May Trailblazer: AAPI EDITION

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I’m excited to welcome you to the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Edition of the “Trailblazer Magazine”. It seems fitting that we use two very impactful quote for this publication. One reminds us how important it is to watch our words. In a time when “Stop the Asian Hate” has become a movement. It is important to watch what we say! If it does not edify leave it where you found it.

about “Helping Others”.

The other quote truly exemplifies what the HUBZone Program is

Each of us has the opportunity to use our talents to make this nation even better, to include others on our journey. I have the opportunity and privilege to take you with me as you read these pages. My real question is, will you come, and when you come will you be willing to add your talents, creating your own story? I hope your answer is YES! HUBZone Trailblazers are an integral component of our country’s story. We will tell their story, how their commitment is leveling the playing field in their respective communities. I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to shine a major light on the heroes that are in the trenches some flying, some running, but all committed to revitalizing HUBZone Communities. We want everyone to get involved with future editions topics like the Military, Technology, Manufacturing and much more. If you want to be a sponsor or just share a story, we want to hear from you. As we turn the corner on COVID, remember the HUBZone Council has kept hope alive for so many distressed communities. We keep moving, we never standstill. See you next month as we feature the HUBZone Manufacturing & Technology Trailblazers. Enjoy the issue,

Lily Milliner Vice Chair, HUBZone Council, Inc. & CEO, Build IT Up, LLC

table of contents.


Farooq Mitha Director of the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP)

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Jenny Lee

Dottie Li

Crystal Canja

Consultant, Military Affairs Council

Founder and CEO, TransPacific Communications

HBCU Program Manager, Partnership Development Office, FNLCR, operated by Leidos

Mohammad Elias

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table of contents.


Ketan Shah




Manisha Morris

How Hawaii Came To Be

Sam Yadav

CEO, MSM Technologies

President, Intercontinental Construction Contracting. Inc. (ICC)

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CEO, Quest Safety Products, Inc (QUEST)

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Native Hawaiian Organizations (NHOs) participating in SBA’s 8(a) This trailblazer works hard and has program. The caveat was that NHOs needed to fill a fun doing it. Hawaii is a beautiful unique mission by engaging in activities to meet the Jennifer Sabas island steeped in culture and needs of the Native Hawaiian community while Consultant, Military Affairs Council family. They often joke that no complying with a profit investment criterion. Much one ever completely leaves like the HUBZone businesses, these NHOs are giving Hawaii. They are like homing pigeons destined to find back to the community. their way back to the island. The island is the essence When folks aren’t responding to her message, you may of diversity and inclusion, no majority, just a cadre of find Ms. Sabas channeling one of her heroes, multi-generational minorities. Families that take pride Congresswoman Patsy Mink, who made it cool to be in being part of the melting pot. an angry Asian woman on a mission for her people.

Living Legacy

The congresswoman faced incredible discrimination on Capitol Hill, yet remained unshaken. Ms. Sabas will Ms. Sabas has spent most of her life creating a living legacy and she is not done yet! She has been on a path tell you because of the Hawaiian delegation’s great leadership, she feels duty-bound to mentor generation that began almost 30 years ago, when she took a position in the Office of U.S Senator Daniel K. Inouye. after generation. In March, one of her mentees, Coti Haia, became Chief of Staff for Senator Mazie Hirono Ms. Sabas rose to the position of Chief of Staff and worked tirelessly for the Senator’s agenda in life and in (first Asian-American woman and first woman senator from Hawaii). In 2022, Ms. Sabas hopes to expand her death. Upon his death in 2012, she helped launch the Daniel K. Inouye Institute, which continues to inspire living legacy even further by returning a woman of color, Ms. Jill Jokuda, to Patsy Mink’s congressional generations to come. seat. Ms. Jokuda resides in a HUBZone, and, unlike Ms. Sabas is quick to tell you that she had the amazing her predecessors, is running her campaign in the good fortune to work for the first Japanese-American neighborhood she went to school in and where she in the United States Senate in a role that afforded her lives. the opportunity to serve those without a voice while making a bit of history. For instance, the critical legislation that increases the sole source threshold for

Partnering with the Defense Stakeholders As a senior consultant for the Military Affairs Council, Ms. Sabas is part of an advocacy group that brings public, private, military, and civilians together to support the defense industry in Hawaii. She works to ensure that small businesses (including 8(a), NHOs, and HUBZones) have the opportunity to fairly compete for contracts either as primes or subcontractors. In light of everything going on in the Asian Pacific region, Hawaii occupies a strategic position in our national defense workforce, which includes shipyard building, shipyard repair, and more recently, IT (data, cybersecurity, & intelligence). A strong proponent of using the boots on the ground, Ms. Sabas discourages companies from parachuting in for the contract award and then taking the task order execution off the island. Instead, she connects contractors with the robust Hawaiian workforce to ensure that the bulk of the jobs stays in-state.

