Trailblazer: Women's History Edition

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’m excited to welcome you to the Women’s History Edition of the “Trailblazer Magazine.” It seems fitting that we use Ms. Maya Angelou’s quote for the women trailblazers in this publication. These women are courageous they refuse to be part of the status quo or walk in anyone’s shoes. They are determined to leave a legacy for the generations to follow. 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. Each month we will present a different theme which will highlight some of the movers and shakers that have made the HUBZone Program great. 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. For this edition, I had the honor of interviewing Ms. Lori Gillen, Director, Office of the HUBZone Program, Small Business Administration (SBA). She has been blazing a trail for almost 30 years from launching Women Business Centers to Leading SBA’s HUBZone Program changes in the midst of the COVID Pandemic. Her team was at the forefront of streamlining HUBZone regulations. We want everyone to get involved with future editions topics like the Asian Pacific Islanders, 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 Arab American Trailblazers. Enjoy the issue,

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

Table of Contents. FEATURE Lori Gillen Director, Office of the HUBZone Program, SBA

“HUBZone Business Owners bring their community on the journey to success with them. This is why they’re my heroes.”

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Women Impacting Public Policy

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DEFENSE Theresa Clark

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CEO, Summit Federal Services, LLC

Director, Small Business Programs, Air Force District of Washington

FORTUNE 500 Diane Dempsey

Director, Small Business Programs, BAE Systems, Inc., Intelligence & Security

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Table of Contents.

EDUCATION Dr. Carla Williams

Associate Professor of Medicine & Public Health & Interim Director of the Howard University Cancer Center

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HEALTH & SCIENCE Sabrina Thompson Office of Acquisition & Grants Management CMS Contracting Officer

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POLITICS Ann Sullivan

POLITICS Nydia Velázquez

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Founder & Strategic Advisor, Madison Services Group

Chair, Committee on Small Business, U.S. House of Representatives

TECHNOLOGY Meena Krishnan


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Small Business Specialist, 8(a) & HUBZone Program Advocate, OSDBU, United States Department of Transportation (USDOT)

President and CEO Inoventures, LLC

Natalie Rosa

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YOUNG DISRUPTOR Elizabeth Sullivan

SHOUT OUT Alisa Sherd

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President, Madison Services Group

Acting Deputy Director, Office of Government Contracting, WOSB Federal Contracting Program, SBA



With more and more HUBZone businesses becoming women owned it has been critical for the Council to have a strong alliance with Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) which is a national nonpartisan organization which advocates on behalf of women entrepreneurs.

Ms. Shirley Bailey has been dubbed the Queen of Capacity Building. When she joined the Council much like all trailblazers, she pulled her chair up to the table and immediately started working. Over the past Shirley Bailey, CEO, Summit Federal Services, LLC (SFS) two decades, she has been able to build capacity at various levels. As both a HUBZone business owner and a very active member of the HUBZone Contractors National Council, Ms. Bailey, has been instrumental in advocating for and promoting the HUBZone Program for over twenty years.

WIPP like the Council has been working on federal contracting parity. In support of the Council’s many Women HUBZone Business Owners we have taken the following excerpt from our strategic partner WIPP (2021 WIPP Policy Priorities - Women Impacting Public Policy). WIPP has tackled federal contracting issues since its inception. Access to federal markets continues to be a challenge for WOSBs, given that the federal government has only met its modest goal of 5% awards to WOSBs once. To remove these barriers, WIPP fought for implementation of the WOSB procurement program which gives federal agencies the authority to set aside contracts for WOSBs. In 2015, WIPP pressed for – and achieved – the swift implementation of sole source authority to the WOSB Procurement Program. WIPP’s efforts to level the playing field cuts across a wide set of issues relating to the government’s acquisition policy. Without our advocacy, small businesses and WOSB businesses will continue to lose ground as procurements become larger and longer. One missing piece is good data on these large, multiyear contracts also known as MACs. In addition, the government does not have sufficient data on whether subcontracting commitments have been met. A significant legislative victory was achieved in 2018, giving small firms more “runway” to transition out of the small business set aside program and into full and open competition. The law allows businesses to average revenues over 5 years rather than the previous 3 years for purposes of determining size standards.

