2023 Small Business Summit

Connect, Grow, Succeed

The DC Chamber of Commerce 2023 Small Business Summit will convene leaders from across local & federal governments and the small business industry for a deep dive into the state of the District of Columbia’s small business industry and the future vision, policy, and programs for all businesses. This year’s Summit will also feature a dedicated retail track with educational content tailored to our small retailers. Join us and be a part of shaping the future of small businesses in DC and beyond!

Program Attendee – Complimentary


  • Entrance to Makers Market, networking opportunities and morning program
  • Continental Breakfast
  • Attendance at featured workshops throughout the day


Awards Luncheon Attendee – $125 (Members) and $175 (Non-Members)


  • All of the above, plus 1 ticket to the Small Business Awards Luncheon with plated lunch (ticket is non-transferable)

Small Business Awards

Each year the DC Chamber of Commerce honors the success of small businesses who have contributed to the business and economic growth of our community. As valued Chamber members and community partners, we encourage you to submit nominations in any or all six of the award categories:

  • Small Business of the Year
  • Small Business Person of the Year
  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Non-Profit Organization of the Year
  • Small Business Champion of the Year
  • Women in Business Champion of the Year

Program Agenda

Registration Opens

7:30am – Concourse A Level 2

Makers Market & Business Networking

8:00am-8:45am – Room 202AB

Welcome and Opening Remarks

8:45am-9:45am – Room 202AB

Prior to joining the DC Chamber of Commerce as Interim President & CEO, Angela Franco was the Senior Advisor for Business Development at the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority (DCHBX) where she is responsible for collaborating with the Hispanic and business communities as well as local and Federal Government.

Prior to joining DCHBX, Angela was the President and CEO of the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GWHCC) from 2009 to 2017. Under her leadership, the organization was strengthened and revitalized as evidenced by its dramatic membership growth from 60 members when she started to 670 members upon her departure. It also experienced a 500% increase in operating revenue during her eight years of service. She led the organization in regaining the trust of its members, partners and sponsors.

The Washington Business Journal ranks the GWHCC among the Top Five Chambers of Commerce in the DC Metro Region. Before Angela’s arrival, it had never even made the list. In 2015, the GWHCC was named Chamber of the Year by the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and in 2013, received that organization’s award as the best midsized Chamber in the nation.

While at GWHCC, Angela pioneered the development of successful membership programs. She promoted business-to-business networking and synergistic relationship building, created training programs for owners of startup enterprises, built a bridge between the DC Metro Region and Latin America, and appeared before numerous government agencies as an advocate for the interests of regional Hispanic and minority businesses. Because of her passion and commitment, more than 70% of the Chamber’s members have grown their businesses and increased their ROI.

Ryan Chaffo is a senior business banking relationship manager for the Personal and Business Banking team in the Washington, D.C. Regional Center. His primary responsibility is to grow City National Bank’s presence in the Greater D.C. market through client and talent acquisition, alongside a targeted marketing strategy.

With more than 14 years of experience in commercial and business banking for various organizations Mr. Chaffo joined the DC Regional team in 2017. Prior to joining City National, he was a vice president, business banking relationship manager for M&T Bank, where he worked in both the New York City and Maryland markets.

Mr. Chaffo serves as an Executive Committee Member on the Board of Directors of the DC Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC. He is a resident of Annapolis, Maryland, where he lives with his wife and two children. Outside the office, he enjoys spending time with his family boating and fishing on the Chesapeake Bay.

Jacquay Henderson is Founder and CEO of the award-winning technology consulting firm Square Peg Technologies. The firms core competencies are in Data Analytics, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and technology design. They use the latest technologies to help the United States government Intelligence Community and Department of Defense in solving the nation’s most intriguing and challenging data issues pertaining to national security.

Jacquay is active in the business and technology communities and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the DC Chamber of Commerce, Co-Chair of the Small Business Advisory Council for the DC Chamber of Commerce, Contributing Member to Washington Business Journals Leadership Trust, Board of Advisors for the Industrial Engineering and Manufacturing Department at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and serves on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, where he is guiding engineering research experiments and where he has dedicated his company resources to a joint venture with the College of Engineering and the National Science Foundation’s Technology Infusion Program (TIP) which is geared towards boosting enrollment and enhancing the experience of minority students at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. Lastly, he and his company are members of Department of Defense’s – Space Enterprise Consortium where they are prototyping and building the next generation of space technologies for NASA, Air Force and Space Force.