Apprenticeship Programs – Change the Workforce Hawaii now has one of the most successful apprenticeship programs in the nation because Ms. Sabas’ team fought for it. The Pearl Harbor Naval shipyard is the biggest technical and industrial employer in Hawaii. Her team wanted to start an

apprenticeship program to support the shipyard. Nobody wanted it: at the time they had a ready pool of veterans willing to fill all the positions. But Ms. Sabas’ team kept doing the math and felt that the pool would eventually dry up. Without a skilled workforce, the nation’s defense would be in jeopardy. Ms. Sabas’ team had no other choice but to legislate an Apprentice Program. They fought for it and won. As predicted, the veteran pool dried up and the shipyard’s leaders have the Apprentice Program to thank for their current successful workforce. As trailblazers, the fight to get leaders to prepare now for the future can be brutal, but Ms. Sabas will tell you it was worth it. Hawaii now boasts a 6,000-strong workforce through this most competitive apprenticeship program. What’s next? They are doing exactly the same thing right now with IT data science using a similar model, but this time the naysayers are receptive. Ms. Sabas’ team is expanding the focus to include both youth and mid-career participants who need either new skills or reskilling to fill the federal jobs of today and tomorrow. These programs are also spreading to Guam and our U.S. territories to increase their skilled workforce.

E D U C AT I O N How many seconds does it take to make a wrong impression because of an individual’s speech?

If you are a non-native English professional, chances are, there Dottie Li are not enough seconds. Ms. Li has Founder and CEO, TransPacific Communications made it her mission to dispel the myth that accents don’t impact her client’s professional journey. This trailblazer founded TransPacific Communications to change that impression. She focuses on breaking cultural barriers by helping speakers develop the communication skills necessary to succeed.


Ms. Li doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk. As a child in China, her dream was to be a broadcaster on Voice of America (VOA). She studied English and broadcasting, eventually landing an internship with VOA, which led to a role as a broadcaster. Ms. Li’s next position would be a network television producer at C-SPAN, then a Communications Specialist & Spokesperson for the Inova Health System. There, she made a decision that changed her career in a marvelous way. Ms. Li enrolled in a program to reduce and neutralize her Chinese and Southern drawl – to sound more authoritative. The results eventually led to her launching a company that would give nonnative English speakers the same assistance she received.

Patterns for Success

Early in her journey, this trailblazer started noticing patterns that emerged among the more successful non-native English speakers. Ms. Li met quite a few very successful individuals who were nonnative folks like herself. She was always interested in their journey and what made them who they are today. Ms. Li noticed a similar pattern: They all had to make sure they were able to neutralize their accents so they could communicate better and be understood. It seemed plain and simple. Recently, Ms. Li met a university president. He was a newly minted president of a university in Illinois. She was very surprised that this man had been born and raised in China. Ms. Li asked him how he rose to the level of a university president, knowing not many foreign-born people rise to that level. She assumed he had a PhD in a science discipline, but no, it was in English. That answer explained it all; it confirmed what this trailblazer had always postulated, that modifying or neutralizing an accent plays a role in career opportunities.

Lessons-Learned Along the Way •

Stay away from negative people. They will steal your dreams, passion, and purpose.

Racist comments should never be tolerated. Muster the courage to say something to the right people. You deserve better.

A contract is not going to drop in your lap, so set goals; give yourself a pep talk and go after it.

People don’t go into business to make a billion dollars; they go into business to make a difference. Determine the difference you want to make and then begin.

Your brand matters – don’t settle for less.

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. But if you try again and still don’t succeed, make sure what you’re trying to do truly aligns with your purpose before trying a third time.

Continuous Learning

This trailblazer loves to learn and experience new cultures. Whether she is running an international race or helping someone with crosscultural communications, she is truly in her purpose. This trailblazer is committed to getting better each day and she encourages her clients to do the same. She challenges her clients to visualize being successful, and then helps them do the work to get them there.

