12th Annual Veterans in Business Conference Helps SD/VOSBs “Get Procurement Ready!”

L to R: Charles McCaffrey (VBOC Director) thanks Blake Hall (Founder/CEO of ID.me) for his insightful and inspiring keynote address with the support of Kathy Wheeler (President/CEO of CBP) and Dr. Gerald Gordon (President/CEO Fairfax County EDA. Photo by Maurice Fitzgerald.

Over 275 Veteran small business owners, government agency representatives, prime contractors and elected officials converged on the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA for the 12th Annual Veterans in Business Conference (VIB).  What began with a handful of volunteers and a 50 seat training room has grown into the premier Veteran entrepreneurship conference in the Metro DC region.

The showcase event of the Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) at Community Business Partnership (CBP), the Veterans in Business Conference provides relevant education, networking and business opportunities for Veteran small business owners seeking to conduct business with local, state and federal government agencies. This year’s theme was “Getting Procurement Ready!” – a topic of importance to Veteran small businesses operating in the National Capital Region.

Following the presentation of the colors by the Armed Forces Color Guard, the conference kicked off with opening remarks by Dr. Gerald Gordon (President & CEO, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority) and a keynote address by Blake Hall (Founder & CEO of ID.me). Both speakers were optimistic about opportunities for Veteran small business owners in Fairfax County (home to 12,000 Veteran-owned small businesses) and the metro DC area. Blake particularly emphasized the importance of trusted mentor-protégé relationships in starting and growing businesses.

The attendees then dispersed throughout the conference sight to network, visit the exhibitor’s hall and attend a variety of workshops designed for both start-up and existing government contractors.  Topics included:  What’s New in Veteran-business Programs, Opportunities in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Funding, Cybersecurity Planning and the Federal Government Forecast with a Prime Contractor’s Panel.

At lunch, the group was treated to remarks from Carol Mitten (Arlington Deputy County Manager) and a Jaime Areizaga-Soto (Deputy Secretary of Virginia Veterans and Defense Affairs). We were also honored to be able to present the Virginia SBDC Network Small Business Veteran of the Year Award to Patricia Frame, an Air Force Veteran and Owner of Strategies for Human Resources.

Networking with exhibitors at the VIB. Photo by Maurice Fitzgerald.

The conference day concluded with a Veteran small business owners panel. Staci Redmon (Strategy and Management Services), Fred Wellman (ScoutComms) and RJ Blake (Blake Willson Group) shared insights and experiences in starting and growing their businesses; as well as the many opportunities and challenges (from working with a new administration and getting contract ready; to LPTA and program/budget cuts) of doing business with the government. They also discussed their best practices to using the many small business set-aside programs including SD/VOSB, WOSB, 8a and the new All Small Business Mentor-Protege program.

Feedback from the attendees has been incredibly positive – praising the “quality of the venue, workshops and speakers”, as well as remarking on the “friendly air of inclusion” that many of the first-time small business owners felt throughout the day. Many thanks go out to our sponsors: BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, Capital One Bank, TD Bank, Access National Bank, Strategy and Management Services, the Small Business Administration, Piliero Mazza Attorneys at Law, General Dynamics, M&T Bank, AECOM, SAIC, CACI, Kearney & Company, The Gatewood Group LLC, the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Chesapeake Training Services and BRTV.

Save the date: 13th Annual Veterans in Business Conference – Thursday, March 22, 2018 at the Army Navy Country Club. Details at http://www.veteransbusinessconference.org/

Special thanks to DiversityComm, LLC., (and U.S. Veterans Magazine) for being a long-time Media Sponsor of the Veterans in Business Conference. Their unprecedented participation and partnership at more than 300 diversity-focused conferences (such as the VIB) and the support of their millions of members makes them a one-stop-shop for diversity & inclusion.