As one of the most tenacious trailblazers the Council has ever encountered, Ms. Bailey, is most proud of the relationships she as forged. Working closely with the Small Business Administration, both as a contractor to the HUBZone Program Office, and as the HUBZone Council Board Chair, Ms. Bailey, along with another Trailblazer, Ann Sullivan of Madison Services Group, gained bipartisan Congressional support for improvements to the HUBZone Program. It was a long road, but with leadership, perseverance and dedication, significant legislative and regulatory improvements to the HUBZone Program were incorporated into the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. With Ms. Bailey at the helm, the HUBZone Council is determined to maximize the impact the HUBZone Program has on our nation’s most economically distressed communities. Ms. Bailey’s father, a proud Marine, always told her that being a leader was not based on gender and that all things are possible if you have a strong work ethic, determination, a willingness to take risks, and most importantly servant -leadership. As CEO of Summit Federal Services, LLC, a rural based, HUBZone certified, Professional and Technical Management Services company, Ms. Bailey strives to embody these traits each and every day to positively impact the lives of her employees and the communities they live and work in.



A real trailblazer knows, to stand tall you need someone’s shoulders to support you. Theresa Clark will quickly tell you her heroes are her older sisters. One is a hospice nurse, who loves her job despite the pay and Theresa L. Clark, Director, paperwork. Her sister Small Business Programs, Air Force District of Washington continues to make sure her patients transition with the dignity we all deserve. The other sister was the first person to tell Ms. Clark that she could do anything. She would say “set your goals and then go out and achieve them”. They are both hardworking, passionate, tenacious, and smart.

Diane Dempsey’s trailblazing strength lies in her ability to take a panoramic view of the business industry including stakeholders, vendors, suppliers, investors, and buyers. By constantly analyzing industry trends to Diane Dempsey, Director, Small Business Programs, BAE Systems, understand organizations’ Inc., Intelligence & Security selection and implementation practices has enabled Ms. Dempsey to guide small businesses and other small business liaisons.

This is probably why HUBZone businesses have a special place in her portfolio. She tells the contracting officers (CO) all the time to remember HUBZone businesses impact communities around the nation. They create jobs and help to revitalize neighborhoods. That is why when COs need support in conducting industry research, she counts on the Executive Director, Ms. Burnett to quickly provide a data driven HUBZone solutions to the Air Force. Building HUBZone Capacity is paramount to Ms. Clark. Her role as a small business advocate has allowed her to collaborate with COs and industry partners to further increase the DoD industrial base. She is constantly working to level the procurement playing field, whether it is to champion market research within DoD or ensuring that small businesses create comprehensive capability statements. As the ultimate trailblazer, Ms. Clark is laser focused on uncovering skilled small business resources throughout the nation by advocating acquisition strategies that leverage appropriate vendors. Additionally, she makes sure that DoD obtains the right vendor with the right capabilities to meet the mission of our warfighters. In summary, Ms. Clark’s final words to the HUBZone community “is not to quit and there are lots of resources out there, use them [Small Business (].”

When the Council first started, she was one of the first to see that the HUBZone program created meaningful jobs. Ms. Dempsey took this message back to other Prime Contractors and rallied the troops to support the Council’s annual national conference. Her vision of an infrastructure where HUBZones have a place at the Primes table is still growing. The Council last year at the height of COVID had more prime contractors participating in the match making sessions than ever before. Additionally, Ms. Dempsey has engaged the Council for internal HUBZone connector events. As a leader who leaves a path for others to follow, we have heard her say “business changes every day, shouldn’t we?” That is a clarion call for HUBZones to continue to elevate their thinking in areas of market size, global industry trends, share, innovation, demand, growth opportunities, industry revenue, and of course their future. For instance, Ms. Dempsey’s discussions around Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) and her understanding of regulations, politics, and industry enables her to guide industry conversations around cyber security and the vulnerabilities. As a trailblazer, Ms. Dempsey will remind people of what we at the Council call E3 (E to the third power). To Enchant – your customers, to Elevate – your services and products, and finally to Earn – your customers’ respect by providing fair prices, superior quality, and timely execution. This is the competitive landscape which builds a better world for others.

