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Diversity urged for business at conference

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By Allison Bruce

There hasn’t been a better time for securing government and corporate contracts if your company helps meet diversity requirements, but that doesn’t mean those business owners can sit back and wait for customers to come to them.

Instead, those small business owners need to pursue certification, register as potential suppliers with organizations and companies, and do their research — on the contracts they are pursuing, on their competitors’ capabilities and on what they can offer to set themselves apart in an increasingly competitive market.

That was some of the advice speakers offered and repeated throughout the day to the roughly 200 people in attendance at the “Power Your Business” supplier diversity conference at Amgen’s conference center in Thousand Oaks on Tuesday. The day, which targeted minority, women, veterans and gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender business owners, covered topics from securing government contracts and corporate business to personal finances.

There are legal requirements in place that drive certain government agencies and corporations to pursue diversity in supplier relationships, but that’s not all.

Johnson Controls, which has spent more than $1 billion each year since 2002 with woman- and minority-owned suppliers, pursues diversity because it strengthens the company’s supply base, makes it a good corporate citizen and builds the bottom line, said Lorenzo Bell, supplier diversity manager for the company.

“The No. 1 reason why we do it is because it makes us money,” he said. “If we make money, our customers make money and our suppliers make money.”

It also lets the company differentiate itself when it approaches its own customers in the automotive, battery or building efficiency industries, he said.

Corporate representatives said it was important that suppliers have certification that recognizes that they meet the requirements as a minority- or woman-owned business.

For veterans, certification is a more muddled process, which includes certification through Veterans Affairs to handle certain government contracts; through state programs, which aren’t recognized at the federal level; and through the Small Business Administration.

That can be a challenge and a headache, as some attendees noted their own experiences with the lengthy process and dismay at not having a single certification recognized across agencies.

There are efforts, such as a single website that would pull together information from across departments and agencies for veteran entrepreneurs, that might help, said William Elmore, associate administrator for veterans business development for the Small Business Administration.

Being certified as a minority-, woman-, veteran- or LGBT-owned business is a quick way to show that a business meets all of the requirements of that certification, but business owners should take advantage of other resources available through the certifying organizations, such as trade shows, networking and directories, said Candace Waterman, senior director of compliance and alliance relationships for the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.

“Certification is like a gym membership,” she said. “If you don’t use it, it’s not going to work.”

Other speakers agreed that the certification is necessary, but it’s not what gets a foot in the door as a supplier. That comes from setting the business apart from the competition, building a relationship with companies and agencies and honing — and specializing — a quick pitch on what the company can do based on the demands of the contract.

Diane Esqueda is an account manager with Agnew, a translation agency based in Westlake Village that is WBENC-certified. Esqueda said certification often is the added element needed for the opportunity to bid on an account.

She and other attendees said they were at the conference to learn information that would help their businesses and network with others.

“Amgen is one of our clients, a number of organizations here presenting are our clients and the room is filled with potential clients,” she said.

Steps of Success

Tips for diverse suppliers from Tuesday’s speakers at the “Power Your Business” supplier diversity conference:

  • Pursue certification as a way to help you land business and help your buyers meet their diversity requirements.
  • Do your research. Know the company or the government contract you are pursuing and be able to say how your business can meet their needs in ways different from your competitors.
  • Tailor how you pitch your business to each individual contact. Highlight capabilities that meet their needs. Know the lingo of the industry or agency.
  • Be able to point to specific projects that are similar to the one you are pursuing and offer to share how your company did that successfully.
  • Register as a potential supplier. This is often done online at corporate websites. Complete the registration, or risk being passed over when the company doesn’t have all of the information it wants when looking at suppliers.
  • Be persistent. It could be a year or two before a company or agency needs what you have, but you want to be the first in mind when that happens.
  • Know what is important to the company or agency. Is it risk-averse and needs to see your level of expertise? Does the company need you to be flexible and able to react quickly to change as well as make improvements?


Los Angeles – Whatever the war or conflict, Americans have always believed that America’s military veterans should return home to jobs and opportunity.

Since 1953, the U.S. Small Business Administration has been providing entrepreneurial assistance to veterans and service-disabled veterans to start, resume and grow their businesses.

“We know that veteran business owners often have different needs and that is why the SBA is here to assist veterans in acquiring capital and technical assistance to grow their  companies,” said Theodore Holloman, district director (acting), Los Angeles SBA District Office. “The Los Angeles District Office has funded 857 veteran entrepreneurs during the last five fiscal years, injecting $217 million into their enterprises.”

