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Carrie Jokiel of ChemTrack

Woman-Owned Small Business Spotlight: ChemTrack

Welcome to the second edition of our woman-owned small business spotlight series. This edition highlights ChemTrack, an environmental engineering, remediation services, and construction company. The company’s President, Carrie Jokiel, shares her story and advice for other woman-owned small businesses.

Can you provide a brief overview of what ChemTrack does?

ChemTrack is an 8(a) Alaskan Woman-Owned Small Business, specializing in environmental engineering, remediation services, and construction. We combine geological, chemical, hydrological, and engineering expertise with a broad understanding of regulatory and risk frameworks to solve environmental assessment and regulatory compliance problems for our clients. ChemTrack tailors innovative methods and concepts to individual problems and provides environmental solutions, especially as they apply to arctic and subarctic conditions in Alaska.

What inspired you to start ChemTrack?

I’m a born and raised Alaskan woman and second-generation “ChemTrackian.” My mother grew up in bush Alaska, our remote areas, as my grandparents were teachers in the villages. My dad emigrated here from Germany to attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks back in the ‘60s. He fell in love with my mom and the spirit of Alaska. Being raised with that same spirit led me to becoming partners with my father and eventually becoming majority owner. We both share the entrepreneurial spirit that comes from the beauty and opportunities this great State has to offer.

That combination of respect and entrepreneurship has created a workforce culture that truly enjoys what we do to prevent negative environmental impacts, restore our remote areas to their original pristine conditions, and work together with our clients that share our passion for the State of Alaska.

What is your proudest moment for ChemTrack?

This summer season is already kicking off to be my proudest moment. I feel like we have arrived.  We have worked incredibly hard to be prepared to have a good season and I see the fruit of that labor happening. We were coming off a tough, stressful season last year, and the resilience my team has shown along with the can-do spirit, has been incredible to witness.

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome with ChemTrack?

We had a project go sideways two seasons ago that had a ripple effect into last year’s season as well.  It stressed our company at every level; it pulled my focus away from our strategic plan into survival mode; it affected the crew involved on the project, from the project manager to each laborer.  Amazingly, it also bonded us together. We were all in the trenches together, backs against a wall, and we survived. I wouldn’t wish tough days on any business owner, but the grit my crew showed and what we learned from our challenge has made us a much better company and now, we are poised to thrive.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

Listen to the nudges you feel when leading. Realize you are a master of your trade and how you lead may seem unique to the mainstream we are often surrounded by. Know that your intuitiveness matters, and is at its core, how YOU run your company. Basically, you know what you’re doing – keep crushin’ it.

Do you have any suggestions on resources that women-owned small businesses should use?

To keep up on what our government is doing to help women-owned small businesses, get involved in Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP).  If starting out, get to know your PTAC office.  If a federal contractor, get to know your local SBA office personnel.  If you’re a federal contractor and can budget it, use a service like FEDMINE to track and monitor RFPs, competitors, and contracts. Good luck!

To learn more about ChemTrack, visit their website at http://chemtrack.net/.

WOSB Program Self-Certification Changes

To participate in the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) or Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) Program, a company must either self-certify through the Small Business Administration (SBA) website or through a third-party organization. However, the program is making some changes in the near future. Effective October 15, 2020, WOSBs will no longer be able to self-certify.

As part of the 2015 The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress eliminated self-certification for WOSB set asides and sole source. Despite the change, the SBA insisted that WOSB self-certification remain a viable option while they figured out how to address the change. Now, that change is coming.

According to reports by the SBA Office of Inspector General (OIG), 89% of all WOSB sole source contracts were awarded improperly. It was determined that federal agencies, contracting officers, and firms did not comply with the federal regulations for 50 out of a total 56 sole source contracts, which are valued at a total of $52.2 million.

Before awarding a WOSB or EDWOSB contract, the contracting officer is required to confirm that WOSBs/EDWOSBs have provided supporting certification documentation in the SBA system. Yet, SBA OIG found that contracting officers awarded 18 contracts valued at $11.7 million on a sole source base to companies with no documentation in the system. Additionally, 32 sole source contracts were awarded to companies with incomplete documentation in the system.

SBA OIG pointed out that the 2015 NDAA, which allowed WOSBs to receive sole source contracts, also required the SBA to implement a certification program for these businesses. Though the SBA implemented the sole source authority in October 2015, they have not issued regulations pertaining to a certification process for the program. The SBA estimated another year of implementing a certification process. This is not the first time that an oversight body has questioned whether WOSB self-certification may be causing ineligible companies to win set asides and sole source contracts.

