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SPAWAR small business program deputy teaches WID how to become protégés

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The Department of the Navy offers a program where small defense companies have the opportunity to team up with larger companies to learn how to grow their businesses, but sometimes, those small businesses do not know how to make the program work for them.

Michelle Nolen, deputy for Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command's small business program spoke to the Women in Defense San Diego chapter Wednesday afternoon about the ins and outs of the Department of the Navy’s Mentor-Protégé Program.

Approximately one-fifth of the audience was composed of people employed by small, women-owned businesses.

“That mentor will be enhancing your capabilities,” said Nolen. “They are assisting you with whatever developmental needs your company has in order to be more successful in the (Department of Defense) contracting area.”

While the Department of the Navy has reimbursable agreements with the mentors for the time and effort they spend with their protégés, Nolen said mentors seek long-term benefits from their protégés.

“Mentors are looking for opportunities to team with their protégé as a sub- or a prime-(contractor),” she said.

Nolen gave the audience tips on how to get into the program.

She said the first step for a small business to become a protégé is to find a mentor and get the mentor to fill out a joint application.

Before a mentor chooses a protégé, the mentor will take things like geographic location and both companies’ long-term goals into consideration.

“It’s not just about getting contracts or wanting to be in the program, so make sure your capabilities are in line with that mentor,” Nolen said.

Additionally, mentor companies look for stability -- both financially and within the protégé’s management team.

Mentors may have multiple protégés, but protégés may only have one mentor at a time.

Nolen is also a member of the Defense Acquisition Corps and National Contract Management Association, DoD Western Regional Council for Small Business Education and Advocacy.

Additionally, she is a member of the San Diego Supplier Development Council, which promotes small business awareness in the San Diego region.

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