CARLSBAD — “Small business drives the economy of San Diego,” Assemblyman Rocky Chavez told a crowd full of small business owners Friday at an event put on by The North County Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
The free Meet the Buyers event was hosted to help small business owners get coveted government contracts and learn how to avoid common pitfalls.
“Believe it or not, government contracting can be one of the easiest things you do,” said Cheryl Brown, senior business consultant for SBDC. “The hardest part about government contracting is following directions.”
The federal government places emphasis on small businesses, which is why 23 percent of federal contracts are required to go to small businesses, according to Lynn Pittman, a business consultant with SBDC.
California requires 25 percent of contracts be awarded to small business, said Pittman.
Wayne Gross, outreach liaison with the Department of General Services for California said the state is the ninth largest economy in the world.
“The question is not what would we buy, it’s what don’t we buy,” said Gross. “We buy everything from apples to Ziploc bags and services to go along with it.”
A unique example is the Kool Tool, which was honored at the event. Sher Krieger, partner and executive vice president of sales and marketing said the company worked a lot with the SBDC. Without them, the company would not have gotten a contract with CalTrans, said Krieger.
Kool Tool is an absorbent towel that cools down when snapped and Krieger said CalTrans bought an order to cool off their employees in East County.
Her biggest hurdle has been getting the word out so that employees know to ask their procurement departments for the product.
In order to sell to the government, a business must be certified. The process of filing paperwork takes about 30 minutes, according to Gross.
Some agencies also place emphasis on businesses owned by women, minorities or veterans.
The SBDC helps business owners understand the process of applying for government services and helps small business owners run more efficiently.
All services are free and the program runs on grants and donations. The government also matches each donation since the program helps create jobs and more tax revenue.
Last year the SBDC helped small businesses create and maintain 400 jobs in North County.
The panelists at the Meet the Buyers event had some advice for landing government contracts.
“To get the contract make the contact,” said Gross.
Theodora Oyie, outreach manager for Clark Construction Group, agreed with the importance of small business owners starting and maintaining relationships with buyers.
“One of the biggest mistakes that I see a lot of small business owners make is that they’re so focused on the opportunity, on the contract or on the job that they fail to develop a relationship,” said Oyie. “We are in a relationship. Relationships create the opportunity so we want to know who you are.”
Another piece of advice panelists gave was to register on each agency’s website in order to become aware of opportunities as they become available. North County Transit District uses planetbids.com so small businesses interested in selling to them should log on and list their product.
The SBDC hosts similar events and all are free to small business owners. One on one consulting is also available at the MiraCosta Oceanside campus.