With self-certification going away, WOSBs must turn to third-party organizations for certification. There are currently four organizations approved by the SBA to provide third-party certification:

  • The National Women’s Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC);
  • The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC);
  • The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce;
  • And the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (EPHCC).

Companies certifying for the first time must either certify through one of the third-party organizations mentioned above or through https://certify.sba.gov/, which will be offering a free online certification program. SBA will also allow participation from firms certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Center of Verification and Evaluations, provided they meet all eligibility requirements.

JetCo Federal President to Speak about Contracting Compliance

JetCo Federal’s President, Sue Tellier, will be speaking about government contracting compliance at a Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) Education Platform webinar on Tuesday, June 30 at 2 PM ET.

The webinar, titled “Compliance Begins Before the Win”, will outline the structure of compliance JetCo Federal has built for federal contracting, which has allowed us to diversify with confidence in a manner that decreases risk. Effective compliance begins before the win, and small size status is not an obstacle to building a culture of compliance.

The webinar is free to WIPP members and is $25 for non-members. You can register for the webinar on the WIPP website.

 

The Benefits of Woman-Owned Small Business Certification

From the stamp of approval for the government contracting industry to the relationships built, becoming certified as a woman-owned small business (WOSB) has benefitted our company in many ways. Though JetCo Federal doesn’t rely on the certification to win new businesses, we know industry partners care that we have the certification. Here are some of the benefits we’ve experienced from getting certified as a woman-owned small business.

Stamp of Approval for Government Contracting

The women-owned small business (WOSB) program began in December of 2000 to help the federal government meet its goal of awarding at least 5% of all contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses. As a company that sells to the government, winning bids is an important part of our work, and as a woman-owned small business, we wanted to make sure we had access to these contracting dollars set aside for WOSBs.

Eligibility for these contracting dollars requires getting certified as a WOSB through a certification program. Our organization decided to go with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certification and now we have the government’s stamp of approval to bid on those contracts set aside for WOSBs.

Relationships Formed with Other WOSBs

Another benefit of getting certified as a WOSB is that it helps you find and form relationships with other woman-owned small businesses. The network of woman-owned small businesses is tight-knit. We’re thankful for those we’ve connected with and are even starting a quarterly WOSB highlight this month to shed a light on incredible WOSBs throughout the country.

Getting certified as a woman-owned small business may not be for everyone, but we’ve seen the benefits of certification help advance business goals. Here’s what our President, Sue Tellier, had to say about WOSB certification.

“WBENC certification gives a stamp of credibility to woman-owned small businesses, verifying the authenticity of the ‘woman-owned’ claim. This opens doors to new markets and new audiences within existing client relationships. We are proud of our proven capabilities and don’t rely on the WBENC logo to win business, yet we know savvy buyers and supplier diversity professionals care that we have it.”

Interested in learning more about how you can utilize our WOSB status as a supplier? Contact us for more information.

Big Impact from Small Businesses

This is a challenging time for small business owners. The unpredictable, ever-changing nature of our economy due to the global pandemic causes ambiguity for employers and employees. Many service providers are sending multiple alerts each day, flooding our inboxes with well-intentioned information.

So many of my close friends are other small business owners. We’ve been talking, commiserating, and sharing online about the horrible options in front of us. Some had to close in the early days of the pandemic because of the nature of their business – they are hospitality or salons or gyms. I’ve heard their pain in having to close or severely curtail operations. It’s heartbreaking to watch affected companies and their leaders make difficult decisions about shuttering or temporary layoffs.

Silver linings for small businesses will become more evident with time. A few have already jumped out.

