A microloan program designed to assist women, low income, veteran, and minority entrepreneurs, and other small businesses will be evaluated for its impact in growth outcomes

microplan

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Microloan Program makes direct loans to qualified nonprofit, quasi-governmental and tribal mediators that, in turn, lend working capital for job creation, equipment, and material purchases. This program is essential for small businesses who do not qualify for traditional business loans and who have historically been underrepresented in the business community across a number of industries. The SBA also provides funds for microloan borrower technical assistance in the form of trainings in management, marketing, and business growth planning with the primary objective of sustaining and preserving the likelihood the businesses will succeed.

In order to examine the program’s activities and outputs that will impact the trajectory of business growth, Optimal Solutions Group, LLC (Optimal), is conducting a data collection with a nationally representative sample of small businesses in the Spring of 2021. Data will be collected from lending institutions and borrowers to examine the types of services and technical assistance small businesses are receiving from lending institutions. The data analysis will investigate the quality and fidelity of the services and how small business owners are utilizing these supports to build successful business practices and grow their businesses. Given that retrospective data will be collected from both lending institutions and business owners, data related to the current COVID-19 pandemic will be critical in assessing the impact of the virus on business success and failures, along with other factors affecting business growth that are within the control of lending institutions and business borrowers.

Over the next 18 months, Optimal will work with SBA to develop and conduct the evaluation that will examine and analyze key performance metrics, business practices, support services, and the factors that impact the growth outcomes for small businesses participating as borrowers in the Microloan Program.

Find out more about the Microloan Program.

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Optimal Solutions Group, LLC 

Founded in 2000, Optimal Solutions Group, LLC, is a nonpartisan public policy research and data analytics firm located at the University of Maryland’s Discovery District in College Park. 

Established entrepreneurs share their stories

“Entrepreneurship Matters” is a conversation with local up and coming and established entrepreneurs. Date: Thursday, September 10, 2020, 1 PM to 2 PM. Speakers: Tracye Turner, Tina C.Williams-Koroma, Esq. Moderator: Alicia Wilson.

Tracye Turner, EVP/COO, Optimal Solutions Group, recently participated in Johns Hopkins University’s “Entrepreneurship Matters” series. Entitled “A Conversation with Entrepreneurs Tracye Turner and Tina Williams-Koroma,” the conversation ranged across a variety of topics and issues common to small business. The series is hosted by Alicia Wilson, Vice President for Economic Development at The Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Health System. The link to the talk is here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=1025848981179027.

While both Ms. Turner and Ms. Williams-Koroma spoke of their particular challenges in starting new business ventures, some common themes emerged:

  • Developing entrepreneurial skills as an “intrapreneur” in a corporate environment.
  • The need for grit and determination in starting any new venture.
  • The necessity of partnerships for getting a business off the ground.
  • The opportunities and pitfalls of various funding mechanisms.

Tracye also discussed the evolution of Optimal Solutions, which itself is a successful entrepreneurial effort. In particular she noted the launch of two new digital productions:

  • e-Editor: A site for identifying and assigning editors and proofreaders to suit your needs for independent contractors.
  • e-508: A site for creating and modifying documents that are accessibility compliant.

The question-and-answer forum also included questions from virtual attendees at this Facebook live event.

Optimal Solutions Group, LLC (Optimal), assessed a Small Business Administration (SBA) initiative that provides funding to regional clusters of small businesses for its performance

cluster

The SBA’s Regional Innovation Cluster (RIC) Initiative, launched in September 2010, promotes and supports U.S. regional clusters—geographically concentrated groups of connected businesses, suppliers, service providers, and similar institutions in an industry or field. Clusters act as a networking hub to convene resources for small businesses. This then helps small businesses in navigating funding, procurement, and supply-chain opportunities in their specific industry.

Currently, the RIC Initiative provides funding to 14 industry clusters. The SBA is pursuing three aims in each of these clusters. The first goal is to increase the chances for small businesses to participate within the clusters. Accordingly, the SBA’s initiative selected clusters to receive funding partially based on their ability and potential to provide industry-specific assistance to small businesses within their regions. The second goal is to enhance economic development and growth in the regions in which the 14 selected clusters are operating. The third goal is to promote innovation in the clusters’ focused industries, which include geospatial technology products, water technologies, retail management and logistics, marine science technologies, autonomous and unmanned systems, defense technologies (e.g., surveillance, small spacecrafts, and cybersecurity), fuel cells and energy storage, smart grid technologies, wood products, bioscience technologies, and flexible electronics.