Trailblazing is a Dance. By: Lily Milliner Photo: Lori Gillen

Director, Office of the HUBZone Program, SBA

“Keep dancing the next step may lead you right into that government contract.”

L “HUBZone Business Owners bring their community on the journey to success with them. This is why they’re my heroes.”

ori Gillen Director, Office of the HUBZone Program, Small Business Administration (SBA) has said, “I live and work by that old motto that progress is often measured as two steps forward and one step back – which has kept me energized and constantly moving forward”. Much like a dancer, Ms. Gillen’s passion on the entrepreneurial dance floor moves organizations to the rhythm of music. Whether leading a certification program designed to help small business enterprises access billions of federal procurement dollars the dance was always the same. Ms. Gillen found the music and the right beat to support their mission. She is considered an entrepreneurial public servant because she is willing to take risk on behalf of small businesses. This trailblazer makes sure that everyone that is invited to the party actually dances. Her intuitive nature allows her to constantly expand the dancefloor giving

communities like HUBZones, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers the opportunity to display their unique moves. Most importantly, if they misstep she is there to encourage them and remind them to keep fighting the good fight, stay in there, and don’t lose heart! She believes that HUBZones make a difference in their community and though the dance is difficult, it gets better with practice. So, she is quick to say, “keep dancing the next step may lead you right into that government contract.” HUBZone Heroes Ms. Gillen quickly lets us know who her heroes are. Having personally run a business she is astutely aware of the daily challenges of an entrepreneur and therefore considers it remarkable that HUBZone firms voluntarily take on more challenges. One HUBZone business can be the hero for an entire community, providing employment, training, or supporting local causes. HUBZones position themselves to ignite change making them and their community successful.

“HUBZone Business Owners bring their community on the journey to success with them. This is why they’re my heroes because they commit to really giving back to the communities where they’re located in a significant way. They put their money where their mouth is. Hiring HUBZone residents, training them, many of the companies hire more HUBZone residents than they are required to because they believe in the mission.” Someone once told Gillen that the SBA is like working for the Department of Mom and Apple

aside and sole source mechanisms along with championing the price preference features that are available to them. This has resulted in fewer protests and an increase in the number, value and percentage of federal dollars awarded to HUBZone firms moving the needle closer to the 3% goal. 

Expanding the footprint so more rural communities across the country could qualify for HUBZone designation through support from their governors.

SBA is Listening: Champions

Pie. How can you not come to work every day inspired knowing the businesses we support create the majority of jobs and generate the lion’s share of innovation, while shaping the character and economic health of communities all across this nation? Which makes HUBZone businesses clearly the poster child for “Mom & Apple Pie.” Their values of helping others along with tenacity and grit makes them all community trailblazers.

get more federal procurement dollars into these communities. Implementing these improvements over the past three years has been a heavy lift and it’s been done with unprecedented speed particularly in the midst of a pandemic, thanks to the great team handling the program. Some of the biggest recent changes to the program are around three significant areas: 

Making it easier for firms to obtain and maintain their certification. This resulted in faster processing times and reduced burden on businesses.

