by Dane Barrager

Agencies at all levels of governments often look to small businesses for products and services. In fact, many designate certain projects or annual purchasing volumes for small-sized vendors.

Not surprisingly, this makes for a highly lucrative, highly competitive market. But because of the intricate procurement process that these organizations must follow, it can sometimes be difficult for a small business to gain entry to this market and get buyers attention.

The public-private Business Matchmaking initiative provides opportunities for small businesses to make those all important connections and navigate the world of government contracting. At Business Matchmaking events held around the country, small business owners can land one-on-one appointments with key officials from hundreds of major corporations and agencies.

Business Matchmaking also helps small business learn about selling to big customers at local, state and national levels. There is a Business Matchmaking event scheduled for October in Charlotte.

Best of all, Business Matchmaking workshops and events are free. You can search events, register, set up to three appointments and get all you need to participate at www.businessmatchmaking.com.

Another venue for making inroads into government contracting is the Victory in Procurement (VIP) program, sponsored by American Express OPEN, the financial services company’s small business division.

VIP events provide those attending with interactive workshops on relevant government contracting topics, networking opportunities and keynote speeches by government officials and industry experts.

VIP partners with local Procurement Technical Assistance Centers to present a nationwide series of workshops offering best practices for marketing and successfully pitching their business to government buyers. The closest seminar location to Asheville is Atlanta.

The VIP website

www.openforum.com/governmentcontracting

provides information seminars on the basics of government contracting, registering your small business with procurement agencies, and valuable marketing and networking tips.

Locally, the City of Asheville has bid opportunities at the website

www.ashevillenc.gov/Departments/Purchasing/RequestsforBidsProposals.aspx

Buncombe County lists bid opportunities at:

www.buncombecounty.org/governing/depts/Purchasing/Default.aspx

And the federal agency the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC), which has an office in Asheville, has a website for numerous Federal business opportunities for small business at:

www.sbtdc.org/programs/ptac/selling-to-fed-government/federal-contracting- resources/

Dane Barrager is a SCORE volunteer mentor. To learn more about business issues or make an appointment with a volunteer mentor, contact asheville.score.org.