A Money Mixer Empowering Minority-Owned Businesses to Participate in Government Contracting

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A Money Mixer Empowering Minority-Owned Businesses to Participate in Government Contracting

US Representative Oye Owolewa at Money Mixer Empowering Minority - Photo credit: Moses Ndukwe/ZEND group
US Representative Oye Owolewa at Money Mixer Empowering Minority - Photo credit: Moses Ndukwe/ZEND group

“A recent study conducted by the DC Council and the Mayor’s Office revealed that minority-owned and women-owned businesses are receiving fewer contracts than their counterparts due to the lack of information and relationships within the community,” stated US Representative Oye Owolewa at the Money Mixer event organized by his office. The event, held on April 28th, 2023, at the Hook X Hall in Georgia Ave, NW DC, focused on small business opportunities in government contracting and featured a panel of experts in the field, including Alice Williams from the Contracting & Acquisition VA MBDA Business Center, William Teague from the DC Office of Contract & Procurements, Connell Wise – CEO/Founder Wise Institute and Ez Street, CEO and Founder of Creative Solutions for Youth LLC and a radio personality.

US Representative Oye Owolewa at the Money Mixer event - Moses Ndukwe/ZEND group
From left – Connell Wise, US Rep. Oye Owolewa, William Teague, Alice Williams, and Ike Nwaneri

The mixer, in its second installment, had attendees from diverse backgrounds. Representative Owolewa explained that the reason for organizing this panel discussion was due to the high turnout at a recent workshop about grants where over 100 attendees showed up, indicating a need for more information about grants and contracts. “People who approached me during the workshop asking about grants were actually in need of contracts.” Representative Owolewa emphasized the importance of providing more information about contracts, particularly for minority-owned and women-owned businesses who are receiving fewer contracts than their counterparts.

Ike Nwaneri, the event’s host and DMV Small Business Advocate with the ZEND Group, shared his own experiences and emphasized the need for education as the biggest first step for black and minority-owned businesses. He stated that many entrepreneurs do not know what is available to them and what to do with it, which limits their opportunities.

“Rep Oye and I are using our resources and networks to educate people and bring people from both the public and private sectors together to share experiences and knowledge,” Nwaneri.

Representative Owolewa echoed the importance of education and mentioned that the primary goal is to arm people with the resources they need to succeed. Owolewa announced that they are planning a monthly event to help people connect and share information

I am committed to making it easier for African and African American business owners to receive funding and to decrease the barriers that prevent them from accessing information and resources… Rep. Oye Owolewa

Nwaneri shared his insights on how to acquire grants or contracts. “Don’t offer too broad of a range of services, focus on your unique strengths and niche area of expertise. By doing so, you can offer a more targeted and valuable service to the government and increase your chances of success,” said Nwaneri.

Attention to detail is essential when responding to government contracts, Alice, a successful entrepreneur representing the VA MBDA Business Center who has responded to many proposals, emphasized that addressing each question in detail and meeting all requirements is key to success. She added that proposals that do not directly answer the questions asked will not even be considered. “It is crucial to take the time to thoroughly review and address each question before submitting a proposal,” Alice said.

Teague echoed Alice’s sentiments, stating that starting a business can be challenging, especially when it comes to responding to proposals. He noted that it is essential to consider past performance and company values and to address each question in detail and ensure that all requirements are met. “Proposals that do not address the questions asked are not even considered,” he warned.

Radio personality EZ Street

Radio personality EZ Street and community leader spoke about his experience using music and entertainment as a form of therapy for returning citizens and how he developed a curriculum that included music-related skills, emotional intelligence, mental health therapy, and job training for his program. The program was highly successful, and EZ Street received contracts and grants from various organizations to continue his work. He also emphasized the importance of reading the entire request for applications (RFA) and understanding it from beginning to finish. He stressed that paying attention to detail is especially important when dealing with government contracts. “If it ain’t right, it ain’t tight,” he said, adding that he always makes sure to thoroughly review and address each question before submitting a proposal. In his words, “Opportunity is everywhere,” citing a sermon from 7 years ago by his pastor, Reverend Willie Wilson.

When asked about government contracting opportunities for the creative industry, the panelists were quick to share valuable insights with attendees. Wise told attendees that there are “plenty of opportunities” for people in the sector to win government contracts and grants. He cited the DC Office of Cable Television, Music, Entertainers, and Events, which exists to support the creative economy, and the Mayor’s Office of Film and Television Production as examples of government bodies that offer opportunities to small businesses. Connell advised that people should create their opportunities, as the government is always keen to create new offices and programs.

Alice, in her example, said that small, minority-owned businesses could profit by bidding for contracts to supply wigs to the military’s third army. She told attendees that the military purchased wigs for use in its performances and that there were opportunities for smaller businesses to win blanket purchase agreements, which are repetitive contracts. Alice said that contracts also existed for filming commercials and events, with the Defense Media Agency being one contractor that handles such projects.

Meanwhile, Teague advised attendees that the DC government had a supply schedule that listed contracts and opportunities available to vendors who want to work with the government. He said that there were 16 schedules in total, with one of the most interesting being the NIGP schedule. This covered professional services or media-related projects, with the DC government and available through the supply schedule. Teague advised people to identify a specific need or problem that government agencies had and tailor proposals to address them.

Radio presenter Ez Street rounded out the session, telling attendees that there was “so much money out there.” He cited the many murals in Washington, DC, saying that there was a grant available for them and noted that concerts and events in the city were also funded by government agencies. Ez Street said that being creative was the key to winning contracts and grants and advised people to be “on the creative side.”

According to attendees, the event was highly successful and showcased the potential for small businesses to flourish through collaboration with the government. Representative Oye Owolewa emphasized the importance of education in his concluding remarks to TANTV, stating that it plays a critical role in bridging the gap and enabling black and minority-owned businesses from various groups, including African and African American communities, to gain greater access to funding and opportunities. The representative reaffirmed his dedication to ensuring access to capital and making a positive impact on the community, revealing his plans to organize another Money Mixer event in the future.

Photo credit: Moses Ndukwe/ZEND group

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