In 1996, Toney Sellers, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, decided he wanted to start a janitorial company. Unique Cleaning Service, Inc. began with commercial clients, and by 2000, had branched into the federal arena. Over the past nine years, Unique Cleaning’s government contracts have grown from one to more than 60, a feat Sellers attributes partially to Georgia Tech’s Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC).
GTPAC – part of the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute – provides no-cost assistance with government procurement to any company licensed to do business in Georgia. Last year, GTPAC conducted seminars in Albany, Atlanta, Augusta, Carrollton, Columbus, Gainesville, Rockmart, Savannah and Warner Robins. The center assists companies with all aspects of federal, state and local government procurement processes, including solicitation analysis, proposal preparation, pre- and post-award counseling, and quality and accounting systems. Procurement counselors also analyze whether companies have the potential for participating in the government procurement process.
“We heard about GTPAC, contacted a procurement counselor, and he helped us develop a company profile to begin receiving electronic notifications that enabled us to view solicitations in the janitorial field based on a certain geographical area,” recalled Sellers. “Postings that we were interested in led us into the bid process with government agencies.”
In January 2001, Unique Cleaning became 8(a) certified by the U.S. Small Business Administration, meaning the company meets the requirements of being a small business, is unconditionally owned and controlled by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged people who are U.S. citizens, and demonstrates potential for success. Most importantly, having 8(a) certification means a business can bid on government projects that uncertified companies cannot.
In addition, at least one staff member from Unique Cleaning has attended every GTPAC seminar on topics as varied as preparing successful bids and proposals, understanding the General Services Administration schedules process, using the computer to win government contracts and marketing to state and local governments. They have also contacted procurement counselors Joe Beaulieu and Chuck Schadl to prepare a Freedom of Information Act request and provide information on small business size standards.
“These seminars are extremely helpful as a way of understanding how to do business with the local, state and federal agencies,” said Ellen Pine, Unique Cleaning’s manager of contract administration. “The workshops have allowed us an opportunity to meet other companies and network, and a wealth of data is transferred to seminar participants for future referral.”
Unique Cleaning has grown from a one-person business to more than 125 employees today, with contracts from Massachusetts to Puerto Rico to Oregon. The company, which has increased its revenue from $225,000 its first year, is now targeting the $10 million threshold. Unique Cleaning Service, Inc. now generates approximately 90 percent of its revenue from government-related contracts.
Unique Cleaning’s success has even been recognized by its hometown economic development agency. In 2009, the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce named Unique Cleaning one of the Top 25 Small Businesses in Cobb County, an award that recognizes member companies for increased sales and contributions to community-oriented projects.
“When we signed on with GTPAC in 2000, we had one government contract; we now have more than 60,” Sellers said. “Their professionalism and dedicated efforts to providing needed information are second to none.”
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Writer: Nancy Fullbright