WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship (SBC), U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) questioned Rosa Caldas, President and CEO of ZemiTek LLC, and Euripides “Ruby” Rubio, President and CEO of Ops Tech Alliance LLC, about improving resources for minority, veteran, and women-owned small businesses, increasing contracting opportunities for women and minority-owned small businesses, and the impact COVID-19 has had on federal contracting. A transcript of the Senator’s full exchange can be found below, and a video of the Senator’s full exchange can be found here.
ROSEN: Congress has historically worked to enhance the integration of our small businesses in the federal contracting process. In fiscal year 2020, Nevada small businesses received millions in federal contracting dollars. More than $260 million was awarded to small disadvantaged businesses – minority-owned businesses that are also economically disadvantaged – with millions awarded to women-owned small businesses. So I am pleased that in recent years the federal government has met its goals on small business contracting, but of course, there’s always room to improve on [contracting for] minority and women-owned businesses in Nevada and across the country.
So, Ms. Caldas, can you tell me what you think we could do to improve, not just the process but increase opportunities for women-owned businesses, and just really increase the awareness that these things exist and also could you say, do you think the resources you needed were available to you through the process of seeking your opportunities and what might you add, that you would think, future resources that SBA could help women and minorities and others in their quest to get their own small business going?
CALDAS: Several things regarding the women-owned small business. I think the process of getting certified should be streamlined and should be easier. I mentioned in my testimony we go through the process, for example, 8(a), where we are proving that we are a citizen, that we belong to these groups, that we have control over the business. And then we need to go through the same process to prove that we are women-owned, controlled by a woman.
So reciprocity between the 8(a) and the WOSB will, if we submit the application for the 8(a) and I have already proven that I am the sole owner, you can get the WOSB certificate without having to go through the process, is one thing. I think women-owned small businesses need to receive some education on how to market to some of the agencies and have the resources available to respond to the requirements that the agencies have; to at least demonstrate that women-owned small businesses out there are capable of doing that work.
I think at the same time, agencies, government buyers, contracting officers need to have a better understanding of setting aside work for women-owned small businesses.
Some agencies are doing better than others, and I think it’s just a matter of also education and training, and understanding. Sometimes they just play devil’s advocate; sometimes, the buyer needs to buy the services quickly, and they are going to go through the fastest, easiest way to do that. So if they have an ability and an understanding on how to tap into the women-owned small businesses out there, I think it’s going to benefit both agencies, the goals, but also the companies owned by women.
ROSEN: Thank you. I think you’re right about improving outreach and awareness, always an important factor. Mr. Rubio, I want to thank you for your service to our country. Of course, in Nevada, we are proud to be home to over 225,000 veterans, and 1 in 8 of our small businesses are veteran-owned. And we also have one of the largest Latino populations per capita in the U.S., and so really part of our small business ecosystem. And so what do you think Congress can do to improve our federal government’s contracting numbers for veterans like yourself and being sure that there is outreach and awareness. What do you think you could add?
RUBIO: Thank you. It’s basically the same thing. And also, with the certification, we have to go through. After going through the 8(a) process, I had to get certified as a VOSB, and we have to go through exactly the same process, although you can self-certify, but in order to get that CVE, you have to go through the process. It’s education; it’s VIP. Going back to the same thing. The programs like the VIP and the accelerator are things that we need. You need to get training like that before you get your certification because, like Ms. Caldas mentioned, you get your 8(a) and your SDVOSB, and you go, ‘okay, I’m ready’ and crickets. Nobody comes and calls. You think that the phone is going to be ringing off the hook. And I get the part where we have to do marketing, we have to reach out to clients, but it’s education on both sides. Because your clients, the clients that you’ve been dealing with, they don’t even know how to use it.
ROSEN: Well, thank you. I think this has been really informative. Outreach training on both sides, streamlining duplications in the process is going to make it easier for everyone. And hopefully more effective for small businesses to move forward.