LLNL participates in Women-Owned Small Business Opportunity Day

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Representatives from five national laboratories met with entrepreneurs in small groups to discuss procurement opportunities during Women-Owned Small Business Opportunity Day on March 28. Photos by Randy Wong/LLNL.

The Livermore Open Campus (LVOC) was buzzing Tuesday, March 28, with a crowd that included small business owners, the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) and representatives from five national laboratories.

They were gathered for Women-Owned Small Business Opportunity Day, presented by the Department of Energy and jointly hosted by OSDBU, LLNL and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

With about 60 in-person attendees and about 200 online, entrepreneurs heard presentations from ORNL, Sandia National Laboratories, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC) and LLNL. Each of the participating laboratories shared their goals for small and women-owned businesses, their procurement process and some of their areas of greatest need.

With Natasha White, senior small business advocate for OSDBU, serving as master of ceremonies, the event featured remarks by Lisa Belk, LLNL associate director for Business, and video messages from LLNL Lab Director Kim Budil and U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.

women owned small biz lg group
Small business owners, the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization and representatives from five national laboratories gathered at LVOC for Women-Owned Small Business Opportunity Day on March 28.

Denise Hinkel, team lead, Predictive Capability for Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) Program and associate division leader for ICF & High Energy Density Physics (HED) within the Design Physics Division, gave the keynote address, titled “To Ignition and Beyond,” explaining some of the details of NIF’s recent ignition achievement.

The full-day event included lunch, which was held indoors due to blustery weather and concluded with intimate networking sessions with representatives from each laboratory. The day presented a truly unique opportunity for attendees to learn about specific opportunities and receive advice on how to engage.

Presentations by five national laboratories

With informative presentations by each laboratory’s small business office, takeaways included researching opportunities fully to ensure effective proposals, pairing up with large businesses for an initial project, maintaining excellent work quality and adhering to project timelines.

At LLNL, small businesses make up nearly 40% of the total $1 billion overall spend, with women-owned businesses accounting for about 6%. Incoming Supply Chain Management Department Head Svetlana Lee would like to see these numbers increase.  

“While this is a great number, we can do better,” she said.

Lee went over the phases of contracting at the LLNL to help contractors understand the procurement process, including the market survey, solicitation and the post-award phases.

When a need arises, LLNL surveys the marketplace to find prospective suppliers, sends out RFIs, holds industry days, and works with the small business office to find the right contractor for a procurement need. In the Solicitation phase, Supply Chain Management works with sources to help them understand the requirements.

“Read all the documents carefully,” Lee said. “By understanding the requirements, you will have a better chance of submitting a successful proposal.”

small biz med group
The DOE Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, and representatives from five national laboratories — LLNL, LBNL, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Oak Ridge and Sandia — connected with entrepreneurs at Women-Owned Small Business Opportunity Day on March 28.

In the post-award phase, when the subcontractor has gotten the contract, it’s time to perform. It’s important to adhere to requirements including paperwork and deadlines to increase the likelihood of future work, Lee said.

Laura Lovato, Supply Chain Risk Management and Supplier Diversity manager at Sandia National Laboratories, pointed out that small businesses are necessary to help diversify the supply chain.

Enthusiastic about meeting women entrepreneurs, she noted Sandia’s procurement needs in landscape services, construction, cryogenics maintenance, and a large capital construction project for the California site. Sandia spent $943 million on small business procurement, including $183 million with women-owned businesses, in FY2022.

“What can we do to work together, and where can we fit you within our supply chain circle?” Lovato asked.

Cassandra McGee Stuart, Strategy and Performance manager at ORNL, noted opportunities for payroll, roofers, pavers and construction at the eastern Tennessee DOE site. Small businesses make up 50% of ORNL’s procurement, and women-owned businesses account for 10%.

“There are a lot of exciting, interesting things going on at Oak Ridge National Lab,” she said. “We’re always looking for small businesses to help support the research interests of all these research areas.”

Nicole Colley, Operation Strategy manager at SLAC, described the federally funded, Stanford-managed linear accelerator that runs under Interstate 280 and noted some of their wide-ranging procurement needs, including construction and supplies. She outlined their bidding process, which prioritizes either the “lowest price technically acceptable” or the “best value/tradeoff” bid, and reminded attendees to never start work without a purchase order in hand.

After a fun video about LBNL’s history and name(s), their small business team noted procurement needs in project control services, commercial laundry services, software support services and temporary staffing.

“Sometimes at a national lab it’s difficult to access a real human being,” said LBNL Small Business Liaison Officer Phillip McCants, adding that LBNL holds “Small Business Fridays” to connect with entrepreneurs. “We’re there to have conversations with you all.”

– Kimberly Moore