  1. It becomes VERY obvious if a small business is working with the right partner for accounting and insurance. I’ve sent thank you emails to our CPA, Rehmann, and commercial insurance company, BHS. They’ve really killed it with timely information, giving it concisely and intuitively. Our banker at Macatawa Bank has also reached out proactively to ensure we have all the information we need and has calmly and quickly responded to any questions.
  2. Small businesses support other small businesses. This is demonstrated with our purchasing decisions and through information sharing and support. I’m having a weekly virtual happy hour with about a dozen women who own businesses in Michigan (Sheri Welsh, Welsh and Associates; Gina Thorson, Stormy Kromer; Rebecca Cox, Savant Group; Lorri Rishar, EDGE Partnerships; Ginny Sherrow, Fenton Winery and Brewery; Sassa Akervall, Akervall Technologies; Anita Abrol, Lewis Knopf CPAs; Sue LaBonville, Allis Information Management.) It’s therapeutic, and can make us all feel less lonely about the tough decisions.
  3. Standout employees show their stripes. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with my team. They are working tenaciously to support each other, step in where help is needed, and become even more intense. We have coffee mugs that say “No damn whining.” Their actions show these aren’t just words.
  4. Inspiration is EVERWHERE. Two very close friends, Gina Thorson of Stormy Kromer and Sassa Akervall of Akervall Technologies (who are part of my weekly virtual happy hour), retooled their manufacturing operations to make masks, gowns, and face shields. This kept their employees working, and flattened the impact of closures on their revenue streams.
  5. Sharing talent and time matters. Every text I’ve gotten from a business owner friend, I’ve responded quickly and helpfully. They’ve done the same. (Kim Bode, Jennifer Jurgens, Jason Dodge… the list goes ON.)Crisis breeds creativity.

Small business owners are creative as hell.

Women’s History Month – A Reflection on Impactful Organizations

March is Women’s History Month, intended to prompt reflection of the contributions and vital role women have played in history. JetCo Federal is a WBENC-certified woman-owned small business (WOSB), and two organizations that have helped us grow and strengthen our company are worthy of calling out during March.

Women in Defense (WID)

Women in Defense is an affiliate of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA). JetCo became involved with NDIA and WID because we serve the military through our role as a Department of Defense contractor. These organizations give our employees a credible source of information and engagement opportunities. Importantly, WID “engages, cultivates and supports the advancement and recognition of women in all aspects of national security.”

WID membership is open to both men and women, and JetCo employees are individual members of both NDIA and WID. However, we are not just members – we are involved. We organize events, serve as mentors, and volunteer time to promote the defense industry. Through WID, our employees develop leadership skills, build and retain relationships, and learn. WID’s membership is ridiculously valuable.

Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP)

Women Impacting Public Policy is a national nonpartisan organization advocating on behalf of women entrepreneurs—strengthening their impact on our nation’s public policy, creating economic opportunities, and forging alliances with other business organizations. We became an organizational member of WIPP in 2015, and we increased our involvement the following year through the Leadership Advisory Council. Through WIPP, we learn, connect, and advocate.

One of WIPP’s Policy Priorities is to “Create parity for WOSBs in federal contracting.” And these aren’t just words. This priority is achieved through the deliberate development and implementation of strategic tactics. In addition to making a difference in Washington, D.C., WIPP communicates their activities effectively to the membership, allowing us to become an educated extension for the talented Advocacy Team.

Advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. WIPP earned their positive reputation for advocacy. It’s evident that decision-makers on the Hill respect WIPP’s opinions and ability to mobilize WOSB contractors.

Women’s History Month celebrates the contributions of women throughout history. Through our involvement with WID and WIPP, we are building relationships with women who will keep making history.

4 Certification Programs for Women-Owned Small Businesses

In one of our most recent blog posts, we highlighted some of the ways to better market your company as a women-owned small business. One of these ways was to know the women-owned small business (WOSB) program inside and out and to look into becoming WOSB certified.

What does it mean to be WOSB certified?

In order to be eligible for the WOSB Contracting Program, in which you compete for federal contracts that are set aside for your diverse status, you need to be a certified WOSB – either through self-certification or through third-party certification. This lets the government verify that you are what you say you are: a women-owned small business. Here are four different certification programs for you to choose from seeking third-party certification.

Certification Programs

1. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council

Also known as WBENC, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council is the largest certifier of women-owned businesses in the U.S. Becoming WOSB-certified through WBENC has a variety of benefits, including opportunities to network and pursue business deals, scholarship and award opportunities, and a variety of ways to promote your business. View all the benefits here.

2. The National Women Business Owners Corporation

Also known as NWBOC, the National Women Business Owners Corporation became the first organization to create a national certification program for women-owned businesses more than 20 years ago. The benefits of becoming WOSB-certified through NWBOC include a mentoring program, trainings and webinars, and award opportunities. View all the benefits here.

3. The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce

Also known as USWCC, the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce helps women start and build successful businesses and careers. The organization is an authorized 3rd party certifier for the federal WOSB and EDWOSB programs. The benefits of becoming WOSB-certified through USWCC include access to conferences and summits throughout the year.