The Business of Trailblazing

issues to navigating unfair playing fields. Their innovative processes, products, and services have been critical to building a strong industrial base. Mr. Mitha’s team is determined to find ways to be more inclusive in its strategic approach to By: Lily Milliner vendor outreach. His staff is Photo: Farooq A. Mitha Things were tough back then, but working on frameworks to better the money Mr. Mitha made selling communicate stakeholders’ his trailblazer started his gumballs is his constant reminder priorities. DoD is working on small business adventure that our nation’s industrial base is avenues to better communicate their in Lakeland when he was wide and vast. He personally short-term and long-term needs so 18 months old. Lakeland understands the sacrifices that small companies can take that information is between Orlando and Tampa, business owners make and is and appropriately tailor their Florida, an area that includes committed to finding ways to open business models. DoD’s report on multiple HUBZone Census Tracts. more doors for them at DoD. For the State of Competition in the Mr. Mitha’s father had just started Mr. Mitha, the HUBZone program Industrial Base makes it clear that his journey to become a serial is the best example of what happens the entire Department is committed entrepreneur, but like most people launching start-ups, his father had to approach childcare creatively. That resulted in the father taking his son on his daily runs, handing out flyers, often at rest areas, promoting his first business, a motel. Mr. Mitha literally had a front seat watching his parents work more when business owners like his to leveling the playing field for than 100 hours a week and barely parents give back to the small businesses by identifying surviving. Eventually, their hard communities, they work in. ways for DoD to increase work paid off and they thrived in Whether it is the extreme customer competitiveness. their small business enterprises. Mr. service, jobs, training, or the Mr. Mitha is on a mission to Mitha saw the dedication it takes to empathy they provide their modernize the National Defense be an entrepreneur – to start with communities, Mr. Mitha believes Industrial Base with dynamic small nothing and go on to build business owners are the true business capabilities. He is looking something great. His parents were trailblazers. for forward-thinking companies that able to eventually give back to the can align their products and services community that embraced them by BUILDING A to the DoD’s emerging needs. This creating jobs, including Mr. Mitha’s STRONG may seem like a tall order to the first business, which was selling community, but Mr. INDUSTRIAL BASE HUBZone candy from a gumball machine in Mitha has a history of making the motel lobby. Those few bucks The COVID-19 pandemic proved, things happen. The last time he was he made each week from that once again, the resilience of so at DoD, he helped establish vending machine meant the world many small businesses. For the last accelerated payments to small to him. 2 years, small businesses’ agility business contractors – a move that



has been tested, from supply chain

President Obama implemented

After this, he started his own law practice, and later, his own small business. Mr. Mitha became a Middle East expert focused on the Levant at a time when the United States was entangled in the Iraq war and President Bush was calling nations such as Syria a part of the “axis of evil.” This context became Mr. Mitha’s clarion call for international policy, national security, and the need to bring better understanding across different cultures and communities. He had questions, and in the Mitha fashion, he sought answers to the hard questions, like: what are the regional implications of the Iraq war? How will this impact refugees in Jordan and Syria? What are the prospects for economic reform in the region? Mr. Mitha has brought this same inquisitive nature to the Office of Small Business Programs. This inquisitive nature is in Mr. Mitha’s DNA. His only to be father has been volunteering with across the Federal Government as drawn into public service, the Aga Khan Development Quick Pay. HUBZone contractors government policy, and politics. Network (AKDN), which provides then—and now—have benefited Mr. Mitha stayed the course long global humanitarian assistance at the greatly from the accelerated enough to get his degree in grassroots level to ensure selfpayment schedule of 15 days. To Interdisciplinary Health Sciences sufficiency after a disaster. Mr. this day, industry partners are before moving on to Law School. Mitha personally knows what it is singing his praises. This one change This renaissance man studied Arabic like to be racially or ethnically has affected the trajectory of because of his interest in the politics profiled, but he also knows what a thousands of small businesses. The of the Middle East and North Africa privilege it is to be part of an Council looks forward to what Mr. region, and the United States’ role Administration that sees the value of Mitha will do next! in the region. He completed a diversity in every area. Mr. Mitha Fulbright Fellowship in Jordan. At has been empowering minority and RENAISSANCE MAN one point, he even considered a disadvantaged communities for a career in academia or a think tank. long time, including co-founding He cut his undergraduate teeth on But that changed as his interest in Emgage, an organization devoted to the rigors of a pre-med curriculum, business, politics, and policy grew. empowering Muslim communities

Farooq A. Mitha, Director, Office of Small Business Programs, Department of Defense

in America to create equitable, knowledgeable, and motivated citizens. He is living his wildest dream; he is creating a legacy where policies and practices built today will hopefully be sustained from generation to generation. Small businesses are being given their fair shake – embraced for their diversity. Mr. Mitha wants to not only build capacities but to have a legacy of championing small business programs that ensure business sustainability.

OTHER TRANSACTIONAL AUTHORITY (OTA) Mr. Mitha started exploring the agility of OTAs towards the end of the Obama Administration. He particularly wanted to know how DoD could leverage these authorities to better develop and increase innovation and attract new entrants in their defense industry base. He remembers sitting down, some 6 or 7 years ago, with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) folks to discuss how they used OTAs. At that time, they were gathering lessons learned for potentially

Mr. Mitha is always thinking about what he can do today to impact the future.

vaccine. DoD funded that research, not knowing that it would be an answer to the COVID pandemic. What makes a trailblazer different is that they are willing to take leaps into the unknown for the sake of what they believe is a good idea.