The 14 industry clusters consist of seven long-serving and seven new sites. The SBA sought help from Optimal, a nonpartisan public policy research and data analytics firm, in developing an overall evaluation framework for the SBA’s RIC Initiative, and assistance in designing new or clarifying existing measures and metrics.

Find out more about the SBA’s Regional Innovation Cluster Initiative.

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Optimal Solutions Group, LLC 

Founded in 2000, Optimal Solutions Group, LLC, is a nonpartisan public policy research and data analytics firm located at the University of Maryland’s Discovery District in College Park.  Optimal employees have varied backgrounds in such fields as public policy, computer science, data science, economics, education, health, housing, sociology, statistics and information management. 

Optimal Solutions Group, LLC (Optimal) evaluated a Small Business Administration’s (SBA) initiative that investigates the outcomes of executive enterprises and business training on the performance of small firms

sba

This study helped SBA in improving the program enactment of Emerging Leaders (e200) Training and Mentoring Initiative by identifying strategies to improve program participation and stakeholder engagement. It also identified the factors affecting the business revenue and business survival rates of the businesses poised for growth in historically challenged communities.

Optimal assisted in developing the overall evaluation frameworks for SBA’s Emerging Leaders Initiative and suggested new or clarified existing measures and metrics, which will assist the Office of Performance Management and Chief Financial Officer in meeting the goals of SBA. These goals include job growth, business growth, etc. Optimal has previously evaluated the Emerging Leaders Initiative from 2012–19, and those findings were used to assess the efficacy of the Emerging Leaders program sites.

For more information about the SBA’s Emerging Leaders Initiative, visit the website here.

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Optimal Solutions Group, LLC 

 Founded in 2000, Optimal Solutions Group, LLC, is a nonpartisan public policy research and data analytics firm located at the University of Maryland’s Discovery District in College Park.  Optimal employees have varied backgrounds in such fields as public policy, computer science, data science, economics, education, health, housing, sociology, statistics and information management. 

Optimal Solutions Group LLC (Optimal) assessed the impact of a program designed to help small businesses owned by socially or economically disadvantaged businesses succeed in the marketplace

8a

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 8(a) Business Development Program grants participants access to set-aside or sole source contracts, a business opportunity specialist, the right to enter a mentor-protégé program, and other benefits.

The goal of the Evaluation of 8(a) Certified Firms is to better understand the market for goods and services demanded by federal agencies and those supplied by 8(a) businesses. The evaluation examined the ability of 8(a) businesses to obtain federal contracts as they progress from the initial development stage to the transitional stage of the program, as well as how they fare once they graduate.

Optimal, a nonpartisan public policy research and data analytics firm, continues to build upon its large body of work with the SBA and other workforce development projects to provide SBA with the information needed to serve the 8(a) participants in the most effective and efficient way possible.

Find out more about SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program

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Optimal Solutions Group, LLC 

Founded in 2000, Optimal Solutions Group, LLC, is a nonpartisan public policy research and data analytics firm located at the University of Maryland’s Discovery District in College Park.  Optimal employees have varied backgrounds in such fields as public policy, computer science, data science, economics, education, health, housing, sociology, statistics and information management. 

Optimal Solutions Group, LLC (Optimal), evaluated a Small Business Administration (SBA) program to determine its ability to promote small businesses’ chances of obtaining government contracts

sba

The annual federal procurement scorecard assesses the extent to which federal agencies reach their small business contracting goals, which Congress develops. The SBA is responsible for ensuring that small businesses participate in the government-wide goal, which is established annually at the statutory levels, and that the reporting agencies’ achievements are close to reaching the goals.

The SBA made revisions to the scorecard method to address requirements specified in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2016. The Government Accountability Office recommended that the SBA complete the design and implementation of a thorough evaluation of the Small Business Procurement Scorecard. Optimal conducted evaluations to assess the effectiveness of the revised scorecard in measuring agency performance and promoting small business procurement opportunities and provided the SBA with the information they needed to best serve the small businesses of the United States.

Find out more about SBA’s procurement scorecard.

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Optimal Solutions Group, LLC 

Founded in 2000, Optimal Solutions Group, LLC, is a nonpartisan public policy research and data analytics firm located at the University of Maryland’s Discovery District in College Park.  Optimal employees have varied backgrounds in such fields as public policy, computer science, data science, economics, education, health, housing, sociology, statistics and information management. 

