413, LLC, Dr. Jessica Lee
In so many ways: We incorporated. We got our HUBZone and WOSB certifications. We started earning revenue and making a profit!! We have a pipeline. We're hiring people. Our clients give us amazing reviews and we take care of our people. And our collective six children (3 each) are alive!
413 LLC is a women-owned HUBZone company working primarily with the Department of Defense and the Department of State consulting on the topic of security sector reform. This essentially means that we help to make our country's foreign partners more secure whether it is their courts, prisons, military, police forces, or others through our monitoring & evaluation (M&E), strategic messaging, and data analytics capabilities.
Morgan and I, both mothers of two, started talking about creating a business that recognized the impact of working mothers while pumping milk in the mother's room at the State Department. People tend to look askance at working mothers who do not work long hours. However, we know that working mothers are very productive during regular business hours. So we wanted to harness that power and determination in a more flexible caring work environment. Simultaneously, the cohort of small businesses that dominated the M&E space, several of which Morgan and I have worked for in the past, all graduated out of the category. There weren't a lot of good small businesses to do the work and we knew we could do it and do it well.
My partner Morgan Poyant and I began dreaming about 413 while pumping in the mother's room (413 was the code to enter the room and thus the name) at the State Department, bonding over shared values for good work, bold ideas, and a workplace where people can truly thrive.
What distinguishes our company from others is threefold. First, we are willing and excited to work in hard-to-reach places around the world. That's what gets us up every day. Second and our "secret sauce" is the ability to translate across agencies. DOD and State talk very differently and, Morgan and I, having worked in or for both, can straddle the gap. And third, we took pains to set up scalable mature systems, which is unusual for small businesses and is reassuring to prime contractors.
Maryland PTAC referred me to SCORE. It was 2017 and the business was still just an idea. We didn't know what we didn't know and needed guidance. I had been assigned one mentor and realized it was not the right fit. Since I worked in DC, I requested a mentor from SCORE DC and was matched with Karen Williams. Perfect match. She had an impressive government contracting background and she's a woman who was important to us given the inspiration for our business.
In the early days, Karen worked with us on business strategy. After the 2017 launch, she supported us as we grew our infrastructure, expanded our client base from being a sub-contractor to prime contractor, and applied for WOSB and HUBZone status. And everything in between. Karen and SCORE were instrumental in our business development.
Karen has been with me from the start. She understands where I am in my growth and talks to me about what I need when I need it. She's always ready to talk about whatever it is. She's got resources, ideas, and advice that she sends me. I really appreciate Karen's time. Five years later, I still meet with her every month.
There's a whole community of small business owners who are supportive of each other. They realize that the world is big enough for all to thrive and succeed. Find that community. Or do, as Morgan did, build that community. It is a community we cherish. In addition, take all the free classes you can. It's not rocket science, but you'll have to learn new stuff. Morgan and I divided and conquered the different topics. There is a wealth of resources out there - SCORE, SBA, TPAC - that offer these classes.
Go to SCORE and request a mentor. I tell everybody in business -- whether they're starting out or farther along than me -- about SCORE. It's free - what a resource! Plus don't be afraid to change mentors if the first match isn't right.
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