News | July 22, 2021

Vendor matchmaking events strengthen DLA small business partnerships

By Kristin Molinaro DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

The Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime Office of Small Business Programs helps small business owners learn the ropes of federal contracting. One of the ways the office has continued to innovate is through vendor matchmaking opportunities.

Matchmaking events connect sellers with buyers for one-on-one meetings with the goal of yielding valuable insights and business contacts for those looking to get their proverbial foot in the door.

“Matchmakers are priceless opportunities for making a business linkage,” said Donna Brino-Blackwell, of Land and Maritime’s Small Business Office. “As a small business professional, matchmaking is one of my most enjoyable responsibilities. I fondly refer to matchmaking as ‘rapid business connections.’ It’s a win-win for the agency buyer and small or large business seller. Most importantly the major benefactors are our men and women in uniform – they get the right item at the right price at the right time. 

Land and Maritime small business professionals have participated in matchmaking events for many years. Several one-on-one sessions were held during the 2018 Supplier Conference in downtown Columbus and continue to be held across the country. As a result of the health pandemic, DLA launched a series of virtual sessions to continue assisting vendors in reaching their goals. These monthly one-on-one Zoom meetings will continue to be offered in keeping with COVID-related health precautions, but Brino-Blackwell said she hopes to transition back to in-person matchmaking when possible.

Brino-Blackwell, whose scope includes working with historically underutilized business zone and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, explained that a lot of vendors feel more comfortable speaking to someone one-on-one. The short 10–15-minute sessions often lead to productive conversation where sellers and buyers get a feel for whether they’re a good fit for each other.

“The seller realizes time is of the essence,” she explained. “They don’t have a long period of time to promote their business capabilities so the most important points are discussed with the agency buyer. In most situations the seller has done their homework and understands the agency buyer’s function and what they’re seeking. Occasionally, sellers may not be sure if the buying agency is a fit so the effort of attempting to make a match is worthwhile…Small businesses thoroughly enjoy matchmaking. They can network, ask pertinent questions and gain a competitive edge in learning how to do business with our agency or another agency.”

Brino-Blackwell added that these opportunities are just as important to the nation’s combat logistics agency as they are to potential vendors, saying “Partnering and establishing a strong industrial base by way of matchmaking is just one element which allows DLA Land and Maritime to be an ‘Always Ready Agency’ – in peace or in war.”

Matchmaking events also give prime contractors seeking capable subcontractors an opportunity to meet competitive vendors across the socioeconomic categories that supply products and services aligning to the prime’s buying needs. These categories include woman-owned, service disabled veteran-owned, historically underutilized businesses and the Small Business Administration’s 8a Program. An 8a small business is owned and controlled at least 51% by socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs and the program helps them gain a foothold in government contracting.

One recent success story began as a question at a matchmaking event earlier this year and ended in a business partnership. In this case, a woman-owned Arizona-based engineering company new to government contracting attended a DLA Land and Maritime matchmaking event seeking information on how to become 8a certified to further develop their business. A last-minute cancellation allowed Land and Maritime’s 8a Small Business Specialist Matt Elliott to meet with the company president. He learned that the company manufactures fitted covers, canvas items and hardware, and the president in turn learned about the 8a program and working with DLA. The company ultimately decided not to pursue 8a certification, preferring to work alongside an existing 8a manufacturer, but gained useful knowledge on government contracting.  

Several months later Elliott reached out to the engineering company about potential procurement needs. Since then, the company has won several contract awards with DLA Land and Maritime and is now partnered with a new 8a participant and ready to supply them when the opportunity matches their manufacturing capabilities.  

“It’s been an exciting experience to work with a thriving business with so many capabilities and the ambition to see not only their business grow but to be able to supply the Warfighter with needed parts – which is our number one priority,” Elliott said. “Without the matchmaking event, it may have taken much more time to realize the business partnership that was ready to begin, if it could have begun at all. Matchmaking events are an excellent way to advertise the opportunities at DLA Land and Maritime, develop vital relationships and increase our industrial supply base.”

Over the summer, the office wrapped up several successful matchmaking events including one at the Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan, dozens of vendors participated in. The next virtual session is scheduled for Tuesday during the GovMatch Industry Outreach Event hosted by the Billings, Montana, PTAC.

Vendors interested in participating in a future matchmaking session can find upcoming meetings via the DLA Small Business website and the DLA Internet Bid Board System.

 

About the DLA Land and Maritime Office of Small Business Programs

The Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime Office of Small Business Programs located at the Defense Supply Center Columbus promotes small business and socio-economic programs while working closely with the acquisition community as they seek suppliers to fulfill DLA’s mission of Warfighter logistics support. The office supports several small business socio-economic programs including the Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Program, Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Zone Program, Woman Owned Small Business Program and the Small Business Administration’s 8a Program.

Additionally, the Small Business Office offers several educational resources to help train and counsel small businesses about doing business with DLA and the federal government. These efforts include:

 

Free Immersive Two-Day Training, Knowledge, and Opportunities Seminars (TKOs)
Upcoming Session: September 7-8 to be held virtually
To register, visit https://tko.dla.mil/ and select “DLA Land and Maritime”
 

Free Webinar Training presented by Land and Maritime Subject Matter Experts
Upcoming Sessions:
August 17: Pricing
September 28: Resolving Issues with Orders
October 12: Post Award
November 16: Casting and Forging
December 14: Doing Business with DLA
To register, visit https://tko.dla.mil/ and select “DLA Land and Maritime”

 

Additional Training Opportunities

The DLA Land and Maritime Small Business Office also offers training to Procurement Technical Assistance Center specialists. PTACs are in nearly every state and are funded by DLA and local governments to help vendors market their products and services to local, state and federal governments. PTACs and small business officers both provide tools to help small businesses with government contracting. On August 4, DLA Land and Maritime Small Business will host a HUBZone Outreach Webinar in partnership with the Small Business Administration and PTAS from 11 am. – 1 p.m. eastern time. Visit https://center-gateway.com/2/gateway/01700M/events/event_detail;event_id=61821 to register.

 

For more information about DLA Land and Maritime’s small business programs and services, visit https://www.dla.mil/SmallBusiness/