Incentivizing contracting officers in agencies across the government to utilize the HUBZone program’s set

ALL IN: Program Transformation Congress and the Administration have gone all in trying to make the HUBZone program much more accessible and easier to utilize by identifying sustainable ways to

SBA is very fortunate to have women leaders that are true small business advocates. The SBA Administrator, Isabella Casillas Guzman, is the daughter of a small business owner, and a member of the president’s cabinet. She has been a fierce advocate bringing to the forefront the impact that COVID has had on the small business community. Then there is Bibi Hidalgo, Associate Administrator for the Office of Government Contracting and Business Development, who oversees all of SBA’s government contracting small business goaling and certification programs, including the HUBZone Program, who recently collaborated with the White House to help level the playing field around government contracting emphasizing the impact of category management while providing alternatives to ensure more small businesses were at the dance. SBA is advocating more equitable and transparent systems that allow small businesses to enter into a

On left Shirley Bailey, Michelle Burnett, Lori Gillen, and Bruce Purdy. HUBZone Strategic Summit 2021

These various groups understood how their clientele would benefit from the center. Her strategy eventually morphed into a business plan for the center. This coalition was so diverse and powerful it was able to obtain its initial funding to launch the center during a period of budget cuts. Their success more than demonstrated the need and the value of a center to support women entrepreneurs. To the astonishment of the naysayers, this center helped more than 1,200 women within its first year and continued to grow each year exponentially.

different tier. This new framework opened up opportunities for more than 30,000 small businesses. Power of Building Coalitions Ms. Gillen has spent her career building meaningful coalitions. She believes that if everyone is not at the dance and dancing, she has not done her job. In 2009, she helped establish a women’s business center in Maryland. She was surprised at how many naysayers there were who thought that women would not utilize this service. Ms. Gillen deployed a strategy which combined process and people to launch the center. She developed a data driven strategic plan highlighting the quantitative and qualitative needs and benefits, surveying individuals and organizations that would be impacted. All of this was done while simultaneously building a coalition of organizations.

Fast forward, a decade later Ms. Gillen is still coalition building but now she has focused her attention to strengthening and growing a nationwide program. When she took over the HUBZone program, she was faced with unprecedented series of programmatic changes, challenges, and opportunities. They needed to be implemented in very short order and nobody knew that the pandemic was on the way. Never before had the statement “Teamwork makes a Dreamwork” meant so much to the SBA staff. They powered through bunches of obstacles. They did it again and again, because they believe so strongly in the mission of the program. Her team devised a plan and identified solutions to streamline

On left Bruce Purdy, Administrator Isabella Guzman, Shirley Bailey, Victor Holt, & Lori Gillen. HUBZone Strategic Summit 2021

the process. A plan her internal coalition and external stakeholders equally rallied behind, exceeding expectations. SBA is proud to say that prior to the pandemic, case processing time was greater than 90 days and now it is fewer than 60 days for those who submit a complete application. Thought Partners - Driving Growth

As a woman trailblazer, Ms. Gillen recognizes that all entrepreneurs, but particularly women, benefit most from what she calls “thought partners”, individuals that help them mitigate perceived risks and maneuver through hurdles. These partners were able to serve as trusted advisors when entrepreneurs faced potential obstacles to their ultimate growth, whether they were feeling isolated or had an innovative idea. For example, the real cost of not hiring that employee – is it worth getting a loan or dipping into the savings for it. Thought partners were there to help these women owners successfully weigh the risks verses the various rewards. Ms. Gillen promises to continue to ask others to join her on the dancefloor. Don’t be afraid of missing a beat, do your own moves. An entrepreneur’s success lies in their ability to continuously dance to their own music, especially when it looks funny to others.



Howard University is in a HUBZone that continues to produce trailblazers in every industry including Dr. Carla Williams. These visionaries help people see their ideas, find ways to communicate them so others can Dr. Carla Williams, Associate understand. She encourages Professor of Medicine & Public Health & Interim Director of the Howard University people to live in a “brave Cancer Center space.” The space where no one else may see your product or service. Dr. Williams believes that trailblazers are driven by curiosity. The art of discovery, finding out not only what we don't know but how to use that knowledge to make a difference. Ultimately, we're all trying to leave something behind that's going to help someone you know that comes behind us.

