President, Sustainable Floors Inc.
Flooring isn’t your usual type of women-owned business. How did you get into it, and then come to run your own operation in Fife?
I was dissatisfied with my current employment and was looking for something new to be involved in. A good friend of mine (and now business partner) worked in the industry and I found what he did interesting. After a couple of years of picking his brain and recognizing the advantages of being a minority, woman-owned contractor, I convinced him to go into business together.
And now you’re the SBA’s Washington State Small Business Champion of the Year. In a nutshell, as a business owner and a member of the South Sound business community, what does that mean to you?
It offers me the opportunity to interact with those who wouldn’t typically have a dominant voice in the business community, and to help them to find their voice. It’s also an opportunity for presenting helpful and pertinent information to the small business owner, thus bringing awareness to strategies and insights that afford them success and accomplishment.
You’re also a member of the SBA’s Business Development Program, which helps small and disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace and gain access to federal and private procurement funds. Why the interest in this area of contribution?
My start in contracting was with federal and procurement side of the house. My initial interest in this program was to better position myself to fulfill my customer’s requirements. As the residential side of the construction market slowed, I saw the benefit of my federal experience as a way to educate and prepare those who trying gain access to the federal side.
In addition, you’re on the state Capital Projects Advisory Review Board Small Business Task Force. What is its role, and why are they important to Washington state businesses?
The Capital Projects Advisory Review Board was initiated to assure that the Job Order Contract for the state of Washington was operating in compliance to the mandates set forth. There became a concern that in their procurement methods the small business owners were not being afforded the same opportunities for contracts as were the larger businesses. The Small Business Task Force was formed to be both a voice and advocate for those small businesses. Our role was to oversee that a level playing field was established and that legislative language presented was inclusionary in nature.
And, as if you don’t already have a full plate, you’re also the president of the board for the Entrepreneurial Institute of Washington. Tell our readers what that organization does, and why it’s a key resource for business owners.
Although still in its infancy, the Entrepreneurial Institute of Washington was established with the goal of assisting small businesses in building their capacity to do business in the state of Washington. This will be done through providing professional and leadership development along with support services and technical assistance. All of this will be done with the hope of expanding the number of sustainable small business employers in the Pacific Northwest.
Regarding your award, SBA regional administrator Calvin Goings remarked that you are “the epitome of a dedicated advocate for minority and small business owners.” Specifically, in which ways are you doing that?
First, by being an example, as I say “more is caught than taught” â€” so you need to live what you’re about, and not just talk about it.
I believe that through my establishing that a “small, minority owned business” can be trusted to deliver in a big way, I’ve help to open the door for others. Though my efforts with the SBTF and serving EIW as their board president, I believe I’m being a voice for this demographic.
What’s been your secret to surviving the recession?
Vision, diversifying and forecasting of industry trends. I started noticing that the federal market was slowing, so prior to the recession hitting I developed relationship and business opportunities in the commercial and private sector. Also, using wisdom concerning finances by being mindful of cash flow and putting profits back into the business so there would not be a need to rely on credit.
What is your best advice for small business owners who want to contribute to the business community in more ways than just running a company?
Take time to get involved. It can be the Chamber of Commerce, sponsoring or volunteering for community functions, or getting to know your local business owners to see how you could be a “service” to them. Finally, show yourself to be a good “business” citizen by running an ethical and responsible business.
What’s the quote you live by on the job every day?
“Be a part of the solution, not the problem.” In our industry there’s a myriad of situations that come up every day. If you approach each one with a solution-focused mindedness you’ll have more victories than fails at the end of the day.