Breaking Down Small Business Barriers: Strategies for Success and Igniting the Future

Small Business Training Week Ignites the Future

Over 800 federal small business professionals and acquisition personnel participated in Small Business Training Week held in Chicago last week – aptly during National Small Business Week. The theme of the 2024 event was “Breaking Down Small Business Barriers: Strategies for Success and Igniting the Future” and featured 50+ leading authorities from federal agencies, industry, academia, and state government who generously shared their expertise on small business programs, best practices, regulatory updates, intellectual property, market research, artificial intelligence tools, and much more.

Sponsored by the DoD Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP) in collaboration with the Small Business Administration (SBA), Small Business Training Week is a unique opportunity for the federal workforce to grow their network and enhance their knowledge.

Illinois Lieutenant Governor Welcomed SBTW24 Attendees

The Color Guard from the Illinois Army National Guard Northern Region Military Funeral Honors appropriately launched the event with the presentation of the colors, followed by the singing of the National Anthem by SPC Rory Fritts.

Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, Esq. welcomed attendees in the kick-off keynote address. The Lt. Governor discussed the state’s commitment to the defense industry and the importance of small businesses to communities and the economy. “We are making Illinois a hub for the defense industry,” the Lt. Governor explained.

Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton

Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton


The premier training event also featured keynote remarks from senior government officials, entrepreneurs, and innovation leaders:

  • Major General Richard Neely, 40th Adjutant General of the State of Illinois, Director of the Illinois Department of Military Affairs
  • HON Gabe Camarillo, Under Secretary of the Army, Department of Defense
  • HON Dilawar Syed, Deputy Administrator, Small Business Administration
  • Mr. Samir Mayekar, Associate Vice President and Managing Director, The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  • Ms. Kate Mertz, Director of Procurement Transformation, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Mr. Shannon Jackson, Executive Director (SES), Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, Department of Health and Human Services
  • HON Mark L. Madrid, Associate Administrator, Office of Entrepreneurial Investment, Small Business Administration
  • HON Geri Sanchez Aglipay, Regional Administrator, Small Business Administration

Director Mitha delivering the DoD Small Business Update.

Director Mitha delivering the DoD Small Business Update.


Director Mitha: DoD Small Business Update

Mr. Farooq Mitha, Director, DoD Office of Small Business Programs updated attendees on the collaborative work accomplished and announced the Department earned an “A” on the FY23 Small Business Procurement Scorecard. He noted the progress on the DoD Small Business Strategy, making permanent the Mentor-Protégé Program, and the expansion of the APEX Accelerators program with a new office in Dearborn, MI.

“Adding an APEX Accelerator in Dearborn was important because it fills a critical gap in the region by providing entrepreneurs and businesses with the know-how to become capable of participating in federal, state, and local government contracts. Ensuring resilient supply chains and national security requires that we expand the Defense Industrial Base with diverse, agile, and innovative companies,” Mitha explained.

"Small businesses make up 99% of all businesses in the United States and are a critical contributor to our national security. All of these things we are doing are to show industry we are here to help and make it easier to work with the DoD," Mitha said.

Small Business Directors' Town Hall

A perennially SBTW favorite is the Small Business Directors' Town Hall when leaders from the DoD OSBP, Services, and Defense Agencies all gather on the same stage.

  • Mr. Farooq Mitha a, SES Director, Office of Small Business Programs, Department of Defense
  • Ms. Kim Buehler, SES Director, Office of Small Business Programs, Office of the Secretary of the Army
  • Ms. Arveice Washington, SES Director, Office of Small Business Programs, Department of the Navy
  • Mr. Scott Kiser, SES Director, Office of Small Business Programs, Department of the Air Force
  • Ms. Daniele Kurze, Executive Director, Office of Small Business Programs, Defense Logistics Agency

The Directors shared updates from their respective components and entertained a lively audience Q&A session. Some of the top themes were captured in the following quotable moments:


Buehler, echoed Kiser’s remarks of “one team, one fight, and added in summary, “Focus on the mission, focus on our soldiers.”

Collectively, these directors oversee 750+ small business professionals providing outreach and guidance to the Defense Industrial Base consisting of about 35,000 small businesses, and a contractor pool of over 47,000 firms that procure over $300 billion annually from DoD.

DoD Small Business Vanguard Awards

Established in 2015, the DoD Small Business Vanguard Awards Program recognizes the exceptional contributions of DoD small business professionals and members of the acquisition community that influence small business participation in Defense procurements. The awards process is managed on behalf of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (USD(A&S)) by the OSBP Director.

The nominees selected for this year’s awards demonstrated excellence and significantly contributed to the small business mission during the period of October 1, 2022 through September 30, 2023.

Congratulations to the awardees:
  • Revolutionary Leadership Award: Thaddeus L. Martin, Director, U.S. Army Materiel Command View Video>>
  • Tracy L. Pinson Small Business Professional of the Year Award: Paul Ward, United States Army Special Operations Command, OSBP View Video>>
  • Verdure Award: California National Guard Contracting Enterprise View Video>>
  • Vanguard Award: Department of the Navy Office of Small Business Programs View Video>>


Training Highlights and Resources

With over 40 total general and breakout sessions, the training agenda covered topics ranging from specific programs to hot topics such as artificial intelligence (AI), facility clearances, breaking down small business barriers, strategies for achieving the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) goal, leveraging the services of APEX Accelerators, and cybersecurity. Session topics were carefully curated by the SBTW24 steering committee from acquisition community input and previous SBTW surveys.

The training materials presented at SBTW24 cleared for public release are available on the conference website at under “Session Documents” tab or on the Cvent SBTW conference app below the description of the session and list of speakers.

Thank you to our speakers for generously sharing these resources.

Wrap Up

Kasey Diaz, Deputy Director, Office of Small Business Programs closed out Small Business Training Week by thanking attendees again for their collaborative efforts with DoD earning an “A” on the FY23 Small Business Procurement Scorecard. She also thanked them for their dedication to the mission and for leaning into the intense training sessions and networking opportunities the event provided. Diaz concluded her remarks with thanking the many speakers for helping make this a valuable and relevant training experience for the 800+ attendees, and the steering committee led by Dr. Jacqueline Charles, Associate Director, Office of Small Business Programs, for organizing another successful Small Business Training Week.

For More Information