Small businesses spark connections at Creative engagement event

By: Ashley Williams

June 12, 2019

Dozens of business leaders established new relationships and strengthened existing ties through targeted match-making sessions with Creative Associates International’s technical representatives during its inaugural Small Business Engagement Event.

Creative President & CEO Leland Kruvant opened the event by noting that small businesses are “part of our DNA.”

“Like you, we started with a large vision and a small footprint,” said Kruvant, highlighting its founding by four enterprising women working in a basement office. “Through innovation and hard work, we were able to grow to have programs in nearly 30 countries. As you map your future, Creative wants to be part of your growth strategy.”

Creative’s Small Business Engagement Event comes just weeks after it was named the U.S. Agency for International Development’s 2018 Large Business Partner of the Year in recognition of its success in contracting with small U.S. firms.

At the June 6 matchmaking event, businesses were paired with Creative staff from their areas of interest and rotated throughout the morning to explore potential partnership opportunities through speed networking.

“It’s wonderful to learn what new projects Creative is looking at for the future because we have worked so often with [Creative] in the past,” said Anthony Francisco, a Business Development Officer at Proximity International. “We’ve built up a great relationship, so we want to continue that.”

Mauricio Vera, Director of USAID’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, addressing small business leaders. Photo by: Jillian Slutzker Rocker.

Mauricio Vera, Director of USAID’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, was the keynote speaker and commended Creative for a marked increase in the percentage of subcontracting dollars going to small businesses and women-owned businesses over the last few years. He gave attendees insight into USAID’s new acquisition strategy and highlighted that it seeks to expand and diversify its partner base because it brings greater strength to the agency.

Small businesses, big value

The event brought together likeminded people from the public and private sectors who all celebrate the value small businesses bring to global development.

Dozens of small business professionals gathered at Creative to discuss partnership opportunities. Photo by Jillian Slutzker Rocker.

“In the journey to self-reliance and our new partnership base initiatives, we’re bringing in new companies that are a little more agile, a little nimbler, to work in these different missions, cultures and countries,” said Tony Steiner from USAID’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. “They’re bringing a lot of value … innovation, creativity [and] new ideas, which we’re always looking for.”

Laura Gillen, who runs partnerships and business development at Development Seed, echoed his sentiments.

“There’s a lot of flexibility that small businesses provide. We can come to the table ready to work. I think a lot of times small businesses have the leeway to be a lot more innovative and creative,” she said.

Development Seed has had on ongoing relationship with Creative and the two organizations have bid on several projects together related to mapping. The small business solves challenging social and environmental problems using open data and open technology. Its specific technological expertise makes them an important partner for Creative.

Cara Jones is the Research and Development Manager at ORB International, which has partnered with Creative on monitoring and evaluation in fragile environments. “We’re hoping to continue the great partnerships that we’ve started at Creative and continue to see where we might have additional opportunities to work together, and different practice areas where we might provide some small business value,” Jones said at the event.

Creative staff welcoming small businesses. Photo by Jillian Slutzker Rocker.

This targeted networking opportunity was organized by Creative’s Business Development team, including Proposal Coordinators Robin Merritt and Andrew Verrier and Senior Business Development Manager Jason Dooley.

“Creative understands that every great partnership provides balance, complementary expertise, and compelling capabilities — all qualities Creative recognizes as part of any successful partnership, small business or otherwise. By increasing our engagement with small business, Creative is simply tapping into an invaluable source of talent for our programming,” says Verrier.

“We’ve already seen great results and have identified several opportunities with attending small businesses.”

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