Jacquay holds a Bachelors and Masters in Industrial Engineering from Florida State University. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), holds a certificate from the MIT Sloan School of Management in Artificial Intelligence, a certified Six Sigma Green Belt and was named Small Business Person of the Year in 2019 by the DC Chamber of Commerce.

Kenyan R. McDuffie, Councilmember for Ward 5, was first elected to the Council of the District of Columbia in a 2012 special election, and re-elected to full four-year terms in 2014 and again in 2018.

Since 2013 he has served as the Chairman Pro Tempore of the Council. Since 2017, Kenyan has served as the Chairperson of the Committee on Business and Economic Development where he has championed efforts to make the District’s economy more inclusive and support minority- and women-owned local businesses. Previously, Kenyan served as Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary, where he oversaw sweeping updates to the District’s criminal justice law.

Kenyan successfully passed comprehensive juvenile justice reform and also passed the innovative Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Act (NEAR Act) which reforms the District’s criminal justice system by incorporating behavioral and mental health professionals to perform tasks that previously fell to law enforcement officers.

Prior to joining the Council, Kenyan worked extensively in the legal and public safety fields. Kenyan served as a trial attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He has also worked as an Assistant State’s Attorney in Prince George’s County and as policy advisor to the District of Columbia’s Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice.

Kenyan graduated summa cum laude from Howard University and went on to receive his Juris Doctor from the University of Maryland School of Law. Nationally, Kenyan has been featured on NewsOne Now, MSNBC, and National Public Radio. Kenyan and his wife, Princess, live in his childhood home in Ward 5 with their two daughters, Kesi and Jozi.

Morning Keynote

Schaefer is Founder and CEO of a chain of Ace Hardware stores located in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Alexandria, VA, Takoma Park, MD and Silver Spring, MD. She is a passionate entrepreneur who grew her company from one to 13 stores in 18 years and now leads a multimillion-dollar business that employs more than 250 people. She is dedicated to maintaining a strong corporate culture. Schaefer’s big passion is for developing urban markets, supporting small businesses and helping women to succeed in all aspects of the hardware industry. She has tirelessly focused on the “Return to Main Street” movement in her own city of Washington, D.C., to promote Shop Local campaigns and community revitalization in urban areas.

Schaefer draws her inspiration from fellow entrepreneurs who strive to be creative, think differently and help make a difference. People like Judy Wicks, founder of the White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia who inspired her to use her voice as a force for good; Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig, founders of gourmet food group Zingerman’s Community of Businesses in Michigan, from whom Schaefer learned innovative business strategies and Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, who taught her that nonprofit organizations need to think beyond simple charity.

When her busy schedule allows, Schaefer likes to relax by making greeting cards (she’s a big believer in the power of the written note), kayaking, taking spin classes, traveling, reading and, of course, mentoring other small business owners.

Workshop A: Create Your Own Success: A Workshop on Starting Your Business

1st session: 10:00am-11:00am. 2nd session: 11:20am-12:20pm – Room 204A

Join our esteemed panelists as they share insights and experiences to help start and organize your business successfully. From navigating regulations to securing financing and mastering digital marketing, this workshop offers practical guidance and a roadmap to entrepreneurship. Don’t miss this exciting
opportunity to create your own success.

Karima M. Woods is the sixth Commissioner of the District of Columbia’s Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB). Mayor Muriel Bowser nominated Woods on January 21, 2020 and the Council of the District of Columbia unanimously confirmed the nomination on July 28, 2020.

In her role, Commissioner Woods serves as the chief financial services regulator for the District’s financial services industries, including insurance companies, captive insurance companies, investment advisors, securities broker dealers, mortgage loan originators, mortgage lenders and brokers, state-chartered banks, student loan servicers and money transmitters. The Commissioner is also responsible for managing financial empowerment and education programs that include the Opportunity Accounts Program, Financially Fit DC, and the forthcoming Financial Empowerment Center. The Commissioner also administers the District’s access to capital programs pursuant to the Treasury Department’s State Small Business Credit Initiative. The Commissioner oversees, for Fiscal Year 2023, the Department’s $37.4 million budget, 157 employees and approximately $45 million in revenue.

Woods has over 20 years of experience in community and economic development with a focus on providing strategic leadership, organizational development, stakeholder engagement and global outreach to businesses and community organizations. Woods served in various leadership positions during her tenure with the District of Columbia government including Director of Business Development and Strategy, Deputy Director of Business Development, and International Business Manager. Her leadership has led to the successful execution of Mayor Bowser’s economic strategy and helped to drive the District’s business attraction and retention efforts across key business sectors.

Woods serves on several boards and commissions, including as Executive Board Member of the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority, member of the Board of Directors of the Washington DC Economic Partnership, and member of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Special Committee on Race and Insurance.

