Speed dating for businesses

Representatives from Fort Rucker visit with small business representatives during the business matchmaker event.

Representatives from Fort Rucker visit with small business representatives during the business matchmaker event.

More than 150 people participated in a “speed dating” event at Troy University on Wednesday, May 17.

Rather than looking to build personal relations, the crowd was looking to build business relationships at the Small Business Development Center’s 2017 Small Business Opportunities Conference and Matchmaker.

“These events sponsored by the SBDC are a fabulous opportunity for all small businesses to come and network with multiple agencies under one roof,” said Lynn Carter, owner of Southeast Cherokee Construction Company, a general contractor for the Department of Defense and a woman-owned small business based in Wetumpka.

In 1987, Carter inherited the business from her mother, who started it as a highway grading and drainage enterprise in 1983. In 1992, she purchased the outstanding shares of stock to make herself the sole owner and has since grown the company into a full-service general construction contractor.

Carter, who was named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Alabama Small Business Person of the Year for 2008 and is a long-time client at the TROY SBDC, said the event was instrumental to any small business looking to break into contracting with the federal government, or working with federal government prime contractors.

“In government contracting, persistence is a must. The more you can get your company name and your face in front of these contracting officers, it helps your opportunity for successful offers,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to see multiple agencies at one time, it’s very cost efficient and good time management.”

The event matches representatives from various government agencies and large government contractors with small business representatives in 15-minute blocks of time so that the small business representatives can pitch their companies to the agencies, and the agencies can learn more about the business’ offerings.

“We put the matchmaker together today because there’s a lot of mystery surrounding government contracting. A lot of small businesses want to get into government contracting but don’t know how to start,” said Betsy Baker, a senior business advisor at TROY’s SBDC.

“It’s like speed dating for the small businesses – it gives each side of the table a chance to get to know one another,” she said.

It’s a good event for both small businesses and the governmental agencies because of federal contracting guidelines that call for certain percentages of federal contracts to go toward small businesses, minority-owned and veteran-owned small businesses, Baker said.

“Government contracting isn’t a mystery. It’s very doable for small businesses,” she said. “That’s why we offer these opportunities.”

For more information about governmental contracting, business operations, business planning and other issues, contact TROY’s SBDC at 334-674-2425, or email Baker at bakerb@troy.edu.