Having served in the U.S. Marine Corps for over a decade, Laurie Sayles knows something about the importance of dedication, duty, and self-discipline. Following her military service, Laurie pursued various roles that gave her important project and program management experience within the federal contracting space. In 2010, she completed her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland, where she majored in Social Science and minored in Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship. Two years later, Laurie knew she was ready to start her own small business that would leverage the knowledge and contacts she had developed throughout her professional and academic careers. But where could she turn to for expert advice at a reasonable cost?

Laurie eventually found her way to Fred Elam, a volunteer mentor with the Washington, D.C. SCORE Chapter, who had retired from the U.S. Army as a three-star General. Laurie and Fred immediately connected over their prior military service. Over a series of one-on-one meetings, all held free of charge, Fred helped Laurie consider her many options as a new business owner. He encouraged her to structure her firm as an LLC to help minimize risk. He suggested Laurie hire an attorney so that she could readily access legal advice during her company’s first critical months in operation.

Fred then placed Laurie in touch with a fellow SCORE mentor, Karen Williams, who specializes in helping small business owners apply to SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program, a nine-year training program for socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs seeking to contract with the federal government. Within four months of entering the program, Laurie won her first sole-source federal contract – a testament to her leadership, technical skills, and marketing abilities. Her company, Civility Management Solutions, offers professional administrative, human resources, acquisition, grants management, training, and investigative services to organizations across the federal, state, and local governments, as well as commercial entities. Laurie is scheduled to complete the 8(a) program in 2026.

At the same time, Laurie had applied for other certifications for which she and her company were eligible, including Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) and Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB). Laurie has also benefited from federal contract and capture management trainings provided by her local Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). Still, nothing could have fully prepared her for the economic challenges 2020 would bring. The first weeks of the pandemic were especially trying, as nobody really knew how bad things would get. 

Federal economic assistance programs like the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provided small business owners like Laurie a source of comfort in the midst of the evolving health crisis. As Laurie recalls, “I knew that no matter what happened, the EIDL and PPP gave me a cushion” to help weather the storm. Over the following months, as she continued progressing through the 8(a) program, Laurie was thankful to have access to the capital she needed to hire people quickly for the federal contracting opportunities being made available to her. 

Eager to give back to those who have supported her journey, Laurie has served on various SBA advisory committees and participated in Congressional hearings in support of veteran-owned small businesses. What’s more, she looks forward to talking with and perhaps even mentoring other 8(a) firms in the future.

Laurie Sayles