Woods holds a Master of Business Administration from George Washington University and Bachelor of Arts in law and society from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Woods is married and lives with her husband and two daughters in Washington, DC.

As the newly appointed Interim Director of the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (DLCP), Shirley Kwan-Hui is a seasoned administrator who brings over 20 years of executive leadership experience in across both the public and private sectors.

Most recently the Deputy Director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), she served as the strategic advisor to the agency Director and ensured successful execution of policies, strategies, and operations across the agency.  She was responsible for overall agency performance and data management, the Office of Information Services (OIS), operations, and administrative functions including budget and finance, procurement and contract management, human resources, facilities, and risk management. Also, she oversaw special and consumer protection investigations, customer service and account management.

Before joining DCRA, she was the Chief of Staff for the Department of For-Hire Vehicles (DFHV) having previously served as the Chief of Operations. At DFHV, Shirley managed day-to-day operations and implemented strategic initiatives for the agency .

Earlier in her career, she was the Program Manager of Agency Performance Accountability at the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO). There, she managed the agency performance, grants, and audit functions.  She was also the TechStat Program Analyst for the Strategy and Special Operations Division, OCTO, where she also led strategic planning and policy development.

Prior to joining the District of Columbia government, Shirley served as the Assistant Treasurer and previous as the Senior Accountant, Asset Servicing Global Operations at the Bank of New York Mellon. At Deutsche Bank, she also served as the Client Accounting and Reporting Administrator.

Shirley received a B.S. in Business Management, with a concentration in Finance, from the Binghamton University, State University of New York. Additionally, Shirley is a graduate of the District’s Executive Leadership Program (ELP).

Mr. Carl Brown has held executive and leadership positions in a variety of industries in the private and public sectors. He has been called a “Transformational leader” by Earl “Butch” Graves, Jr., publisher of Black Enterprise magazine.

Mr. Brown has over two and a half decades of experience; he currently is a Supervisory, Contracting Officer for the District of Columbia, and prior to that he was a small business counselor at the Howard University Small Business Development Center. Mr. Brown served five years as the Executive Director at the Center for Minority Business Development. His previous work history includes: Manager for Business Development, DBE Programs, Director of Civil Rights, and Acting Assistant General Manager for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA); Senior Contracts Manager at Verizon Communications; Director of Human Resources at Pepsi-Cola of Washington; Senior Purchasing Agent, Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission; and as a Procurement Specialist at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Carl has a reputation for being fair, honest and a policy guru. He has written legislation in support of strengthening minority business programs and contract compliance. He has provided volunteer leadership support to the City of Bowie Economic Development Committee; Boy Scouts Troop 1559; and the City of Bowie Education Committee. He is the former President of Northview Elementary School and a graduate of Leadership Montgomery in Montgomery County, MD. He has uniquely served as a Human Relations Commissioner in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, MD. When campaigning for a seat on the Bowie City Council the newspapers called him “Blunt Taking Brown, he will tell you the truth like it or not.”

Mr. Brown is a visionary who uses his gifts to help empower the minority business community. He recently received a certificate in Government Contracting from George Washington University; has a certificate as a Contract Compliance Administrator, (CCA), from Morgan State University. He earned a MGA, from University of Maryland University College; and a B.A. from Howard University; a Masters Certificate in Human Resource Management from University of Maryland University College; and a Certificate in Leadership Development from the University of Maryland Executive Leadership Institute. Mr. Brown is the recipient of numerous awards and citations for his work in the community and with minority owned businesses.

Married to Evelyn Brown, they have twins, a son and daughter who have been on the honor roll every year and both are involved in scouting.

Thomas Sanchez is the CEO and Co-Founder of Social Driver, a digital agency known for its groundbreaking work in creative strategy, digital marketing, and social media. He also serves as Chairman of DC’s Innovation & Technology Inclusion Council and on the Board of Directors for The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis organization for LGBTQ young people.

Social Driver is a digital and creative agency that launches groundbreaking strategies for many of the leading corporate and nonprofit brands in the United States. The firm’s capabilities range from user experience design, website development & maintenance, creative production, and social media expertise with services that span into advanced strategies for brand alignment, awareness, growth, reputation, and advocacy.

Under Thomas’s leadership, the agency has received wide acclaim for its collaborative culture and cutting-edge client partnerships, including recently being ranked as one of the Top Agencies in the United States by Clutch and recognized on the Best and Brightest Companies list as a top national employer.

