Eastern Foundry and Boston Consulting Group recently collaborated and released a report discussing the struggles startups face while trying to work with the government. Their study consisted of 109 interviews with startups, venture capital firms, and angel investors.
The report states numerous startups were interested in contracting with the government, but faced many obstacles “including a lengthy and overly complex contracting process, a lack of clarity on how to connect with agencies, and a sense that newcomers have little chance to win contracts over incumbents.”
Finding that connection, however, can help the community prosper, and there are several organizations in Buffalo to help startups do just that.
Small Business Development Center
The Small Business Development Center, located in Cleveland Hall on the campus at Buffalo State College, offers a wide range of management and technical assistance services, including helping startups complete certification that can help them obtain government work.
“Our main flagship is one-on-one mentorship,” said business advisor Andrew Delmonte. “We can help people complete Minority-Owned Business Certification (MBE) or Women-Owned Business Certification (WBE) state certification. Through the one-on-one mentorship, we walk clients through steps and go through all of the qualifications. We also help with bid links and go through an aggregator of bid opportunities on federal and state levels. We set clients up on our system and send them emails on a daily basis so they can make a bid. Our procurement specialist can also work with clients on how to speak to prime contractors with procurement agencies.”Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership
Designed by entrepreneurs and for entrepreneurs, the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, in the School of Management at the University at Buffalo, provides a variety of services that prepare entrepreneurs to bid on government work.
“We play a large role in helping small businesses obtain government work, indirectly, by helping them improve their businesses, thus being better prepared to take on government contracts that are often beyond the current capabilities of many small businesses,” said Thomas R. Ulbrich, executive director of the center. “We do this through experiential learning, practical information where students can immediately apply the learning to their businesses and current challenges.
“We also bring in a diverse group of speakers from county, state, and federal agencies that give our candidates information about the best resources by which to become MWBE certified and more,” Ulbrich continued. “We do our best not to duplicate existing resources in the community, but rather convene the best resources available and then fill any gaps with custom development content.”
Women’s Business Center
The Women's Business Center at Canisius College works with local women- and minority-owned businesses to support their efforts in doing business with the government, or government-funded projects, through Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprise certifications.
“The governor of New York increased our state goals a few years back to be 30 percent, meaning 30 percent of the state-funded projects are completed by doing business with woman- or minority-owned businesses,” said Sara Vescio, executive director of the Women’s Business Center. By contrast, the federal government requires that only 5 percent of its funded projects be awarded to a woman-owned business, she noted.
“We want to support women in learning about these opportunities and how to use them to grow their business' revenue,” Vescio continued. “We hold a ‘Getting Certified 101’ class every year, sometimes twice a year, to break down all of the different certification options, qualifications for each, what's involved, and invite the representatives from each government body - Erie County, NYS and SBA for federal - to speak to the entrepreneurs directly.”
Also, with the support of Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the Women’s Business Center runs a contracting series which offers workshops for those women whose businesses are already certified to help them learn how to utilize the certification to get the contracts and grow their business.