SBA Recognizes African American Entrepreneurs with Champion Awards
The SBA Champion Award, presented during the agency’s annual National Small Business Week, honors entrepreneurs who provide counseling, advice and support to other small businesses. This year, two African Americans were among the honorees.
Charles Baker, president and CEO, MCB Lighting & Electrical in Owings, Md., and Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year, estimates that he’s spent more than 4,000 hours in the past four years advocating on behalf of veteran-owned businesses and working with lawmakers to change legislation, create new laws and give vets greater priority in the procurement process. And as a former government employee who dealt with acquisitions and a current federal contractor, he’s got a lot of advice to give—to businesses and agencies alike.
With comfortable majorities in both chambers of Congress and a sympathetic White House administration, minority businesses haven’t been this well positioned to take advantage of everything they and the SBA have to offer. But first, they’ve got to make some changes, says Baker.
First, they need to get involved in what’s going on at the SBA. Minority businesses, he says, are so busy chasing money that they’re not fighting for opportunities.
Second, learn the rules of the 8(a) program, procurement, and acquisition. “You can’t participate in something if you don’t understand the rules and the game that you’re playing,” Baker counsels.
Lastly, he says, minority business owners should form partnerships and strategic alliances to win contracts: “If you don’t have capacity and capability, you’ve got to go find it.”
During his tenure working in acquisitions for the Air Force, Baker implemented energy efficient lighting and holds four Department of Defense records for saving the government money. This has helped him in his own business, particularly during a time when energy efficiency is a priority and he estimates that his company has picked up approximately $8 million in business this year.
Eddie G. Davis, principal of DaLite & Associates LLC and the Minority Small Business Champion of the Year award, works with 53 black-owned businesses in St. Louis, Missouri, through the Center for the Acceleration of African American Business. In addition to assisting them with financial management issues, he also offers technical assistance and provides mentors, for which he is paid a small stipend. “It’s really a labor of love,” says Davis.
The last few years have been tough, but business is beginning to turn around and Davis is hoping to win a contract through the government’s economic stimulus program to continue his work helping other small businesses through these difficult times.
“We’re looking to identify sources of capital that we can control that some of these businesses need and that will be a big shot in the arm,” says Davis, who’s also encouraged by the increases in the SBA’s loan guarantees and surety bonding programs, which he says will make a big difference to all small businesses.