Before Social Driver, Thomas had a successful career at Cerner Corporation where he co-created one of the most widely used medical records applications, launched a digital-focused consulting practice, and helped the company expand around the world.

Credited as a top minority innovator and entrepreneur, the Financial Times included Thomas on their worldwide list of the foremost LGBTQ executives, the Washington Business Journal featured Thomas on their list of Minority Business Leaders, and Social Driver was ranked as a Minority Business Enterprise 100 company. In 2022, the DC Chamber of Commerce honored Thomas as their Business Leader of the Year. 

Workshop B: Growing Strong: Building and Expanding Your Business

1st session: 10:00am-11:00am. 2nd session: 11:20am-12:20pm – Room 204B

This dynamic panel of experts will provide practical advice on identifying growth opportunities, how to build a strong business foundation, and overcome common challenges faced by small business owners. Whether you’re just starting your business or looking to grow an established one, this workshop will provide valuable insights and actionable tips that can help take your business to the next level. Attendees will also learn how to leverage government resources, strategic partnerships, and certifications to expand their business, as well as a network of contacts and resources that can help achieve goals.

Ronnette Meyers is President and CEO of JLAN Solutions, a leading provider of management, training, and information technology services to Federal, state, and local government.

After an extensive career as a Federal employee, Ms. Meyers helped found a small, woman-owned government contractor, serving as Senior Vice President for Corporate Services. She was an integral part of the company’s development into an award-winning business with over $34 million in annual revenues.

In 2010, having honed her executive management and leadership skills, Ms. Meyers took the leap and founded her own firm, JLAN Solutions, LLC. JLAN now serves numerous Federal and DC government agencies. Ms. Meyers’ leadership and stellar reputation for integrity and quality service have earned her numerous accolades, including the Washington Business Journal 2020 Minority Business Leader Award, DC Chamber of Commerce 2020 Women in Business Champion of the Year, DC Department of Small and Local Business 2018 Certified Business Enterprise of the Year and acceptance into the highly selective Goldman Sachs 10k Small Business program.

Among her philanthropic activities is service on the board of the Dreaming Out Loud Foundation, Bishop McNamara High School and she supports the Wounded Warriors, Project Giveback, GrantEd, Luke’s Wings, E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, and many other charitable organizations and endeavors. 

Just as she was inspired when growing up on the grounds of the Ramstein United States Air Force Base in Germany, Ronnette Meyers was exposed at an early age to the importance of public service. It is clear that the lessons she learned there have inspired her life and her career trajectory, as she has made it her mission to give back to her country and her community.

Mr. Gomez is Founder and CEO of Factum Global, a boutique international consulting firm dedicated tohelping businesses and associations expand and operate across global markets. As leader of the firm, hisvision is to establish Factum Global as the most trusted international consulting source for organizationsexpanding internationally. Mr. Gomez has significant experience in international strategy andoperations, and association management. He has successfully managed complex operations and helpedbuild profitable businesses across the globe.

Prior to founding Factum Global in 2018, Mr. Gomez served as Director of Global Strategy and MarketDevelopment at the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, where he leda multi-function department, consisting of international operations, marketing and sales, research andproduct development, and member services. He was also a member of ACS’ Global Steering Committeeand was responsible for growing the association’s global reach. Prior to joining ACS, Mr. Gomez workedas a consultant for G&G Consulting, serving clients focused on strategic planning and organizationaleffectiveness. He also served as District Manager at the Healthcare Services Group Inc., where hedirected a multi-million-dollar operation in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

Mr. Gomez is a serial presenter and has contributed to numerous conferences and events on topicsranging from business strategy and innovation, to international operations and leadership. In addition,he has instructed courses on global cultural sensitivity, international expansion, and leadership. Mr.Gomez earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration and management from MarshallUniversity, and earned his MBA from the Kogod School of Business at American University. In addition,he earned an executive education certificate on Leading Global Businesses at Harvard University. Anative of Colombia, Mr. Gomez is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, and enjoys traveling, is an avidgolfer and is a soccer enthusiast.

Larry G. Webb has served as District Director of the SBA’s Washington Metropolitan Area District Office (WMADO) since August 16, 2021. He leads a team that provides business development services, training and support to entrepreneurs and partner organizations throughout the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia and Suburban Maryland. Among the SBA’s 68 district offices, WMADO manages the agency’s largest portfolio of participating firms in the 8(a) Business Development Program.