Mr. Mitha’s team is developing adopting parts of their OTA process frameworks to assist businesses in and procedures for other organizations within DoD.

Currently, Mr. Mitha’s team is exploring ways to further increase new entrants, as indicated in DoD’s State of Competition within the Defense Industrial Base Acquisition and Sustainment Report of February 2022. His team is developing a strategy and process to attract new entrants to the defense marketplace by reducing barriers to entry to make their programs better and faster while helping to infuse new capabilities and technologies into the defense innovation ecosystem.

THINK TANK TRICKS UP HIS SLEEVE The good news for the HUBZone community is that Mr. Mitha still has some of those Think Tank skills up his sleeve. He is always thinking about what he can do today to impact the future. How to spur new technologies. He remembers when DARPA supported Moderna during the Obama Administration about developing a messenger RNA (mRNA)

the speedy commercialization of their DoD innovations. The Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are being reviewed to determine how they can be more advantageous to the small business community. Note: All this work by the program office on the SBIR/ STTR program won’t make a difference if the reauthorization doesn’t pass this year [so remember to lean in on your Congressional representatives]. Additionally, Mr. Mitha is strengthening the MentorProtégé Program and Procurement Technical Assistance Program as important business development programs at DoD to enhance the supply chain and support innovative companies that need help in bolstering their readiness to do business with DoD.

Crystal Canja HBCU Program Manager, Partnership Development Office, Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNLCR), operated by Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc., and sponsored by the National Cancer Institute

This trailblazer has the rare ability to not only be fearless but to empathize with her portfolio. Whether she is working to open doors for HUBZone businesses or creating unique partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), it is obvious that she seeks to understand and truly cares about them.

For Ms. Canja, it is all about action – something that her father exemplified in his journey to become a US citizen. A US Navy recruitment sign at the bus depot in the Philippines was all her father needed to see to take immediate action. Going against the more traditional Filipino belief to leave everything to fate, his fearlessness led to a 20-year stint in the Navy and a life that instilled that same fearlessness in his children. To this day, Ms. Canja approaches partnership development and HBCU advocacy with a “whatever it takes” mentality! She knows there will be obstacles to cross, but Ms. Canja is willing to take that chance for the greater good of her community. Much like her father, this Guam-born trailblazer is more apprehensive of missed opportunities than failure. We asked Ms. Canja who her guides and mentors were. She credits strong, risk-taking women who accelerated her career trajectory. The formidable Ms. Kathleen Hines and Ms. Marie Jatsko mentored Ms. Canja, from BAE Systems to Dell Services-Federal Government, where she honed her negotiation skills through managing DoD subcontracts. After a brief hiatus from the workforce to care for family, Ms. Chireda Gaither at CSRA (now GDIT) provided Ms. Canja the opportunity to serve primarily as a Small Business

F O RT U N E 500 Liaison Officer and mentor a then-recent HBCU graduate from Morgan State University. Ms. Wande Leintu at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) embraced Ms. Canja’s extroversion and channeled it into leading small business outreach for projects such as building the new Terminal A at Reagan National Airport (DCA). Ms. Beverly Hayes at the FNLCR encouraged Ms. Canja to explore diversity and inclusion. Ms. Teanna Jones at Deloitte supported Ms. Canja’s initiative to partner with HBCUs in federal health contracting opportunities.

Good for the Science Ms. Canja is not a scientist by any means, but what she is “empathic.” She is a great listener and truly believes that representation and diversity are good for science. She believes firmly that health equity has a large socioeconomic component and that all stakeholders could and should contribute to the design, research, and implementation – whether through HUBZone or HBCU contracts for clinical trials, or marketing campaigns in historically underrepresented neighborhoods. At the height of COVID-19, when Black and Brown communities were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, it was strong community relationships that began breaking down the walls of government distrust. Good partnerships (including HUBZones and HBCUs) go together with good science.

