Tired of feeling like only a number while working for a large corporate technology firm, Jacquie Sipes, Jim Govekar and Cindy Whitmer decided in 2005 to take a leap into the world of small business.
They created Tapestry Technologies Inc. in Greene Township, Franklin County, with Sipes as CEO, fighting with the big boys for competitively bid contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense. By 2014, the company had enough business from DOD and its contractors to garner about $10 million in revenue, and its products were being used by millions of federal employees.
“We ventured out on our own to do the same type of work (we had been doing), and luckily — either by dumb luck or skill, I’m not sure, sometimes it takes a little bit of both — it worked out,” said Govekar, now the company’s CFO and COO.
Still, there’s a strategy behind Tapestry’s success. Rather than trying to beat large companies at everything, Sipes and her colleagues decided to limit Tapestry’s focus to a niche market for what it does best.
The company performs cyber defense projects, particularly writing technical security policies for electronic devices like laptops, routers, applications, mobile phones and “pretty much anything in the technology life cycle,” Govekar said. It also provides training and support services related to the implementation of those policies and products.
“We have those skills, we stay in that lane, and we’re trying to do it really well,” he said.
Tapestry is a small business, but there is nothing small about some of its products. It has written the security policy for a consolidated email system used by about 4.6 million DOD users, and other clients include the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army Information Technology Agency.
The DOD’s Office of Small Business Programs is specifically devoted to helping companies like Tapestry succeed in the competitive bidding process. As of October 2014, 23 percent of DOD contracts — worth about $53 billion — were awarded to small businesses, according to a DOD press release.
Maureen Schumann, a DOD spokeswoman, also encouraged small-business owners to visit the department’s Defense Innovation Marketplace website for opportunities available through DOD’s Independent Research & Development program.
Angie Fogelsonger, Tapestry’s vice president of business development, said the office advocates for small business and provides valuable assistance, but owners shouldn’t rely on it to grow their business. Instead, a company must be constantly monitoring for competitive bidding opportunities that DOD or other federal agencies post in various places.