Webb joined the SBA as Senior Legal Counsel in 2011. In this role with the SBA’s Office of General Counsel, he chaired the Fraud, Waste and Abuse Task Force and implemented public-facing enforcement reporting. Webb was also appointed to the Executive Steering Council, which oversaw the modernization of the agency’s loan management and accounting system. In addition, he served as a labor and employment attorney for the SBA, where he was the designated SBA representative before a variety of administrative bodies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Among Webb’s responsibilities was training and advising SBA management on employment, labor, performance and disciplinary matters. His most recent position was lead attorney for SBA’s Outreach and Marketing Team, during which he oversaw public-private partnerships, gifts to the SBA, memoranda of understanding, branding, social media and marketing. He also provided advice to the SBA on the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and delivered government-wide training sessions through the General Services Administration (GSA).

Prior to joining the SBA, Larry G. Webb served as Assistant Director of Law for the City of Cleveland, where he worked primarily as a civil litigator for the City’s self-sustaining business enterprises. During his tenure, he helped the Office of Equal Opportunity streamline and bolster its enforcement procedures, which ultimately led to the City collecting the largest fine ever levied against a prime contractor. Additionally, Webb served as Vice President of the Norman S. Minor Bar Association (NSMBA), founded in 1980 as Cleveland’s first full-fledged African American bar association. His earlier roles include being a criminal defense attorney, an executive director of a nonprofit organization and a business analyst.

Larry G. Webb holds a Juris Doctorate from Case Western Reserve University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and political science from Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri. He and his husband currently reside in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Kristi C. Whitfield is the Director of the DC Department of Small and Local Development (DSLBD), a government agency with a mission to support the development, economic growth, and retention of District-based businesses, and to promote economic development throughout the District’s commercial corridors. This work allows the agency to connect District businesses in real-time with local, federal, and global business opportunities; help businesses navigate the government’s contracting and procurement landscape quickly, confidently, and effectively; and propel every entrepreneur with a great idea and a comprehensive plan towards the capital to make it happen.

Born to activist parents, Mrs. Whitfield has never been afraid to have a voice and use her unique voice to advocate for people often overlooked. As a product of a planned community, Mrs. Whitfield has experienced first-hand how, through structure and organization, equity and opportunity can be afforded to all. Mrs. Whitfield regularly states, “Socio-economic status should never determine one’s access to opportunity.”

As a part of a hard-working family and entrepreneurial father, education has always been a pillar of Mrs. Whitfield’s family culture. Upon this strong home foundation, Mrs. Whitfield motivated herself to the heights of academia. Mrs. Whitfield attended Swarthmore College, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology with a concentration in Black Studies, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.). She received a Master of City Planning degree with a focus in Housing and Community Development. As a result of Mrs. Whitfield’s relentless drive, she has placed no limitations on what she can do or explore. Before being appointed by Mayor Bowser to lead DSLBD, Mrs. Whitfield garnered experience in various sectors, from being Director of the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development to a DC proud business owner of the nationally recognized “Curbside Cupcakes.” Or, as Mrs. Whitfield would say it, “I went from consultant to a baker, to a government director.”

When Mayor Bowser appointed Mrs. Whitfield, she knew that she was appointing a relentless advocate for the District’s small and local business community who would take on the challenge of identifying and implementing new ways to propel all District residents and businesses towards their fair shot to opportunities.

When Mrs. Whitfield is not in the office, she enjoys spending all her time with her husband, Sam, and their two boys.

Vanessa Foster is the Growth and Retention specialist at WBEC Greater DMV, with a passion for women’s growth and success. Throughout her career, she has dedicated herself to uplifting women and people in need, including working at the Department of State, where she assisted spouses and families of federal employees overseas, and at the non-profit organization, So Others Might Eat (SOME), which focuses on helping the homeless find housing and medical care.

With a desire to continue helping women and others, Vanessa joined the WBEC Greater DMV network nearly two years ago. Initially, she was part of the certification team, ensuring that women-owned businesses met the gold standard of certification. Currently, as the Growth and Retention specialist, her primary objective is to promote the benefits of WBENC certification and encourage women to join the network, where they can receive support.

Workshop C: Connecting the Dots of the Procurement Process

1st session: 10:00am-11:00am. 2nd session: 11:20am-12:20pm – Room 204C

This informative workshop aims to help small businesses navigate the complex procurement process. Attendees will get an inside look including the various stages involved, key decision makers, and how to effectively market your business to government agencies. Participants will also hear experts share the latest trends and best practices in procurement, as well as strategies for winning government contracts at the federal and local levels.

Vandana Sinha is editor-in-chief for the Washington Business Journal, where she oversees the digital and print operations for the publication. She joined the newsroom in 2006 and had covered biotech, health and energy before moving into editing roles.

