Starters

Photo by Tate Carlson

A women-certified business in the halls of power

Cleaning up at the Capitol

By Steve LeBeau
Thu, 2017-02-09 12:57

The next time you visit the refurbished State Capitol in St. Paul, keep an eye out for the new recycling containers. There are 612 of them throughout the Capitol Complex. They were part of a $300,000 contract between the state and Lindstrom-based Facility Sourcing Direct, led by President Lynn Johnson. Her company provides various products for corporations and government, from janitorial supplies to entry rugs.

One reason she got the contract for the containers is because her company is well-certified. Lynn founded her company in 1999, but decided in 2011 to get certified as a Women Business Enterprise at the WBDC. But she didn’t stop there.

“Then I was certified WOSB, Women-Owned Small Business, and then I got certified DBE, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise,” says Lynn. “That is through the state of Minnesota, and through the Met Council. The DBE enables us to go in and partner with larger vendors.”

What are the challenges of getting such a big contract? For one thing, it’s 40-pages long.

“You have to be patient in working with a government entity,” says Lynn, “in that there’s a lot of documentation that you have to go through, and you just have to be willing to do that.”

Another tricky part is the timing. “That’s a process,” she says. “In going after a government contract, there’s a long lead time. It really doesn’t help for me to call the buyer at the state right now to say, “Do you know that in December of ‘18 that your contract for towel dispensers is going to expire?’ They don’t want to hear that.”

Instead, she waits about a year before the contract is up, and then she starts talking to the buyer about which options she plans to present, well before the bids open up.

Another thing to learn about Lynn’s sale can be gleaned from a close look at the recycling bins. There’s a container just for organics, which means more than apple cores and banana peels; the idea is to recycle restroom towels and other things. Lynn says there is a state goal to have businesses recycle 75% of all waste by 2030, and the only way we can do that is by recycling more organics.

Now, over at the Capitol we have a good reminder of that — or rather, 612 reminders.