4. The El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Also known as EPHCC, the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce offers several Federal small business certifications for any business that would like to become a supplier for the U.S. Government. Business development specialists assess your business and help you with the certification process.

Interested in self-certification? No worries. Check out this preparation checklist from the Small Business Administration to kick-start your self-certification process.

Becoming certified as a WOSB can help you stand out among your competition and can result in federal contracts set aside for your diverse status. Take it from us – JetCo Federal is a WBENC certified company. Though the certification program may require some paperwork, it pays off in the long run by helping further differentiate your company. By using one of these four third-party certification programs, you’ll be on your way better marketing your company as a WOSB.

4 Tips to Better Market Your Company as a Women-Owned Small Business

As October comes to an end, so does National Women’s Small Business Month. However, this doesn’t mean that we should stop supporting women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) once the first of the month hits. Though the number of WOSBs has grown 114% from 1997 to 2017 according to a PNC Bank and Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) report, WOSBs are still facing many obstacles.

In fact, that same PNC Bank and SBAM report states that in 2016, “only 18 percent of all 7(a) and 504 small business loans approved went to women-owned businesses,” (PNC-SBAM, p. 4). The statistics are similar when looking at WOSBs in the world of government contracting. A recent Government Accountability Office report stated that “98 percent of total dollars obligated for contracts to all women-owned small businesses in the WOSB-program-eligible industries were not awarded under the WOSB program,” (GAO, 2019, p. 27).

Despite the growth in the women-owned business sector, WOSBs still have a long way to go when it comes to being treated equally. So, if you’re a women-owned small business, what can you do now to help your business stand out from the rest? Based on our experience, here are some tips.

1. Lead with your capabilities.

NEVER start your capabilities statement with “a small women-owned business headquartered in Michigan…” That is your small status, not your mad skills. Lead with your most important asset. Need an example? Here’s what we put on our capabilities statement: “JetCo Federal reliably delivers corrugated cartons, sheets, pallets and crating to our government agencies. We are a small business with a large, national reach due to our redundant supply chain of highly qualified small manufacturers…” Need more tips? Check out our recent blog on how to capitalize on your small business status.

2. Know the WOSB program inside and out.

By discovering the differences between the WOSB program and other programs, you’ll have a better understanding of how your company fits into the government contracting space. Our advice? Look into WBENC certification.

3. Focus on your processes.

You can’t always rely on your WOSB status to make you stand out. You need to be good at what you’re doing. Refine your processes, map your workflows, and ensure your product or service is being delivered to your clients efficiently and effectively.

4. Give back.

Have some free time? Support other women-owned small businesses or take the time to mentor someone. You’ll benefit from collaboration and an expanded network all while supporting someone who may need advice. According to the PNC Bank and SBAM report, “as few as three hours of counseling can mean increased revenues and higher employment growth for women-owned businesses,” (PNC-SBAM, p. 4).

In government contracting, or almost any field, your diverse status may provide you with opportunities. However, it’s your capabilities, processes, knowledge, and network that will help you stand out from the rest. By following these four tips, you’ll be on the right track to better market your company as a women-owned small business.

The WOSB Program and Other Contracting Assistance Programs

If you’re a diverse company, the federal government has specific programs that allow you to compete for contracts that are set aside for your diverse status. What are these programs? There is a variety, but the ones that we are highlighting in this blog post are the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program; the 8(a) Business Development Program; and the HUBZone Program.

If you’ve been following the recently proposed changes in the WOSB program, you might note that Contracting Officers currently must verify the WOSB documentation during the bid process. Although recently proposed changes may alter this process, it begs the question – are other diverse programs going through this same verification process? And if not, what are the other differences between these contracting assistance programs? We take a look at these differences below.

The Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Contracting Program

  • Eligibility: Be at least 51% owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens and have women manage day-to-day operations and make long-term decisions.
  • Certification Process: You can self-certify or go through third-party certification such as Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).
  • Contract Award Process: The contracting officer must verify WOSB documentation. For sole-source authority, the GAO report indicates that “the FAR’s requirement that contracting officers justify, in writing, why they do not expect other WOSBs or EDWOSBs to submit offers on a contract is stricter under the WOSB program,” (GAO, 2019, p.31, para. 2).