Information and photo retrieved from

Forging a Different Relationship Ms. Canja believes that great strides can be made in health equity through HBCUs, HUBZones, and Industry collaboration. Through the FNLCR, and with the full support of Dr. Vladimir Popov (Director, Partnership Development Office), that conversation can include clinical trials, biomedical research, academic training opportunities, and technical services unique to the FNLCR. Ms. Canja is on a mission to help her colleagues and the nation understand that we are all part of the same ecosystem; making room for everyone at the table makes for better science. Everyone has a contribution – scientific, economic, or both. When Ms. Annette OwensScarboro (Small Business Program Manager/HBCU Coordinator, NIH) approached Ms. Canja to ask how HBCUs and HUBZones could work together to drive value for NIH, this trailblazer was ready to respond. She suggested that, under FAR 52.219-9, HBCUs could subcontract to HUBZones to help NIH achieve their statutory HUBZone goals through secondtier subcontracting. These types of relationships-built capacity, scalability, workforce infusion, economic development, and shared interdisciplinary subject matter expertise. With about 80% of HBCUs residing in HUBZones, Ms. Canja thinks pairing the two makes good business sense. These academic

institutions have a plethora of SMEs in various disciplines, as well as a diverse group of students, who would jump at the chance to gain real-world work experience. Ms. Canja suggests that HUBZones should find an HBCU partner that aligns with their company’s goals for both business and community. Once identified, HUBZones should be willing to put forth the time, patience, and resources needed to create a strong alliance to highlight key discriminators. The government and large primes are always looking for cohesive teams that give clients the services and products that will add value.

Go Big or Go Home Not surprisingly, this trailblazer would put her hat in the ring for some of the Federal Government’s biggest contracting opportunities. Early this month, when Defense Health Agency (DHA) awarded $10B military medical research IDIQ contract to her previous employer, you could actually hear Ms. Canja smiling. All her hard efforts had resulted in an HBCU having a critical subcontractor role on one of the largest IDIQ vehicles to date. How did she do it? By reading every single line of the Request for Proposal (RFP) and discovering that HBCUs would be considered small businesses for this contract. That language was the game-changer she needed to bring the opportunity to a trusted HBCU partner. Over the course of 3 months, Ms. Canja was in constant

communication with the HBCU and their HUBZone partner who assisted in the proposal process. The prime was so impressed with the HUBZone company’s responsiveness that they awarded the HUBZone with a first tier subcontracting spot on the same team. When it was time to propose a Health Equity story, it almost literally wrote itself. The good news for HBCUs and HUBZones is that when one does a great job, it increases opportunities for all. Ms. Canja has an innate belief that with a little creativity, a lot of grit, and a good sense of humor, great ideas can become an almost immediate reality. She doesn’t come from a mindset that there is a fixed pie, but one that believes in everyone chipping in to bake a bigger pie. Her final words were, “I believe whole-heartedly that bridging disadvantaged, underrepresented communities through HUBZones and HBCU collaborations is 100% the right thing to do. So, I don’t believe the naysayers.” The right partnerships always pay off!

the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for years to make sure that US citizens 65 and older receive appropriate benefits, which are of critical importance to the 5+ million senior citizens living in poverty. It is not just about the data, system, or the process. It’s also RELI’s ability to make sure that the programs they are developing are sustainable and benefit the American public in this generation and the next. The health and science work that this trailblazer does touches the entire nation. His team of project managers, software developers, and data The cornerstone of this trailblazers’ success is Mohammad (Sam) Elias analysts review claims, looking for CEO, RELI Group Inc. family first. When he wanted to move from ways to reduce fraud, waste, and employee to employer, it was his wife who abuse by achieving data encouraged his journey. Years later, when Mr. Elias interoperability. They maximize CMS’s data value, wanted to show his appreciation for her support with helping to support an ecosystem of better health equity expensive gifts, she declined them. Instead, they took for our nation. the money and developed a Veteran’s training program in their HUBZone community. This trailblazer’s journey has been built on having empathy, and teaching his children the power of humility, integrity, and mutual respect. These same values have spilled over into RELI’s workplace, creating a caring culture. Building HUBZone confidence will sometimes need a Mr. Elias has often said, “money doesn't define me, push from Capitol Hill. That is exactly what what defines me is the difference I am making in Congressman Benny Thompson did when he somebody's life. Am I keeping my word? Is the world challenged the Department of Homeland Security, better?” Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) RELI is a very successful HUBZone company, but Mr. leadership to find innovative ways to meet their HUBZone goals. That challenge resulted in TSA Elias will tell you the contracts didn’t happen right away. He encourages HUBZone businesses to play the creating and awarding a HUBZone set-aside. This trailblazer has shown his gratitude by deploying a team long game, much like he did. First, build the client’s trust, find out their pain points, and offer real solutions. that includes HUBZones committed to providing stellar Be patient, stay engaged, celebrate the small wins, and service to TSA.


Building HUBZone Confidence

don’t give up.