With respect to the Patriot Express Pilot Loan Program, the SBA has combined elements of its 7(a) loan program (higher guarantee) and its SBA Express product (simplified processing and greater availability) to create the most compelling and attractive product available.  Patriot Express loans can go up to $500,000, and because it is an Express loan product, lenders and borrowers benefit from expedited and streamlined processing, meaning they will get an answer in most cases in a day or so.

The SBA also offers a targeted loan program, the Military Reserve Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, to help keep businesses operating during the critical months when their key employees or owners are called to active duty.  This SBA loan program has been vital to keeping businesses whole and afloat while saving jobs in local communities.

The SBA continues to provide other veteran-related services by working across federal agencies to increase technical assistance for starting and growing veteran companies.  For example, the SBA and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have an ongoing Partnership Agreement to increase contracting opportunities for 8(a) firms, service-disabled and other veteran firms.

Recently, the West Los Angeles Medical Center has teamed up with the SBA Los Angeles District Office to bring business counseling directly to veterans at the medical center through their Setting Your Compass workshop every third Thursday of the month on the campus of the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center in the Post Deployment Clinic in Building 401 at 10:00 a.m.

Locally, the Los Angeles District Office offers one-stop assistance through its dedicated veterans outreach team and easily accessible technical assistance providers: Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, SCORE Chapter branch offices and the Veteran Business Outreach Center.  These technical assistance providers and programs are a cooperative effort of the private sector, the educational community and federal, state and local governments.

For more information you can contact Patrick Rodriguez, Veteran Outreach Coordinator, Los Angeles SBA District Office at 818-552-3222.

VAMBOA is the fastest growing trade association in the country for Veteran Business Owners and Service Disabled Veteran Business Owners.   We are becoming the Go To organization for resources and information.   The site features tons of valuable information.   Veteran, military and service disabled veterans resources will find all types of resources including government contracting contacts.   Membership is free.  We hope you will register for membership.  We also invite you to fill out the survey that will let us know what is important to you and a little about you.  VAMBOA is about Uniting Veteran and Military Business Owners For Collaboration, Connections and Contracts.

By Allison Bruce
Posted September 1, 2010 at 6:16 p.m.

Veteran and military business owners have a new organization to help support their businesses, land contracts and interaction with other owners.

Started in July, the Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, or VAMBOA, is the creation of two local women business owners who saw a need.

“People from the military have wonderful qualities that lend themselves to entrepreneurship,” said Debbie Gregory, one of the co-chairs and founders of the association. She said veterans and active military personnel who own businesses needed an organization that could help them get information, collaborate with each other, and grow through connections with government agencies and private businesses that want to use their goods and services.

There were 2.4 million veterans who owned businesses in the United States in 2007, the Census Bureau reports. Those businesses had receipts totaling $1.2 trillion. California had 9.8 percent of the nation’s veteran-owned businesses.

The association already has several thousand members across the nation. Gregory said it has started a survey to determine member needs and desires for the organization.

The nonprofit association doesn’t charge any dues and relies on corporate sponsors. Its first sponsor is Thousand Oaks-based Amgen Inc.

“We have a tough economy going on, and those who have served our nation, more than anyone, have made a lot of sacrifices and they deserve to have help,” Gregory said. She hopes the sponsor-supported model will continue as the association grows.

Martha Daniel is a disabled veteran who owns Aliso Viejo-based IMRI, which provides technology and engineering services to the private industry and government.

Daniel was excited to join a trade association for veterans. Many veteran organizations are centered around policies and issues, but there hasn’t been a business association that could provide resources, from training and certifications to networking with other veteran business owners, she said.

“I’m hoping VAMBOA will be an umbrella by which we can keep veterans knowledgeable about everything going on,” she said.

Veteran-owned businesses have been around for years — Daniel’s is about 18 years old — but she said there is a new emphasis on supporting those businesses that is encouraging more veterans to become entrepreneurs. President Barack Obama signed an executive order in April creating a task force on veteran-owned small businesses that will look at lending, contracts, training and other support.

VAMBOA connects both new and existing veteran business owners. “We ourselves need to connect and help each other,” Daniel said.

Gregory is chief executive of Military Connection, headquartered in Simi Valley, a website she started that provides an online directory of resources and information for members of the military, veterans and their families.

Gregory said one reason she recently turned down a buyer for Military Connection was that she wanted to use the site, which has 10,000 visitors daily, to help launch VAMBOA.