Sabrina Thompson is currently using her trailblazing talents as the Contracting Officer (CO) for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The Council understands that several years ago, the HUBZone Sabrina Thompson, Office of business community asked Acquisition & Grants Management CMS Contracting Officer Anita Allen the Small Business Specialist at CMS how they could partner with her to open up more IT opportunities at CMS. This partnering led to HUBZones responding to CMS’s Sources Sought announcements with increased frequency and better quality.

As the keynote speaker for Women in Science, Dr. Williams discussed allyship in science and strategies for advancement reminding registrants to embrace the journey and trust the process. She applies her clinical psychology background to equip scientists and community health advocates with the skills to maximize the impact of collaborative research. Dr. Williams says, “communicating it in a language that all your stakeholders understand is paramount.” As health sciences research leader, she has seen the community engagement process playout in various ways from products, services, and ideas not ready for release, to the world not ready to receive them. Everyone receives information differently, one of the jobs of a collaborative trailblazer is their ability look at a product or service from different perspectives and determine which metrics are valuable and those which don’t align. If leaders can't get people to see their vision, then they won’t find people willing to invest in its potential impacts. This was evident during COVID as the country focused on issues of health disparities and health equity affecting African Americans and underrepresented or socially marginalized communities including HUBZones.

The responses revealed that HUBZone companies were building a dearth of skills in the areas of Health Analytics. A case was made to Ms. Thompson and her team that those small businesses particularly HUBZones could successfully accomplish these tasks. The word on the street was that “Ms. Thompson and her team seized the opportunity to level the playing field for the small businesses at CMS.” Thus, the acquisition process for Data Analytics Supporting Healthcare (DASH) was born. The HUBZone community considers her role as an influencer key to crafting an innovative acquisition strategy which clearly supported the utilization of small businesses. CMS conducted a phased advisory evaluation format which included relevant experience along with multiple video challenges. HUBZones felt that the acquisition process was handled in such a way that the CMS clients would be assured of receiving exceptional services from all awardees while still providing equity to HUBZone vendors.

In 2022, DASH a $500 million BPA to use agile delivery services to improve the quality of care at CMS was awarded to 10 businesses. More importantly, Ms. Thompson’s team selected six HUBZones (Analytica Esimplicity, Index Analytic, Next Phase Solutions and Services, SparkSoft and Reli Group) in accordance with the solicitation based on GSA’s schedules socioeconomic status of HUBZone.



When Ann Sullivan founded the Madison Services Group, Inc. (MSGI), she was more than a woman trailblazer she was an anomaly—creating a lobbying sector for small businesses. She was committed Ann Sullivan, to making an impact not letting Founder & Strategic Advisor, Madison Services Group the fact she was often the only female lobbyist in the room deter her. Early on she had women allies, senators that made sure she was part of the process. These women used their privilege to champion other women and in turn Ms. Sullivan has continued that legacy making history in 2020, being the only mother and daughter lobbying team on the Hill.

Representative Nydia M. Velázquez Is a serial trailblazer: first Puerto Rican woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; first Hispanic woman to serve as Ranking Member of a full committee in the history of the Nydia M. Velázquez, Chair, Committee on Small Business, House in 1998 and as Chair in U.S. House of Representatives 2006. She oversees the SBA, the only federal agency devoted to supporting this nation’s entrepreneurial sector, and its financing, contracting, and technical assistance programs.

