September 2021, I began the process to become certified through the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Economically Disadvantaged Woman Owned Small Business (EDWOSB). That's a real mouthful to say and the application process was just as cumbersome. It took a couple of tries, tenacity, plus a lot of patience, but it was finally approved this week.
As an entrepreneur and small business owner most of my career, I have learned to tap into whatever resources are available when you encounter challenges. In this case, Jody King, the Alaska PTAC Contract Specialist came to my rescue. While Jody could not solve the problems directly, she was able to get the attention of someone in the SBA system who could help. In case you are wondering, "PTAC" stands for the Procurement Technical Assistance Program that was created by congress under the 1985 Defense Authorization Act.
What were the problems? Somewhere in the backend of SAM.gov (the official U.S. Government System for contracting) my name is shown as "Kim", which is what I go by, rather than my legal name, "Kimberly". Greatland Laser has been in SAM.gov (or its predecessor) since it was founded in 1998 and doing research using laser lighting for airport applications under a government contract. That is when we discovered laser light that is modified from a single point can be great for emergency signaling but that is another story. There is no telling how many places it might have been entered as Kim in the last 22 years. It did not matter that it was shown correctly in my profile and all the visible locations, the system would only digitally sign (which is how it has to be submitted) the EDWOSB application as Kim and that caused it to be rejected because it does not agree to my passport and other legal documents.
We also ran into a glitch whereby the verification of Greatland Laser's CAGE code - the one that we have had for decades that gets verified at least annually - was rejected. It turns out there is a new verification process that compares the company's physical address with the U.S. Postal Service database. That is all fine and dandy if the U.S. Postal Service offers mail service to your physical address. Willow, Alaska is a rural area. While FedEx and UPS will deliver, there is no mail service at our physical address. Therefore, we use a post office box as the mailing address. Not surprisingly, we were not the only company that ran into this challenge. Once again, Jody helped get an email to the right person. Alaska PTAC was getting the Alaska congressional delegation involved to address the overall problem, so I suspect it has been resolved for other companies with a post office box address.
It may have taken several months, but I am happy we are now able to hold Greatland Laser out as an Economically Disadvantaged Woman Owned Small Business and receive preference when bidding on government contracts.
Obtaining this certification as well as SBA's HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone) certifications were two of the many goals when I became majority owner of the business in August 2021. It is great to be able to put a big check mark next to both of them!