Before the WBJ, Sinha was an associate editor at the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at the American Press Institute, helping develop content for business journalism training programs around the country. She has worked at The Virginian-Pilot, the daily newspaper in Hampton Roads, as well as at technology publications formerly owned by The Washington Post Co. 

Mandy Wylie is a Senior Small Business Specialist and the Service Disable Veteran Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB) advocate the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization in the Procurement Assistance Division. In this capacity, she serves to help small business owners to market their products and services and increase the participation of small businesses in DOT procurement opportunities.

Mandy has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and 13 years of experience in Federal contracting and acquisition policy. She started her federal career as a Contracts Specialist at the Department of Homeland Security in the Office of Procurement Operations. In the fall of 2016, Mandy joined the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Acquisition and Grants Management as a Senior Contracting Officer. Starting in 2018, Mandy was promoted internally to the Team Leader in the Office of Acquisition Policy and Oversight. In this capacity, Mandy served as the Small Business Specialist for FHWA until she transferred to OSDBU as the Senior Small Business Specialist in March 2023. 

Denise Benjamin Sirmons serves as the Director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, responsible for leading the EPA’s efforts to advance the business, regulatory and environmental compliance concerns of small and disadvantaged businesses.

Denise has served in various leadership positions at the EPA, including in the Office of Diversity, Advisory Committee Management and Outreach, Office of Grants and Debarment, and the Office of Acquisition Management. Before joining the EPA, Denise was the Assistant General Counsel for Contracting at the U.S. Small Business Administration, and worked as a litigator for a major national law firm.

Denise holds a Master of Laws Degree in Government Procurement Law, with Honors, from George Washington University Law School. She also earned a Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Howard University Law School, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She is the recipient of several awards, including the Patricia A. Tobin Government Contracts Award. She has also published articles in the Public Contract Law Journal and the Howard Law Journal.

Small Business Awards Luncheon

12:30pm-2:30pm – Room 207AB

Despite years of uncertainty and mixed economic forecasts, the move to digital is helping companies of all sizes make transformational breakthroughs in how they do business and serve customers. New technologies, in particular, have become an imperative for small businesses – enabling them to meet customer demands and grow their digital footprint. Learn how through a mix of world-class technology, the proper collaboration tools and the right resources, Small Businesses can enhance their business and set themselves up for success in addressing everything from productivity issues and labor pressures to the ever changing competitive landscape.

Retail Workshop 1: Retail Beginner's Guide

10:00am-11:00am – Room 202AB

Retail business owners will learn practical insights on navigating the local retail landscape, obtaining necessary licenses and permits, leveraging data analytics to drive retail success, accessing financing options, and designing a retail space that meets the needs of customers and employees. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from industry experts and gain the knowledge and resources needed to start or grow a successful retail business in Washington D.C.

Johnny Bailey is a business coach and marketing consultant. His mission is to close the racial gap and he believes technology, entrepreneurship, and financial wellness are the solution. He is the CEO of Bailey Media Group and featured in Forbes, Yahoo! Finance, Capital One, Blavity, and Black Enterprise for his work accelerating the Black economy.

Thomas Penny is President of Donohoe Hospitality. As the senior leader of Donohoe Hospitality, Thomas guides the operation of a portfolio of 15 business class hotels, which are affiliated with the Marriott, Hilton, Choice and InterContinental Hotels Group. Thomas’ leadership responsibilities for Donohoe Hospitality include strategic planning, overall operational direction, development and acquisition of properties, and long-term financial and capital planning.

Thomas is a career hospitality professional with multi-brand hotel experience and a history of achieving above-average results in the areas of employee satisfaction, guest satisfaction, market share and profitability. Thomas joined The Donohoe Companies in 1996 and he has shared a successful 21+ year career with the company in both a developmental and hands-on operational capacity. Thomas serves on the Board of the American Hotel & Lodging Association and is a past Board Chair and member of the Hotel Association of Washington, DC.

Retail Workshop 2: Marketing Your Retail Business on a Budget

11:30am-12:30pm – – Room 202AB

Expert panelists will share valuable insights on practical strategies for promoting your retail business without breaking the bank. Our panelists will cover topics such as storytelling, social media, influencer marketing, customer reviews, and building a standout brand. You’ll learn how to attract new customers and build a loyal customer base, as well as network with fellow business owners. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from experts in the field and apply practical knowledge to your own business!

