“I feel like I am finally on an even playing field for the first time in my life. The 8(a) program, coupled with the one-on-one support from the local SBA and Alabama SDBC offices have had a direct impact on my level of success over the past year.”
Sydney Cody says she has lived and operated in what many would call a “man’s world” since she chose to major in engineering at Tulane University. In 2001, Sydney was commissioned as a Naval Officer in the Civil Engineers Corps (CEC), which was 90-percent comprised of men. For nearly six years she served in the corps, working in the contracting office and serving as an officer in charge of Construction in the Navy.
After being honorably discharged she was hired as the engineering manager for two Fortune 500 firms and worked in that capacity for the next decade. Looking for an opportunity that allowed more control over her personal life and unlimited potential for growth, Sydney made the decision to go back to her roots in the federal contracting arena and work for herself. She purchased 51-percent ownership of Vanguard Pacific, LLC, from her sister in April of 2016. At that time, she moved the business from Hawaii to Alabama. Soon after the move, the company became a client of the Alabama Small Business Development Center Network at the University of South Alabama.
Initially, Sydney had a single employee, her mother, Sharon. Between the two of them, they attended several ASBDC-sponsored workshops on a variety of topics. They also met with procurement assistance advisor Gerald Dunlop for help with expanding their market. Gerald created a profile for the business in the ASBDCs free bid-match service, which searches for government contracting opportunities at several websites where opportunities are listed. He also assisted them with getting on the Emergency Response Contracting in Alabama vendor list. The ERCA is a list of businesses prepared to respond in the aftermath of a federally declared disaster.
For the first six months, Sydney and Sharon feverishly worked from Sydney’s home office in Foley, Alabama, on everything from the SBAs 8(a) Business Development Program application and Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) certification, to city and state business licenses, to getting a BCU4 General Contractor’s License, to receiving her Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) certification. In between applying for licenses and programs, Sydney attended numerous networking events to maximize her exposure and get in front of key folks to explain her abilities, work ethic and integrity. Two of those events were procurement matchmakers held by SBDCs in Mobile and Huntsville. Matchmakers are organized as reverse trade fairs where representatives from government agencies and prime contractors meet one-on-one with small-business owners.
Being a former CEC Officer and having over 15 years of experience in construction and program management, Sydney focused on federal contract opportunities of similar nature. She quickly renewed her membership in SAME and worked to understand the needs of the local U.S. Army Corps of Engineers district. She worked with her contacts at the SBDC to understand who the local federal customers were and how to reach them.
“I met with the SBDC often in the beginning to get guidance on marketing ideas and business strategy.” She also spent hours on the Federal Business Opportunities website and calling contracting officers to determine what opportunities were available to Vanguard Pacific. She has been pounding the pavement and working tirelessly over the past 15 months, and that dedication has begun to pay off.
In January 2017, Vanguard Pacific was awarded a subcontract to support the City of Mobile’s “CIP Mobile 2017 Resurfacing Project. Four months later, Vanguard Pacific was awarded a $140,000 facilities maintenance contract by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, for the Irvington Site Office location.
In May 2017, Vanguard purchased another small Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business that had strong past performance in the federal marketplace for both facilities maintenance and painting and protective coating contracts. By June, 2017, Vanguard Pacific had seven employees and three additional federal contracts: a $2,500K IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity) from Joint Base Charleston, a $7,000K IDIQ from Joint Base Andrews, and a $150,000 Task Order from Shaw Air Force Base, SC.
In June 2017, Vanguard Pacific was awarded a small construction contract by the National Parks Service in Tuskegee, Alabama, valued at $207,580, and she received a subcontract for a follow-on project for the City of Mobile’s Resurfacing Project for Districts 1 and 3.
Since she was 17 years old, Sydney says she has been exposed to the stereotypes and discrimination that, unfortunately, still exists today for women entering into a male-dominated industry. Though Sydney is extremely proud of her service and says she would do it all again without a second thought, she is thankful for the resources made available to small, disadvantaged business by the SBA and SBDC.