Tisa Clark, president and owner of J.D. Clark Professional Services, is one of more than a dozen minority-owned businesses to refine their approach to running a business thanks to an innovative Prince George’s Community College program designed to help minority business prosper.
The effort, called the Accelerator Program, which was created by a $5 million grant from Prince George’s County developer Milt Peterson, was designed to help minority firms build the capacity to compete for large-scale construction contracts.
Now in its fourth year, the program is a form of post-start-up guidance for entrepreneurs like Clark to help minority contractors address business development issues that often stall new ventures at the start-up phase, said Carl E. Brown Jr., executive director of the college’s Center for Minority Business Development (CMBD).
“The program contractors who to make a profit and sustain your business at the same time,” said Brown.
To qualify for the Accelerator Program businesses must have been up and running for at least two years and grossing at least $200,000 annually. For general contractors, the company must have been in business for a year, have three employees and gross $1 million in receipts.
So far, 15 businesses have completed the program, according to CMBD officials.
In 2012, more than six businesses whose principals have gone through the Accelerator Program have won contracts at the National Harbor including NBD Services for carpentry at Rosa Mexicana, G-11 Enterprise, Inc. for outdoor electrical for Peterson Companies and MGM Resorts International and K. Dixon Architecture for sidewalk paving for Peterson Companies.
Clark, whose Capitol Heights, Md. firm provides property preservation, maintenance and site improvements, entered the program in the fall of 2011 and graduated in December 2012. Although the company has yet to bid on a contract at the National Harbor, Clark said that after going through the program she is confident and optimistic.
“The process to apply was very painful initially because you are really exposed. You expose every aspect of your business with the benefit of getting true feedback,” said Clark of the application process for the Accelerator Program.
Clark said that as a result of the program she has revised her approach to marketing and branding. The topics she covered included human resources, cost accounting and estimate preparation. But she also found that the courses in business management are rigorous and demanding
“The companies that started with us [in the Accelerator Program] didn’t end with us…. people aren’t taking advantage of it for whatever reason,” said Clark
Although she has not won any National Harbor business, the firm was recently awarded a contract with Prince George’s County’s Department of Housing & Urban Development to eliminate blight in the area and make homes more green and sustainable.