Madia Brown is a rising tech innovator and founder of award-winning agency, Brandire, a creative brand marketing studio based in Washington, D.C. that offers bespoke marketing communications services and technology-driven products. Since 2006, Brandire has grown to service nearly 100 clients globally. Madia has executed marketing services for multi-million dollar organizations that provide services for over half a million residents annually, like National Museum of African American History and Culture, Johns Hopkins Medicines’s Sibley Memorial Hospital, and over 20 DC government agencies. Using her 15+ years experience and expertise in brand development, storytelling, and marketing, Madia has set out to change the way emerging businesses build brands and create equity in the marketing space by making quality brand development and marketing services affordable for those who need it the most. In 2020 she launched a tech product, called Brandme, a self-paced and automated brand development platform that helps emerging business owners launch their brands — from strategy to design to collateral — in a fraction of the time and cost of working with a traditional agency.

Tiffany Capri Hainesworth, is the unstoppable force behind TCapri® Tequila.

For decades, Tiffany pursued her passion for flavor and hospitality in private while she worked for the government. After a car accident caused a traumatic brain injury and she began suffering from seizures and debilitating migraine headaches, she re-evaluated her life. Her newfound clarity led to her flagship business, TCapri Gourmet Treats. Tiffany’s boozy Gourmet Treats became a way to tantalize taste buds, create momentous occasions, and spread joy. 

With the success of her treats she began to dream even bigger. In 2018, Tiffany packed up and flew to Jalisco Mexico in pursuit of the ultimate tequila. With strength and determination, she overcame numerous obstacles and made history when TCapri® Tequila became the first solely Black woman owned tequila brand.

Carolina Furukrona is the Brazilian native behind NOVA BOSSA, a lifestyle boutique where artisanal techniques meet cutting-edge design. Launched in 2017, NOVA BOSSA partners with international fashion and home designers to offer an authentic, global and fresh definition of luxury through design. The brand is a bridge between Carolina’s international experiences and her commitment to social responsibility.

Retail Workshop 3: Scaling Retail Business in Post Pandemic Era

2:30pm-3:30pm – Room 202AB

This workshop offers retail business owners an opportunity to learn from industry experts who have successfully adapted and thrived in the new retail environment. Panelists will share the latest trends and strategies for scaling retail businesses, including digital transformation, omnichannel marketing, and customer engagement. Attendees will also have the opportunity to ask questions and engage with the panelists during the session. The workshop is designed to provide practical advice and actionable insights for small business retail owners to navigate the post-pandemic retail landscape with confidence and success

Pauline Idogho is the Founder/CEO of Mocktail Club, a line of premium crafted ready-to-drink non-alcoholic cocktails inspired by her quest tofind sophisticated and better-for-you alternatives to alcohol. Prior tofounding the company, Pauline had a 15-year career in investmentbanking, international development and clean energy finance.Companies she has worked for include the International FinanceCorporation (the private arm of the World Bank). She has lived, workedand traveled around Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, whichhelped to inspire the rich and sophisticated flavor profiles of theMocktail Club line. One percent of Mocktail Club’s sales go to supportclean water access globally through the organization Water for People.Pauline is a board member for Water for People. Pauline is also the

Treasurer and head of the Finance Committee of the Adult Non-Alcoholic Beverage Association (ANBA).

Pauline is originally from Nigeria and moved to the UK when she wasyounger. She holds a Bachelors in Economics from Howard Universityand MBA in Finance from The Wharton School of Business at theUniversity of Pennsylvania.

About Mocktail ClubMocktail Club is a line of premium crafted ready-to-drink non-alcoholiccocktails. Mocktail Club recreates the complexity of a great cocktailwithout the alcohol using bold and unique flavors, inspired by travel. Weuse better-for-you ingredients such as superfruits and prebiotics, soyour drink works for you. Our mission is to redefine the social drinkingexperience so that everyone can celebrate together.

Workforce Development Workshop A: “Meeting the Needs of a Post-Covid Labor Market Through Skills-based, Inclusive Hiring Practices”

10:00am and 11:20am Room 201

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the labor market has dramatically changed and despite record-low unemployment rates in the US, many business owners are struggling to fill open positions. The reality of being chronically understaffed has made economic and financial recovery challenging. To overcome these challenges, employers need to change the way that they recruit and retain employees. The DC Workforce Investment Council has partnered with District Bridges to develop a suite of tools and resources to support DC businesses in meeting this moment. Come learn more about what the future DC labor market will look like and how as a business skills-based, inclusive hiring can help you succeed.

