thing to do IS to work with other experienced and knowledgeable MBEs/WBEs/DBEs or primes that have not only worked to submit responses to a government-issued request for proposals but that have actually won contracts. This is the best mentorship that you can get.
Olga’s final advice: Be engaged, do the work, and learn!