Optimal develops algorithms to automate data assisted government agencies in identifying and improving opportunities available to small, veteran owned, minority owned, and other disadvantaged businesses

FPDS

Government agencies often use incomplete and non-systematic approaches to identify qualified contractors and capable, socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses for government requests. While information about firms is available, it is stored across disparate systems that are not linked together. In order for staff to more efficiently identify small disadvantaged businesses, Optimal Solutions Group, LLC (Optimal), developed a series of algorithms that automated the cleaning, coding, harmonizing, and analysis of federal contracting data from the Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation and business profile data from the System for Award Management. A grant from the Maryland Industrial Partnerships allowed Optimal, a nonpartisan public policy research and data analytics firm, to leverage these algorithms and assist government agencies in identifying whether disadvantaged firms have the ability to meet procurement requirements. The goal is to improve small businesses’ opportunities.

The algorithms are at the heart of an analysis Optimal performed to evaluate a number of programs of the U.S. Small Business Administration, which included the 8(a), Small Business Procurement Scorecard, Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) Program, Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB), Regional Innovation Clusters (RIC), and Emerging Leaders (EL) Programs.  Policymakers require empirical evidence on the impact of programs, policies, and interventions that aim to increase opportunities for small businesses, promote business growth and healthy ecosystems, and reduce disparities faced by minority-owned businesses. The automation of this data helped improve the procurement practices of the federal government and helped support and inform the decisions of policymakers.

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Optimal Solutions Group, LLC 

Founded in 2000, Optimal Solutions Group, LLC, is a nonpartisan public policy research and data analytics firm located at the University of Maryland’s Discovery District in College Park.  Optimal employees have varied backgrounds in such fields as public policy, computer science, data science, economics, education, health, housing, sociology, statistics and information management. 

Optimal Solutions Group, LLC (Optimal), evaluated four Small Business Administration (SBA) programs using logic models to determine outcomes

sba

A logic model provides a visual likeness of the key program pathways linking program components to short-term, intermediate, and long-term outcomes. The purpose of a logic model is to define a program’s theory of change by showing how the program’s underlying assumptions, strategies, resources, activities, and contextual factors are expected to lead to the desired outcomes. Optimal prepared logic models for the four SBA programs: 1) Small Business Development Centers, 2) Microloan Program, 3) Women’s Business Centers (WBC), and 4) SCORE. The SBA developed a framework that emphasizes the importance of developing logic models to provide the foundation for successful program evaluations.

The logic models served as the core tool for the programs’ evaluation. Optimal has worked with SBA to evaluate different programs over the years, including the 7(a) Loan Program, SBDC, SCORE, WBC, the 8(a) Business Development Program, 7(j) Training, Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone), and other programs. Optimal is familiar with the programs’ resources, activities, outputs, outcomes, key performance metrics, and strategic performance objectives. Optimal developed further insights on the programs’ intended outcomes and impacts. Optimal continues to build on existing logic models for these programs, further refining them based on SBA suggestions and the recent legislative mandates.

For more details review the SBA Framework and Guidelines for Program Evaluation.

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Optimal Solutions Group, LLC 

Founded in 2000, Optimal Solutions Group, LLC, is a nonpartisan public policy research and data analytics firm located at the University of Maryland’s Discovery District in College Park.  Optimal employees have varied backgrounds in such fields as public policy, computer science, data science, economics, education, health, housing, sociology, statistics and information management. 

Optimal Solutions Group, LLC (Optimal), analyzed a program designed to help small businesses compete for government contracts to determine why firms leave the program prematurely

sba

Established in 2016, the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program (ASMPP) extends the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) approved mentor-protégé relationships to every small business. The program’s goal is to develop strong protégé firms through mentor-provided business development assistance.

Optimal assessed why firms leave the ASMPP either during the application process before they are approved for the program or during the program participation after being approved for the program. Understanding why firms withdraw from program enrollment or terminate their program participation would help SBA better educate and assist firms to enroll, participate, and succeed. It would also help firms identify if the program is right for them before they apply. In addition to helping the program develop better outreach, education, and prescreening, the results may have the potential to inform SBA about opportunities for tightening loopholes and better preventing program withdrawals and terminations. The ASMPP was modeled after the successful SBA 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program. 

Find out more about the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program.

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Optimal Solutions Group, LLC 

Founded in 2000, Optimal Solutions Group, LLC, is a nonpartisan public policy research and data analytics firm located at the University of Maryland’s Discovery District in College Park.  Optimal employees have varied backgrounds in such fields as public policy, computer science, data science, economics, education, health, housing, sociology, statistics and information management. 

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