University Community

Business Matchmaker event offers companies the information, contacts needed to win government contracts

The 2024 Ohio Business Matchmaker event, scheduled May 8-9, will provide local companies with the training and connections necessary to win government contracts. This is just one of the ways that the Ohio Apex Accelerator at Ohio University works with businesses throughout the state. 

Millspaw Electronics designs, tests, and troubleshoots customized electronic equipment, but executive Leigh Skorupskas says she found entering into government contract work much more complex.

Leigh Skorupkas
Leigh Skorupskas, Millspaw Electronics

“It was a world that I completely underestimated in terms of the effort it takes,” says Skorupskas. “Everybody wants a small business to succeed and work with the government. It's not that easy.”

In addition to her own legwork, Skorupskas —one of five employees at the Mason, Ohio-based engineering firm—attended the 2023 Ohio Business Matchmaker event, a networking and educational seminar co-sponsored by Ohio Apex Accelerator at Ohio University. 

Run by OHIO’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service, the Apex Accelerator’s main objective is to help businesses navigate the complicated process of securing government contracts. The program has been wildly successful: In 2022, OHIO’s Apex Accelerator helped Ohio businesses secure over 8,500 government contracts, bringing in more than $1 billion in total revenue. This program is supported by the Appalachian New Economy Partnership, Ohio Department of Development, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

The contract process starts well before the Matchmaker event, with Apex Accelerator staff working with business owners to prepare a “capability statement," which is essentially a resumé written in government-friendly lingo.

“The government uses a different language and numbers,” says Sharon Hopkins, director of Ohio Apex Accelerator at Ohio University. “It’s vital to be able to demonstrate an understanding of what their needs are.”

The Apex Accelerator is open to any small business, but Hopkins says the most successful ones have a track record of doing quality work.

“Government entities are risk-averse; they don’t want to do business with someone who might not be there in six months,” Hopkins says. “The plus side is the government recognizes that small businesses can do things efficiently. And there's a lot of innovation within small business that could solve the government’s problems.”

An image of electronics testing from Millspaw Electronics
Testing a rapid prototype solution. Image provided by Millspaw Electronics

The Matchmaker event is a two-day affair. The first session is geared towards education, with panels featuring small business professionals from the government and successful small business panelists who share their experiences and give tips to the several hundred attendees. Day two is a networking extravaganza, with scheduled appointments lasting a crisp 10 minutes and concluding with a free hour of unscheduled networking. In addition to the agencies that dole out contracts, ancillary businesses such as insurance and accounting firms that specialize in government work are also present to help business owners with the back-end part of their contract pitch.

For Skorupskas and Millspaw, the Matchmaking event and support from OHIO’s Apex Accelerator has been invaluable. After a year of intense work, the company was notified in February that the Department of Energy was awarding them a “sole source” contract, a rarity for a new business/government partnership.

“It means so much to have that support, to be able to call them up and say, ‘Hey, guys, am I doing this right?’” says Skorupskas. “It's scary when your company has five employees, and you're dealing with the big bad world. But with the Apex Accelerator, I know I have somebody knowledgeable who can help us.”

The 2024 Ohio Business Matchmaker event takes place May 8-9. More information can be found here. 

April 29, 2024
Staff reports