Since March 2016, Ms. Sullivan has been a lobbyist for the Council advocating in Congress on the issues that are important to HUBZone Businesses. Known for delivering the possible, her team worked to change the HUBZone message to appeal to Congress. They transformed the message from what was considered manufacturing to job creation in every industry. Once the narrative was rewritten from complicated to straightforward, MSGI was ready to take on the legislation. MSGI team worked with HUBZones to identify ways to simplify the program. Ms. Sullivan put her congressional expertise to work, analyzing and supporting legislative changes while obtaining Congressional bipartisan support during COVID. The new legislation not only froze the HUBZone maps but eliminated many of the complicated guidelines impacting HUBZone Businesses. As a political trailblazer, Ms. Sullivan is tenacious – she will not give up! Just ask the women business owners that have benefited from the 11 years of MSGI’s advocacy. They now have two certification programs WOSB and EWOSB. Her closing message, “Advocate for the program and your business; we need voices in every district to constantly influence their representative”.

Chairwomen Velázquez has been a champion of the HUBZone Program giving a statement in 2017 “Examining the Effectiveness of HUBZone Reforms.” She highlights that the HUBZone program is vital and that the government still has not reached it goal, both points are still valid today. A few important excerpts from the statement she made are listed below: Each year, the federal government procures more than $400 billion in goods and services from businesses around the country through government contracts. The HUBZone program—was created in 1997 to provide federal assistance to firms located in economically-distressed areas. By lowering barriers to entry into the federal marketplace for these firms, the HUBZone program has fostered competition while helping rebuild communities. Businesses in HUBZones play a large and vital role in our nation’s economy because they create jobs for those residing both inside and outside of these economically distressed areas. However, since its implementation, the HUBZone program has not reached its full potential… The dollars and actions awarded through this program have continually decreased since Fiscal Year 2008. Only 82,000 actions worth $6.8 billion – 1.67 percent of prime contracting dollars – were awarded to HUBZone firms in Fiscal Year 2016. It is my hope that this Committee can work together to reverse this trend.

TECHNOLOGY Ms. Krishan has continued to be a trailblazer in the midst of great sorrow, when others would have given up, she continued on. She used the unspeakable tragedy of losing her entire family in a car Meena Krishnan, President and accident to eventually forge CEO, Inoventures, LLC ahead. It wasn’t easy but her pain was transformed into purpose. She embraced the challenge and built Inoventures into the successful Public Health technology firm it is today. She found a greater purpose when she started supporting the HUBZone Program. The mission of creating employment opportunities for the underutilized was something Ms. Krishan was passionate about. This clearly aligned with her value statement, “Technology is well used when it empowers people.” She thought to herself, “what better example than to become certified as a HUBZone Company.” Over the years, this has become one of the pieces that would bring healing from her lost, leaving a legacy for her family Ms. Krishan has taken on the unique role of being a “trailblazer midwife.” She is known for aiding and producing other women trailblazers. She motivates women in her company to dream big and go after goals. A tangible record of that is reflected by 60% of her Project Teams having women leaders. As part of Women In Board group, Ms. Krishan helps other women to make a difference in Corporate Boards. Additionally, she advocates for other professional women by contributing to important policies on the Board of Women in Public Policy (WIPP) and Women Business Collaborative. Her passion has helped other women leaders reach their fullest potential. Often engaging professional women by speaking in forums such as the Women in Technology and NCMA Panels where her story is shared, so others go after their dreams without waiting. She has expanded her reach to assisting young girls being forced into marriage before they even reach puberty to become trailblazers.

