According to the Small Business Administration, the fastest growing segment of small businesses in the United States is the minority business community. “It already represents more than 15% of all businesses in the United States and marketers say that those numbers could double every five years,” says SBA Administrator Hector Barreto.
The SBA, in partnership with Hewlett-Packard Small Business Foundation, is launching the 2005 schedule for two programs to assist minority-owned small businesses with procuring contracts with federal and state governments and private corporations that have primary contracts with the government. One program is Business Matchmaking, in which the SBA holds matchmaking events around the country. The other is Virtual Matchmaking, an online pilot program that is scheduled to begin in March 2005. According to Barreto, Matchmaking events are scheduled for March 23 and 24 in Nashville, Tennessee; April 26 during the National Small Business Week Expo in Washington, D.C.; June 7 and 8 in Los Angeles; and Sept. 14—16 in Milwaukee.
“Business Matchmaking has been one of the most successful initiatives for the SBA,” says Barreto. “So far, in just two short years, we have set up 23,000 appointments and these appointments have led to more than $26 million in contracts with millions of dollars more in the pipeline.”
Michael Pinckert, general manager of Hewlett—Packard, believes that this joint private-public sector venture is ideal for his company. “HP works with small businesses as partners, customers, and suppliers,” he said. “Everyday in the United States, HP goes to market with 30,000 small business partners as customers. Worldwide, businesses make $24 billion in revenues for HP. That’s one-third of our revenue, and nine out of 10 small businesses have an HP product.”
Before each event, representatives of the SBA and Hewlett—Packard Small Business Foundation visit the host city to promote the Matchmaking program. “Every time we go into a city to announce an event, the local African American chamber of commerce participates,” says Barreto. “We also go to the centers of influence in the black community and tell them, ‘We can build [Business Matchmaking events] but you have to make sure that they come.'”
The Virtual Matchmaking procurement program will be piloted in five cities — Phoenix; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Kansas City, Missouri; Tampa, Florida; and Denver — before being rolled out nationwide. The entrepreneur unable to attend a Matchmaking event can get appointments via the Internet or a phone call.
In order to participate in these programs, a business must meet small business size standards for either number of employees or annual revenues. In addition, each business must go through some training and orientation.
For more information on the Business Matchmaking Program, visit their Website at: www.businessmatchmaking.com or send e-mail to email@example.com