Mr. Elias will tell you about the challenges of not only being a newcomer to the agency, but replacing a Fortune 500 company. You may not initially have all the glitz of the incumbent, but what you do have is the Have you ever had Medicare tax deducted from your check? If your answer is yes, RELI has probably been authenticity that comes with your HUBZone team’s working in the background to ensure that waste, fraud, willingness to listen, perform, and innovate. This and abuse did not occur. Mr. Elias has been supporting trailblazer was willing to take all the steps needed to

Doing Work That Matters

create a high-performance TSA team (the forming, storming, norming, and performing). Failure was not an option – neither were shortcuts for this mission. As RELI completed each task successfully, trust started building. RELI brought in whatever resources were needed. Their team understood that if the project was successful, profit would emerge, and it eventually did. The RELI team made it through the hiccups (those storming times), building confidence with their stakeholders and proving that something new can be the reboot an agency never knew they would like

and the benefits this trailblazer received due to that struggle, Mr. Elias has made it his mission as a person of color to continue that dream as it pertains to health and workforce disparities. He is working with SMEs from HBCUs located in both Maryland (Morgan State University [MSU]) and Georgia (Morehouse College). Their support in the areas of health data analytics has made inroads in Health Equity in the regions. Mr. Elias hopes to be able to deploy this regional research on a national scale.

Additionally, Mr. Elias has been able to increase diversity on his contracts by hiring and training entrylevel HUBZone university students (Jackson State University, Morehouse, & MSU). RELI provides the This trailblazer was an early adopter of the Zero Trust skills and opportunities to move them into mid-level model, removing barriers that threatened informationtechnical and management positions. This practice has sharing between the government and the private sector. been critical to RELI’s growth and retention (their RELI has been helping to improve Cybersecurity for turnover rate is less than 8%) the Department of Health and Human Services (CDC & the Indian Health Services [his]) by executing Executive Order (EO) 14028 to drive adoption of Zero Trust Architecture as it relates to securing health information and mitigating data breaches. Mr. Elias has a team of subject matter experts (SMEs) who RELI has been coaching HUBZones for years in areas ensure compliance while securing and monitoring the of business development and compliance. So, it should systems as they roll out the 5 pillars of the Zero Trust not be a surprise that this trailblazer is a big fan of framework. “SBA’s Similarly Situated” guidelines. They have

Zero Trust

Benefits of Similarly Situated

RELI’s Zero Trust events for 2022 include: 1) hosting a National Symposium, which will gather thought leaders from around the nation to weigh in on Zero Trust best practices as they relate to implementing Biden’s EO 14028. This October’s event will include topics such as: Secure Cloud Services, Software Supply Chain Security Guidance, Stakeholder Engagement (Establishing a Cyber Safety Review Board), Modernization, and others; 2) Panel discussion on “The Impact of Zero-Trust on Federal Government and Why We Should Care?” at the HUBZone National Conference in August.

Mitigating Health and Workforce Disparities Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in racial equity – people could make a difference in leveling the playing field in this nation. Because of Dr. King’s example

been able to create formidable HUBZone teams to go after contracts that traditionally went to large primes. RELI’s ability to expand its HUBZone footprint in agencies that have not met their 3% goal has been accomplished by creating trusted partnerships with other small businesses. Mr. Elias’s philosophy of being better together has resulted in attracting boutique businesses that are formidable in their unique skillset. He often starts by bringing them in as subcontractors to determine how they fit. After that success, he works with them to develop workshares that are fair to the team as a whole.

INFRASTRUCTURE CONSTRUCTION This trailblazer is best known for building a thriving HUBZone business while remaining the ultimate peacemaker. When we questioned Mr. Shah on how he was able to Ketan Shah accomplish this feat, he President, Intercontinental Construction Contracting. Inc. (ICC) told us about one of his heroes, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who is considered one of the founding fathers of the Indian Republic. Mr. Patel was known for successfully integrating more than 550 princely states with the Indian union with great skill and masterful diplomacy. He later indicated that if his role model, Mr. Patel, could be a peacemaker facing such unbelievable challenges, then maybe he could exhibit that same behavior at ICC.

Empowering His Entire HUBZone Workforce & Family Mr. Shah strongly believes in the mission of the HUBZone Program. Therefore, he thinks of program participants like family, always putting them first. Mr. Shah has built a living legacy paying back society for what his company and family have received. To that end, ICC has implemented an unusual employee benefits program. Their program includes generous

educational benefits for both the employee and their entire family. ICC has established a family trust that provides scholarships to students for higher education – even graduate degrees. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Shah’s workforce was once again treated like family. Salaries remained the same despite contractual work stoppages. Workers who were unable to work because of COVID were still paid their full salary. This trailblazer’s workforce was sheltered from the economic factors that many individuals within HUBZone communities experienced. Mr. Shah even extended similar grace to his subcontractors.

