Let me tell you the journey and the trials and tribulations of of becoming a certified female supplier in a male-dominated industry. When my husband — a 35-year Union electrician — wanted to open up Ott Electric in 2012, I supported him. What he can do as an electrician has always amazed me (i.e., knows more than turning a light bulb like his wife). After a year in business, I realized there was a void in the construction arena with respect to suppliers especially female suppliers. This did not sit well with me. I believe in women-led economies, women’s initiatives, and supporting other women in business since we still hold the top purchasing power in the United States.
I GOT BUSY. I did what any smart woman would do. I called my lawyer and my accountant! People who I trust to give me the right information without an emotional tie. Two weeks later, I opened Ottsie, LLC. YAY! Opened up meant “doing business”. Well, not quite so fast! I called my web guru and created a website, Facebook page, Twitter, Goggle+ and Linked In. I met with my fellow Ottawa Mastermind Group of business women who helped me put this business into perspective. Time to market. I thought it was time to market. Not quite so fast!
I GOT BUSY. Once I began talking to construction people, manufacturers and specifically electrical suppliers, I realized that without the proper certification I would only “play” around with this business not actually reach the level of success that I always strive for.
I GOT BUSY. So, back to the drawing board I went. I called everyone I could think of — the Small Business Administration, State of Illinois, Federal offices, GOD. It became woefully clear to me that I needed to become hyper-vigilant in my own business and learn whatever I can from whomever I could. It was the SBA that led me to the United States Women’s Chamber of Commerce. WHAT? There is a US Women’s Chamber? Shame on me for not knowing that…after all, I have spent over 30 years training chambers and nonprofits all over the country.
I went to www.uswcc.org and it was a TA-DAH moment for me. Now, I realize there are other third-party certifying organizations for the type of certification I wanted, but I wanted the strongest organization with the best resources available to me. I signed-up for one of their webinars, paid my admittance fee, and sat with my legal pad of paper to get “learned”. Oh, BOY, was I learned. I needed to register with the SBA and their GSL system. I had to register in whole and total with sam.gov. I needed, I needed, I needed. I GOT BUSY.
The first webinar on “Becoming Certified” was done by the CEO Margot Dorfman. My hand cramped from all the writing I was doing. I got learned. She is an incredible leader and teacher. I found my certification home.
I signed up that same day and began the diligent process of going through the certification for Federal Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB). I gathered the necessary documents, wrote the necessary essay information, I GOT BUSY. Took me forever (I thought it was forever). I signed up for yet another webinar to learn more. And, I did. My brain started to hurt. Out with the old, in with the new.
After a few months of waiting, pacing, emailing them, and general crankiness, I received the notification on my Certification Award. Sweet, I thought! Now, what the heck do I do with that? I GOT BUSY.
I signed up for yet another webinar through the USWCC with a member of their team who worked in the Federal procurement system for many years. He made everything come to light.
I GOT BUSY. I went through a second certification – National Women’s Business Enterprise (NWBE) since I learned one is for Federal prime and one is for national non-governmental certification. Boom. Second one came through. I kept forging ahead. Learning the differences and strengths of each certification and how to use them.
I GOT BUSY. I created a Capability Statement and a letter specifically aimed at contractors and manufacturers. I set daily goals as to how to reach the people I needed to reach. I have met those goals. I have registered with every available location that allows vendor/contractor registration and even a few who didn’t! If it wasn’t available online, I mailed it to them. By God, they were going to know about Ottsie.
I GOT BUSY…getting slapped around a little bit. What I have learned in the past three months is a lifetime of learning! My verbiage needed to change. I mean, heck, I have been a trainer and facilitator of nonprofit organizations for 30 years holding US Copyrights on legal policies and procedures…how hard could this be? HARD but in a different, challenging sort of way. I listened and I learned.
I GOT BUSY and So Should You! By surrounding myself with people that are smarter than me in this new field has opened up many doors. I gave up the “I can do this alone” attitude and changed it to “What do I need to do to keep moving forward” attitude. A serious paradigm shift for me. I’m still a female in a male-dominated industry, but I am now versed and have a knowledge of the industry that I did not have when I began one year ago.
I GOT BUSY. Every day I check my bidmatch system for prime, subcontracting and supplier notifications. Every day I am getting phone calls for supplier information. Every day I reach out to someone new to find out more specifics, more information, offer my assistance. Every day I market my company to the most people I can reach. Every day gets me closer to higher success for Ottsie that I dreamed of one year ago.
TIME FOR YOU TO GET BUSY! Ask yourself this one question as a woman in business: is this business your hobby or your passion to succeed? If you say “hobby”, then good for you. If you say “passion to succeed”, then get moving. Create your environment for success. Surround yourself with people who know more than you in the fields where you lack information. Set daily goals and do not go to bed without those goals having been achieved. Learn every aspect of your field of business that you can from whomever you can every single day. Become the expert.
If you want to learn more about why or how to become certified as a Woman-Owned Small Business or National Women’s Business Enterprise and what that all means, I highly recommend you check out the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce at www.uswcc.org. It has become a wealth of information, guidance, strength and knowledge for me. I will continue to learn, to become better educated, to reach the high success I demand of myself and my business, and I vow to assist other women in business to do the same. I promise to not sing “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar” any more.