Working out of her home using $11,000 in personal savings, LaKeshia Grant started Virtual Enterprise Architects in October 2007. She received her first subcontract to General Dynamics within three months. Fast-forward three years later, VEA became certified under the U.S. Small Business Administration as an 8(a) Business Development program in 2010, and has supported more than nine federal agencies. It employs less than 50 people and generated $3.8 million in 2012.
VEA is one of the fastest growing IT services companies in the country, having grown more than 2000% over a three-year period, from 2010-2012. VEA was recently recognized as a Small Business Week Special Award Recipient by the Washington Metropolitan Area District Office of the SBA.
The U.S. government is the largest single purchaser of goods and services in the world, buying everything from armored tanks to paper clips. Every year the federal government awards more than $500 billion in contracts, and a significant share of those contracts are specifically allotted to small businesses.
The SBA works with agencies to award at least 23% of all prime government contracts to small businesses, with specific statutory goals for small business, small disadvantaged businesses, businesses that are women-owned or service-disabled-veteran-owned, and businesses that are located in historically underutilized business zones, or HUBZones.
VEA is a certified 8(a), small, disadvantaged, woman- and minority-owned HUBZone company that has a track record of delivering high quality enterprise architecture and information technology related services to public and private clients. After gaining entry to the SBA’s 8(a) business development program, “We used the free training provided to us by the Washington Metropolitan Area District Office to respond to Request for Proposals, establish financial reporting, market to the government, and improve operations selected as the face of the HUBDC program by SBA for our work. The SCORE office in Vienna, Virginia, also helped us with our business plan,” says Grant.
A good example of her firm’s work as an 8(a) company is within the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in which VEA was able to capture all of the agency’s records management business, technology, data, and security architecture for the millions of immigration and naturalization records and provide a road map for improvements to decrease processing time and analysis and ensure the storage and location of all records.
“We provided a proof of concept, an outreach campaign that increased their working capital by $2 million, and provided recommendations for improvements,” adds Grant.
The SBA works with small businesses to help them stay competitive, and to encourage federal agencies to award more contracts to small businesses. The agency provides outreach programs, matchmaking events, and online training opportunities.