Two years after connecting with General Dynamics Electric Boat, Samantha Walsh, president and program manager of Accelerated Government Solutions in Hampstead, earned her first order. Today, six years and several Matchmakers later, she credits them with helping her gain contracts that now make up 40 percent of the company’s annual revenue.
Samantha owns the company along with her husband, Erik, who is vice president of sales and marketing. AGS has seen steady growth since its founding in 2009, with annual sales between $1 million and $2 million.
“We had just started the business and were looking around for opportunities,” Walsh said. “The Matchmaker was a great way to get exposure. We can call and leave voice mails and emails with prospects, but when you’ve met someone in person, they actually respond when we follow up with them. We’ve now sold General Dynamics various wire products and electronics. It’s a good chunk of our business and we owe that relationship to the Small Business Matchmaker.”
New and established entrepreneurs in the Granite State had a chance to seek government contracts to add to their client base at the 2016 NH Small Business Matchmaker event on Dec. 2 at Manchester Community College. The event brought about 45 representatives from 26 federal and state agencies, and prime contractors together with 210 representatives of small businesses for information sharing and relationship building.
A Matchmaker offers the chance to meet one-on-one with government and prime contractor (big companies that have large federal contracts and need small businesses to supply parts of those contracts) exhibitors. Throughout the daylong event, participants can attend breakout sessions on such topics as The All Small Mentor Protégé program and meet fellow business owners.
At subsequent Matchmaker events, the Walshes also met people from Rolls-Royce Marine North America Inc. and opportunity soon followed.
“We got our first order from them in June 2014, after lots of follow-up. We were able to supply them with welding wire and that company now accounts for about 10 percent of our revenue,” Samantha Walsh said.
Adria Bagshaw and her husband, Aaron, of W.H. Bagshaw in Nashua, also value connections made at Matchmaker events.
“It’s been an invaluable source for us,” Adria said. “Our best leads have come from these events, after trying a lot of different things shortly after taking over the family owned business.
“We had gone to trade shows, set them up and walked them, and other avenues. This (the NH Matchmaker) has just been the best,” she said.
Adria and Aaron Bagshaw are the fifth generation to own W.H. Bagshaw, founded in 1870 by Walter Henry Bagshaw in Lowell, Mass. The company manufactured pins for the textile and phonograph industries, and now markets its ability to make precision pieces for the defense and medical industries using its CNC machines.
Preparation workshops and webinars before and after the Matchmaker help participants prepare for and then follow-up on their Matchmaker contacts. Walsh said these sessions were valuable for her.
“They offer true insight into how you’re going to make the Matchmaker process work, with strategies to maximize your time and to avoid mistakes,” she said.
When Adria and her husband were looking to expand, the Matchmaker “was great for us in helping us understand the lay of the land and understand who the players are out there. We’ve been going year after year, and the relationships have come to fruition,” she said.
Bagshaw attributes a handful of their largest clients to the relationships developed at the Matchmaker events, including NH Ball Bearing. “We’ve been working with them for five years now and fully expect that relationship to continue,” Bagshaw said.
Patience and due-diligence on the part of the business owners pay off. Samantha Walsh notes that being seen consistently at Matchmakers builds credibility.
“When the reps see you again, it kind of hits the reset button for them, and they likely will pick up the phone the next time you give them a call,” she said. “Because so many of the exhibitors are defense-based, the sales process can take a long time, but the event is invaluable. When you get to sit face-to-face with someone, that person is likely to connect you to the people who will make the buying decision. It takes patience and due diligence.”
The 2016 NH Small Business Matchmaker event was supported by BAE Systems, and sponsored by the NH Government Contracting Assistance Center, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center.