She joined with Patty DeDominic, a consultant in Santa Barbara and former national president of the National Association of Women Business Owners. DeDominic had a staffing company she built and sold to a large company, and she has experience helping an organization provide resources and advocate for business owners.

Both DeDominic and Gregory are daughters of veterans. “We’re very dedicated to this,” Gregory said.


Read more:

Forwarded on behalf of the USDVA; contact information below.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Contract Opportunity for Behavioral Health Services in Virginia VISN 6 of the USDVA has been funded by the VA Office of Rural Health to contract with local providers and/or local mental health systems to provide mental health services for veterans living in rural counties in Virginia, this North Carolina and West Virginia. Potential contractors can bid on a single county, all the counties in a single state or on a combination of the states. Contracts will cover the following counties:

  • North Carolina:
    • Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Madison, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey Counties
  • Virginia:
    • Appomattox, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nelson, Prince Edward Counties
  • West Virginia:
    • Mercer, McDowell and Monroe Counties

There is a very short turn around for this proposal. The response due date is 9/15/2010 @ 3:00 PM.

To read more about the proposal log on to: VA-246-10-RP-0494 in the block Keyword/Solicitation #, click search and after several seconds Q—VISN Rural Health Care Initiative should appear. When it appears click on it and the next page will display Q—VISN Rural Health Care Initiative. In the left corner is Complete View, click on the first and last changed. This will bring up the solicitation and Amendment 3 which changed the proposal due date to 9/15/2010 @ 3:00PM. ?

Media Contact:
Debbie Gregory – 877-850-9800

* * * PRESS RELEASE * * *

Debbie Gregory, CEO of Military Connection, The Go To Site, is proud to announce the launch of VAMBOA – VETERAN AND MILITARY BUSINESS OWNERS ASSOCIATION.  VAMBOA, a non-profit trade association, will strive to ensure the development, growth and prosperity of Veteran Owned Businesses, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOB) and Military Businesses of all sizes.  VAMBOA will serve the needs of the veteran and military business communities by uniting veteran and military business owners for collaboration, connections and contracts with both private corporations and government agencies.

VAMBOA was founded by Debbie Gregory and Patty DeDominic. Gregory and Military Connection successfully work with and support the military and veteran communities. As the daughter of a service-disabled veteran who served our nation along with his seven brothers, Gregory is committed to doing her share to assist all those who serve, past and present.

In 2009, Gregory was named Woman Business Owner of the Year by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) for her area. Gregory has received numerous awards, including the Soldier’s Angels Crystal Award of Excellence, the Patriot Award, the Golden Anchor Award and the Veterans Information Gold Web Award.  In 2008, Military Connection became a corporate member of the Department of Defense’s America Supports You program and was later named a Top 100 Employment Web Site. is one of the most comprehensive and respected online directories of resources and information for military, veterans and their families.  The site offers thousands of pages of resources and information with something for everyone. takes pride in its many affiliations with non-profits that serve and support our Armed Forces.     As a result of her work with, Gregory saw the need for a dedicated trade organization to serve the needs of Veteran and Military Business Owners and joined forces with DeDominic.

Patty DeDominic is the CEO of DeDominic & Associates, which offers professional services to enterprise builders and other high achievers.  She is the former national President of NAWBO, one of the most influential trade associations in the nation.  DeDominic brings a wealth of experience leading associations of both small and large businesses  DeDominic was awarded the President’s Award from Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) and was inducted into the Women’s Business Owners Hall of Fame.

DeDominic stated “VAMBOA’s Vet Owned seal symbolizes the talent, dedication, leadership, courage and ingenuity of these special Americans who currently serve or have served in America’s military  and have a business, large or small”. VAMBOA offers a multitude of resources and services to its members but does not charge any dues. One major area of focus for VAMBOA is connecting veteran and military business owners with the private sector and corporations that want to use their goods and services.  .

Gregory added, “Those who serve our country possess an extraordinary work ethic and excellent leadership skills, making operating their own business a natural.  Small business owners are the fuel that runs our nation’s economy. VAMBOA also provides networking, collaboration, mentoring, education, certification and advocacy. We are proud to have Amgen as one of our first corporate sponsors. Amgen is a company that embraces and supports diversity suppliers.  VAMBOA’s corporate sponsors will gain visibility and provide valuable mentorship.”

For more information on VAMBOA, building success for Veteran and Military Owned Businesses, one connection at a time, please go to www.vamboa.orgYou have honorably served our nation. VAMBOA is here to serve you and be your voice. &