Racing to the Contract Finish Line Several years ago, Mr. Shah received a contract with the U.S. Army for the West Point Military Academy. This contract would turn out to be one of his most difficult races. When ICC submitted the bid in August of that year, they would have had 8 months to

deliver the kitchen renovations and install new equipment. The funding was delayed until early November, but the delivery date of March 31st remained fixed. Rather than tell the client this was impossible (particularly because his staff had planned vacations in December and January), his team rose to the occasion. Mr. Shah knew that the typical leadtime for the equipment the customer requested was 16 or more weeks. His team only had 23 weeks to deliver. He negotiated at a loss with a vendor who committed to a 12-week delivery period. His staff canceled their vacations and worked through Christmas and New Year’s to execute the contract. The task was finished on March 11th, much to the shock of the customer. The customer admitted that they never thought it could be done, but had to push for the Academy’s graduation. ICC received an Excellent CPARs rating and has had contracts with this office for 24 consecutive years. This trailblazer will tell his fellow HUBZone leaders that racing to the finish line has major benefits.

The 3% HUBZone Goal Needs to be Intentional This trailblazer believes that federal agencies need to be intentional if they are to finally meet their 3% HUBZone goal. Otherwise, HUBZone communities will never see the significant change that the HUBZone Program was designed to accomplish. Mr. Shah thinks that maybe it is time for the White House to request that these agencies submit a HUBZone plan. A plan that, at a minimum, includes SMART goals – ones that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant to the business community, and Timely.

TECHNOLOGY This trailblazer is all about protecting our warfighters on the ground. She loves knowing Manisha Morris President, MSM Technology, LLC that the work her company does makes a difference each and every day by protecting the data that goes over the networks. Furthermore, the icing on the cake is the amazing gratitude she receives from her HUBZone employees when she shows up in places like Fort Rucker, Alabama. Ms. Morris considers it a special privilege to make such a difference in and out of the military. She is also grateful for the support MSM has received from folks like Ms. Diane Dempsey (Director, Small Business Programs, Intelligence & Security, BAE Systems, Inc.) and Ms. Michelle Burnett (Executive Director, HUBZone Council).

Lessons-Learned Along the Way •

Be satisfied with slow, consistent growth, knowing that your integrity and ethics have not been compromised – make peace with it.

Take the time to set up your infrastructure; get the tools you need now. Look for tools that offer scalability, that are easy to use, and that truly save time. Don’t waste money on subpar tools.

If you have the opportunity to take part in Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, say YES! Then create time in your schedule to be completely engaged in all the knowledge they will share.

Be slow to hire and fast to fire if the employee is not adding the right value to your company.

It is okay to live by US President Theodore

Roosevelt’s quote, “to walk softly and carry a big stick,” especially if you are a woman. Remember, the former President of the United States did it, so you’re in great company. •

Find your tribe. Being an entrepreneur does not need to be a solo journey. Keep searching until you find the association or group that appreciates your quirkiness and watch how you will soar.

Get a debriefing for everything, whether you win or lose. Find out where you missed the mark. If

HUBZone Authenticity Ms. Morris likes to remind her colleagues that this program is for companies that genuinely want to help historically underrepresented communities. It is not a program to take advantage of the disadvantaged, but one committed to providing meaningful opportunities to their communities. HUBZone companies are on a mission to make this nation a better place by building a workforce that leaves no one behind. This trailblazer feels that if a company gets certified as a HUBZone its leadership has a responsibility to assist these people. Doing the right thing means that leaders must design and implement an infrastructure that supports the hiring, retaining, and promotion of a HUBZone workforce by building in-house skillsets. Ms. Morris believes there are so many smart people in these HUBZone communities and many of them want to become terrific federal government contractors if given the opportunity.

someone had a better solution, don’t waste any time getting mad – just get better. Sometimes our most valuable lessons come with a loss. •

Finding balance keeps you energized. Take the time to enjoy the other aspects of life. Add something different – what else are you passionate about? This trailblazer has added animal rescue to her joy list, from saving dogs to rescuing wild mustangs.

Sam Yadav

CEO, Quest Safety Products, Inc (QUEST)

Mr. Yadav started his trailblazing journey almost 25 years ago with his life partner, his wife. They have been married close to 40 years and save a lot of time by knowing what each other is going to say. A match truly made in Heaven, both having MBAs. His wife has a financial background with an accounting degree and Law School, while Mr. Yadav’s degree is in marketing. Mr. Yadav also had the best father-in-law ever: When this trailblazer started his business, he had the full support of his spouse as well as that of her father. He handed him a blank check because he wanted to support their journey. Mr. Yadav commented that his father-in-law’s heart was bigger than any check one could write. Though he recently passed away, his legacy lives on in the support Quest has been able to give the HUBZone communities.

