Think the public sector marketplace is not in your favor when you compete against big firms with more resources? A certification could open to you a gateway to unique government contracting opportunities, especially if you are doing business with Virginia.

The Commonwealth of Virginia awarded $2.4 billion in contracts to its certified small businesses in Fiscal Year 2016, and continues to do so as it seeks to award more discretionary spending for small and disadvantaged companies. Much of this comes through a program it calls the SWaM (small, women-, or minority-owned) Procurement Initiative.

Why Small, Women-Owned and Minority-Owned Businesses Benefit

In 2006, Virginia officials aimed to boost the amount of business it sends to small companies with a set-aside program. Its initial goal for leveling the playing field was awarding 40% of purchases to companies it certified as SWaM. The percentage increased to 42% in 2014. In Fiscal Year 2016, state agencies sent a total of 36.9% of their dollars to SWaM vendors.

Virginia’s SWaM Procurement Initiative aims to increase opportunities for companies owned by women and minorities, such as African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans. A SWaM vendor is a business that has been certified for the program by the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity and is listed in the SWaM Vendor Directory.

Virginia has set specific requirements to join the small-business program. When you apply for the certification, the small business department will consider your company’s owners, equity of ownership interests, if you operate independently from any other businesses, and who actually does the daily work. In addition, to be recognized as small, your company cannot have more than 250 employees or an average gross receipts of $10 million over the previous three years, including any and all affiliates.

The forms are available online. Send them to the department. The required supporting documents will then be reviewed by a SWaM certification officer for compliance with the eligibility criteria. It should take about 60 days from the time they receive the SWaM applications and supporting documents until the initial review by the department. When approved, you will have the certification for three years.

Get the Tools for Your Small Business to Succeed in Public Sector Sales

Despite Virginia’s efforts, receiving SWaM certification isn’t a magical pathway to success. Virginia does not guarantee you will be awarded a contract. You still need to get into the marketplace trenches to win prime contracts and connect with larger vendors to be a subcontractor.

The opportunities are there. Small businesses received $1.6 billion worth of Virginia state government contract awards in FY 2016, women-owned firms were awarded $397 million, and minority-owned businesses received $396.2 million. The contract awards were largely for construction work and transportation - one of the state’s biggest areas of spending - as well as architecture,  and engineering, and professional services.

Interested in taking advantage of those opportunities? GovWin+Onvia can help. You can take a look at our industry-leading market intelligence to see how you can build a pipeline of actionable government sales opportunities. Or you can click the link below for a step-by-step guide on How to do Business with the Government in Virginia.

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