TRANSPORTATION & LOGISTICS Ms. Natalie Rosa will tell you her best days are the ones when she gets to assist what she calls her family “HUBZone Businesses & 8 (a)s” do business at USDOT. This Millennial trailblazer lives by the slogan “Make It Natalie Rosa, Small Business Specialist, 8(a) & HUBZone Program Happen.” Ms. Rosa has said, Advocate, OSDBU, United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) “if you're gonna cancel anything it has to be that statement it's never been done so I can't do it .” She lets business owners know you can do it, cancel those excuses. Ms. Rosa helps them figure it out. Her message to small business owners is consistent, you can jump over your hurdles. You may have to study hard, ask for help, and cancel all the pity party invitations, but you can do it! As a first-generation Cuban, Ms. Rosa is astutely aware that she has a responsibility to ensure that the playing field is being leveled for small businesses. When faced with phrases like “this is how it has always been done,” she reminds her colleagues that the business world is changing daily, and this might be a fantastic opportunity to try something different. Ms. Rosa is constantly listening and asking the tough questions. For instance, “Does our office have the data for this acquisition strategy? Have we been able to measure the impact of this decision on the people we are serving? Furthermore, does this align with the Biden Administration’s Executive Order to “Level the Playing Field?” What is refreshing to her is the leadership is asking the same questions. They stand ready to assess the possible consequences of their acquisition strategy. Small businesses are in Ms. Rosa’s blood, by her 18th birthday she was coordinating business matchmaking sessions for her mother’s business all over the United States. Getting first-hand experience on how to be decisive. On a final note, remember just because it has not been done before, does not mean it cannot be done now, that is our invitation to “Make It Happen”!



What does it mean to be working with another trailblazer? Just ask Elizabeth Sullivan, President of Madison Services Group (MSGI), who started down a path only to find her destiny intersecting Elizabeth Sullivan with her mother’s. Never has President, Madison Services Group the African Proverb been so real – If we stand tall it is because we stand on the shoulders of many ancestors. Lizzie, as she is fondly called, is a second-generation business owner who has taken the baton to run even further. This young disrupter has leveraged the great characteristics of the millennial generation to make MSGI even stronger. Whether she is challenging the status-quo or creating new policies for HUBZone businesses, the Council is grateful she is lobbying for us.

Ms. Alisa Sheard’s trailblazing talents were shaped as a child. Her mom, Ms. Louisiana was the first person that really taught her how to be a business professional in the workplace. Taking your daughter to work Alisa Sheard, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Government was always an opportunity for Contracting, WOSB Federal Contracting Program, SBA Ms. Sheard to observe her mom exuding excellence in the workplace. It didn’t matter if she was answering the phones or delivering a presentation, she was awesome. Most importantly, Ms. Sheard learned work-life-balance from her mother, successfully balancing motherhood and work. To this day, Ms. Louisiana still is her biggest hero.

Lizzie declared she would never work for her mom and initially chose the path of education as a preschool teacher through Teach for America. Teaching in a Chicago childcare center located in a HUBZone, destiny would not leave her alone. She was constantly pulled out of the classroom to help the small business owner comply with federal regulations. It was clear many of the issues prevalent in her classroom stemmed from Washington. Thus, she realized she needed to return home and join her mother’s firm. Ann had broken many glass ceilings for women lobbyists so that she could soar. As COVID tried to decimate HUBZone businesses, they needed a staunch advocate in Congress. MSGI received calls from Congress for solutions that could help small businesses during a time of crisis. MSGI’s government contracting specialty allowed them to continue to help contractors through this unprecedented time. Lizzie even went back to school at night to get a master’s degree to deepen her knowledge. She is certainly not alone in her work. The women on Capitol Hill, from staffers to Members of Congress, help her lead the way for HUBZone businesses. Trailblazing led her back home!

For Ms. Sheard it is all about encouraging small business owners to be confident and resilient. She often says, “I want them to believe in themselves, to know that they have the necessary knowledge to get the job done; to fight against self-doubt; to move into self-power; and to deliver.” The government has plenty of room for small businesses that are able to successfully deliver the right services; the services they need. Ms. Sheard works with small businesses to differentiate their capabilities by helping them speak to the customers’ pain points. Her greatest joy is when they pivot from selling everything to understanding that it's about reducing the customer’s pain. How their small business can solve the problem better than their competitors. When the small business matches their capabilities to the customers’ pain, they start delivering winning presentations.

Ms. Sheard’s proudest moment was the timely launch WOSB online certification program. Its success was truly a team effort. The pandemic may have forced the design, development, and implementation to be accomplished virtually but it didn’t stop the mission. Our team knew that women owned small businesses were depending on us and we were not going to fail them.

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