Workers Protect Themselves Mr. Yadav’s company, Quest Safety Products (Quest), helps people protect themselves and their customers. This protection has become much more important in the age of COVID-19, especially for customers like pharmaceutical manufacturers and


utilities & environmental remediation sites. By helping these workers, Quest is actually either helping to produce a lifesaving drug or contributing to that process. Additionally, Quest helps workers protect themselves while they're removing contamination from these environmental sites. Some might say that this trailblazer is helping to keep the lights on because Quest is assisting the people in the field to make sure that our utilities are working properly.

Dealing with the COVID Demand There was so much demand on the supply chain that it was difficult to get products that Quest normally has available. Fortunately, Quest had a wonderful relationship with its manufacturers. This trailblazer belongs to a buying group called the Affiliated Distributors (AD), which helps strengthen the supply chain for independent distributor companies like Quest. Quest was able to supply their pharmaceutical customers, helping them make sure that they could keep producing their life-saving drugs.

Building a Multi-Million- Helping Others – Helps Dollar Facility Yourself This trailblazer was convinced to join the HUBZone program by several of his customers. They suggested that the move from a non-HUBZone area to a HUBZone might be a win-win for the community and Quest. As Mr. Yadav considered the 35% employee requirement and the impact on economic development, the program became more attractive. Over the last 4 years, Quest has doubled in size because its customers appreciated the fact that Quest is giving back to the HUBZone community. When customers come to the facility, they see the excitement in the group of people Quest has attracted. This has become more than selling products; it is almost like a ministry. By taking care of their customers, Quest is actually building legacy and helping the community around them by creating economic stability and job opportunities. Quest grew so much that they needed a new facility. Six acres of land later and an investment of $5.5M, Mr. Yadav had the infrastructure needed to expand his business while remaining in the HUBZone Program.

One of the best decisions Mr. Yadav ever made was giving a HUBZone young student (Kam Utter) a second chance. During Mr. Utter’s first interview, he completely bombed. Mr. Utter was so nervous he could barely speak. On the second try, Mr. Utter was still a bit nervous but he asked some really great questions. Mr. Yadav could tell Mr. Utter had potential; the intern loved to learn. He kept meticulous notes and was tenacious – he wouldn’t stop until he got it right. After a few years went by, and Mr. Utter’s internship was over. He went off to get a master’s degree in Psychology. Midway through his degree, Mr. Utter called Mr. Yadav and asked if he could buy him a drink and chat. Mr. Utter wanted to come back. He was not enjoying school and needed time to figure out what he did like. Mr. Utter asked if he could come back to Quest and be Mr. Yadav’s intern once again. He said the right thing: “I’ll work on any project if you let me come back.” Mr. Yadav had several projects that were on his “wish I had time to do list.” Mr. Utter chose the item that would allow Quest to sell its goods and services on Amazon. He spent the next several months figuring out how to sell Quest products on Amazon. Mr. Utter eventually increased Quest’s online sales to $700,000 a month. At the beginning of the year, Amazon asked Quest to be part of a group made up of the top 250 businesses on Amazon.

Mr. Utter graduated with his MBA 2 weeks ago. - The "Forever Intern" who launched Quest on several ecommerce platforms and is very close to having a $10,000,000 division for Quest in less than 40 months is becoming a trailblazer too! Quest -- A Recent Award Winner 2021 --"Top Intern Supervisor of the Year" for the State of Indiana 2021 -- NMSDC Corporate Plus Member 2020 --"Best Internship Program in Indiana" by the Independent Colleges of Indiana 2018 -- AstraZeneca Supplier of the Year 2018 -- HUBZone Council Champion award winner Early Congratulations --- Quest Safety Products will be Celebrating 25 years in business on July 1.



Hawaiian Islands and its peoples and the United States grew and diversified and in 1898 when the Spanish-American War broke out that the US Congress approved the formal annexation of Hawaii for strategic use of Pearl The history of Hawaii dates to the 5th century Harbor and on August 21st, 1959, it became the when Polynesian voyageurs sailed across the 50th US state. The Island's strategic location in sea in double canoes with large sails, latched the Asia-Pacific region has proven to be an together in search of new settlements. For nearly 500 years the Hawaiian civilization was invaluable resource for the United States isolated from the rest of the world until the first Military and today, the military is the secondAmerican traders set foot in the area in the largest economic driver for the state of Hawaii 1820s and before them the British Captain with more than 146,000 military members and James Cook in 1778. their dependents across the state representing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast It did not take long for American traders to recognize the valuable economic opportunities Guard, and National Guard. the Island had to offer such as its sugar plantations. By the 1850s, the sugar industry became a well-established sector in Hawaii, with the majority of the product being sourced to the U.S. Over the years the relationship between the


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