Moments that Matter: Learning to Grow in the Federal Marketplace

by US Small Business Administration

Your first business plan. Your first employee. The training course that gives you an edge in the marketplace. Finding a mentor. Receiving the capital you need to expand your business. The turning point when long, hard hours begin to pay off in steady streams of income.

It’s the moment you realize you had an idea that worked – an idea you turned into a business. A dream that became reality.

Each of these pivotal moments – no matter how big or small – is a moment that matters in the veteran entrepreneurship journey. They represent growth, employment, service, delivery, and freedom.

These moments that matter are universal, and the 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses in the U.S. are experiencing them every day as they contribute approximately 1.4 trillion dollars to the nation’s total sales/receipts per year.

SBA is celebrating, connecting, and empowering veterans, service members (including National Guard and Reserve members), and military spouse entrepreneurs and business owners – past, present, and future – this National Veterans Small Business Week (NVSBW) 2017 by highlighting the moments that matter in their journeys.

Discipline and Grit: From the Marines to Entrepreneurship 

Michael V Sanders, former U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal and current CEO/owner of Interactive Government Holdings (IGH), knew he was prepared to be a small business owner after the Marines armed him with discipline, risk tolerance, and grit. He took those traits and turned them into action in 2006 when he started his own business, IGH, a prime contractor specializing in providing full service professional solutions to Federal agencies located in Springfield, VA. With over 70% of the workforce comprised of veterans and members of the National Guard, Michael creates opportunities for men and women just like him.

But in 2013, seven years after Michael launched his company, IGH started to experience real growth problems. “In any given year, we faced a serious lack of bandwidth to respond to a large number of proposals,” said Michael. While a positive sign for his company, Michael needed help managing the company’s growth while increasing their ability to win government contracts.

To solve the growth dilemma, Michael turned to SBA-backed programs for help and, in 2013, completed VIP GROW, a Veteran Federal Procurement Entrepreneurship Training Program. During this three day, 27-hour course, Michael received hands-on market-based instruction that helped him establish best business practices for Federal government contracting. Through this program, Michael was equipped with the tools to support his growing business more efficiently.

“VIP GROW opened my eyes to some of the areas in my company that needed more support – and most importantly, provided me with a network of people that I’m able to team up with for further growth,” said Michael.

Chart-Topping Growth

Since completing VIP GROW in 2013, Michael is better equipped to manage the large number of proposals that come through the door each year, enabling IGH to handle tremendous growth – to be exact, a 7,024% increase over the past three years. This impressive growth earned Michael and IGH spot 36 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list (up from 49 in 2015), which ranks the fastest growing private companies and highlights the greatest entrepreneurs in America each year.

Today, IGH is set up for success thanks to VIP GROW. The company is fully operational with over 100 employees, offering services in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Guam. Looking to the future, Michael hopes to see IGH’s growth in revenue and number of employees continue to accelerate over the next 5-10 years.

Hoping to help other veterans find the same success, Michael now serves on the Foundation Board, coaches VIP GROW participants, and provides lessons learned at VIP START training sessions and to other aspiring veteran entrepreneurs.

“Put in the hard work, hire talented people, and solve real problems for your customers,” he shared. “Anything is possible in America with focused, disciplined effort.”

If you’re a military spouse, veteran, or service member interested in starting, purchasing, or growing a business, SBA’s ecosystem supports your path to finding your moment that matters. Visit www.sba.gov/myvetbiz to find out how.

Do you have a moment that matters to share with OVBD? We want to hear it! Share your story with us using the hashtag #MyVetBiz on Twitter and Facebook.

OSD CEO & Executive Director Glenn Banton is an appointed member of the Advisory Committee on Veteran Business Affairs (ACVBA) providing an independent source of advice and policy recommendations to the SBA administrator, SBA associate administrator for the Office of Veterans Business Development, Congress, the President and other U.S. policymakers on programs affecting veteran-owned small business from all segments of American society.