The 8(a) Business Development Program

  • Eligibility: Be a small business; not already have participated in the 8(a) program; be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who are economically and socially disadvantaged; be owned by someone whose personal net worth is $250,000 or less; be owned by someone with $4 million or less in assets; have the owner manage day-to-day operations and also make long-term decisions; have all principals demonstrate good characters; and show potential for success and be able to perform successfully on contracts.
  • Certification Process: Use the cerify.SBA.gov website.
  • Contract Award Process: The contracting officer does not have to verify 8(a) documentation.

The HUBZone Program

  • Eligibility: Be a small business; be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by U.S. citizens, a Community Development Corporation, an agricultural cooperative, a Native Hawaiian organization, or an Indian tribe; have its principal office located in a HUBZone; and have at least 35% of its employees live in a HUBZone.
  • Certification Process: You must be certified by the SBA. There are six steps outlined on the SBA website.
  • Contract Award Process: The contracting officer does not have to verify HUBZone documentation.

Though these programs are bound to have their differences, the process of awarding contracts for WOSBs is significantly different than the other two programs, as noted above. Programs such as the 8(a) Business Development or HUBZone do not have to go through the same in-depth process before being awarded a contract, and therefore, those programs are often awarded dollars that were supposed to be for WOSBs.

In fact, the oversight on these issues resulted in the U.S. Government Accountability Office conducting a report on what needs to be addressed. In this report, the GAO explains that from fiscal years 2012 through 2017, “98 percent of total dollars obligated for contracts to all women-owned small businesses in the WOSB-program-eligible industries were not awarded under the WOSB program,” (GAO, 2019, p. 27, para. 1).

It’s alarming that federal contracting dollars for women-owned small businesses are not being awarded to that diverse group. However, the proposed changes from the SBA as a result of the GAO report show that many changes will be coming to the WOSB program.

United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) (2019). Women-Owned Small Business Program. Retrieved from https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/697580.pdf.

Person sitting at a table writing on paper

The WOSB Program History and 2019 Changes

The Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) program began in December of 2000. Public Law 106-554 established this program to help the federal government meet its goal of awarding at least 5% of all contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses. To qualify as a women-owned small business, you must be at least 51% directly owned and controlled by one or more women and be considered “small” as defined by the relevant North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code.

Throughout the years, the WOSB program has gone through several changes, and most recently, there have been proposed changes that could significantly impact the program. Before we dig into those changes, lets take a look at where the WOSB program has been.

Timeline

  • 2011: In April of 2011, the new Federal Acquisitions Regulation (FAR) implemented the WOSB program and limited the number of eligible industries that can qualify for the women’s contracting program. As a result of this change, 38 industries were eligible for Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses (EDWOSBs) and 45 industries for WOSBs.
  • 2014: In December of 2014, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 ended the self-certification program and provided sole source authority.
  • 2015: In October of 2015, the Federal Acquisitions Regulation (FAR) implemented the sole source process, meaning sole source authority is allowed in industries in which WOSB and EDWOSB set asides are offered.
  • 2016: In March of 2016, the eligible industries for WOSB and EDWOSB companies were revised and expanded. A Department of Commerce study was released and provided information which led to the revised and expanded industries. 27 industries changed designation between WOSB and EDWOSB, six industries were removed, and 36 industries were added.
  • 2017: In October of 2017, NAICS 2017, a NAICS code update, led to the WOSB and EDWOSB industries being revised to a total of 112. If you would like to see a list of the current NAICS that qualify for the WOSB program, they can be found on the Small Business Administration (SBA) website.

Proposed Changes for 2019

This leads us to the recent proposed WOSB program changes. In May of 2019, the SBA published a proposed rule outlining the following changes:

  • WOSB certification can be accepted from SBA-approved third parties and certain identified government entities.
  • There will be eligibility under the WOSB program as long as your application is pending.
  • A free electronic application process will be available for companies who want to be WOSB and EDWOSB-certified.
  • The SBA will adjust the economically disadvantaged threshold in the 8(a) Business Development program to make it consistent with EDWOSB thresholds.

Why all the changes?

Currently, SBA has some difficulty processing applications, such as WOSB, 8(a), and HUBZone, due to the sheer number of applicants. The proposed changes will ease administrative burden, increase speed and efficiency, and save money by using an electronic-based platform.

Altogether, the proposed WOSB program changes are targeted toward the goal of increasing the number of WOSBs that win Federal contracts.

JetCo Federal is a WBENC-certified woman-owned small business based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We have a robust supply chain of high-quality manufacturers and strong past performance. Interested in becoming a supplier for us? Contact us.