Workforce Development Workshop B: “Secrets to Securing Quality Talent | The Conversation”

11:20am Room 206

Your Talent Development teams are facing two major challenges right now. The present and the future. Connecting the right people to the right opportunities at the right time can determine the success of your organization. In the past, job security, decent compensation, or at least a tangible opportunity was the price of entry for people coming into organizations. Now a massive number of employees not only want to feel invested in the work they do, they also want their employer invested in the same things they value and believe in. To prepare the future workforce, organizations must update their talent strategy—starting with a refreshed employee value proposition as a cornerstone for attracting and retaining top talent. Join the conversation with our diverse panel of workforce leaders as we unlock the secrets to securing quality talent to optimize and grow your organization.

Conversations with Local Retail Legends


Small Business of the Year, Brandire

Brandire is an award-winning full-service strategy-focused, woman- and Black-owned Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) creative brand marketing communications studio with a desire to help their clients make an impact in the world – one story at a time. Founded in 2006 by Madia Brown, a career journalist of 13 years at The Washington Post, Brandire is constantly looking for new ways to improve its products and services to serve the greater good. Their strong focus on innovation has allowed them to not only help large institutions, like Johns Hopkins Sibley Memorial Hospital and Children’s National Hospital, effectively tell their brand story, but also assist small- and emerging-business owners who need branding support the most. It’s this commitment to the business community that makes Brandire the Small Business of the Year.

Small Business Person of the Year, Cary Hatch, MDB Communications

As a native Washingtonian CEO, and an unwavering advocate for the District and greater Washington region, Cary Hatch is a long-standing champion of small, women, and minority-owned businesses. With more than 30 years of experience in advertising and marketing, Cary is the CEO of MDB Communications and has established a formidable track record in business and consumer communications, both domestic and international. Her broad-based client experience includes National Geographic, Fannie Mae, Destination DC, International Spy Museum, Sprint, and many others. She has been recognized on the POWER 100, the Washington Business Journal’s list of the most influential business leaders, for four consecutive years. She currently serves as the Chairman of the Mid-Atlantic Board of Governors for the American Association of Advertising Agencies, as well as the Washington DC Leadership Committee for the Ad Council and is a board member for the $2B University System of Maryland Foundation. It is an honor to recognize Cary as the Small Business Person of the Year for her outstanding leadership and success in small business.

Women in Business Champion, Betty J. Hines, Women Elevating Women

Betty J. Hines is a business strategist and founder of Women Elevating Women (W.E.W.), a business conference providing a platform where all women, multi-cultural, women of color, women veterans, women with disabilities, LGBTQ who are executives and entrepreneurs, can come together to openly share and to learn from each other. W.E.W. fosters a community where women want to elevate each other in their careers. Through her work, Betty serves as a powerful mentor, advocate, and pioneer for women in business with a powerhouse network of business owners that she advises, instructs, and elevates through her work as a business strategist. She has been honored for her work including a recent 2022 International SHE Award Honoree (Dubai UAE); the Women Presidents Organization (WPO) 2021 President’s Award for Facilitating Greatness and the 2020 International Adrienne Hall Award. Betty Hines’ work speaks for itself and makes her the perfect honoree for the Women in Business Champion award.

Non-Profit of the Year, Washington Area Community Investment Fund (WACIF)

Established in 1987, the Washington Area Community Investment Fund’s (WACIF) mission is to increase equity and economic opportunity in underserved communities in the Washington, DC area by investing knowledge, social, and financial capital in low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs. In 2022, WACIF dispersed over $25M in grants and loans to entrepreneurs and small business owners, provided advisory services to more than 700 entrepreneurs, and helped to create and retain over 5,200 local jobs. WACIF also acquired the Anacostia Arts Center (AAC) to create the largest center for entrepreneurship in the region, continuing its strategic community investments to drive equity and opportunity while honoring and uplifting support entrepreneurs and the creative economy. The AAC project is one component of WACIF’s commitment to invest $100 million in our communities, reach 5,000 entrepreneurs with advisory services, and help entrepreneurs create and retain 100,000 local jobs. The Chamber is proud to congratulate WACIF as the Non-Profit of the Year for their unwavering commitment to supporting the economic vitality of the District.

Small Business Champion of the Year, Comcast R.I.S.E.

The Comcast RISE (Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment) initiative was created in 2020 to help small businesses hard hit by COVID-19 recover and thrive and is one of several programs that Comcast has overseen that is aimed at achieving digital equity. In the past two years since launching the program, Comcast provided over $110 million in monetary, marketing, and technology grants and reached the program’s goal of supporting 13,000 small businesses owned by people of color and women. In DC, Comcast awarded 200 small businesses owned by people of color and women with $10,000 grants. This represents a $2M investment in the success of DC small businesses. Comcast has been intentional about partnering with organizations that have strong tentacles in the small business community, especially those whose beneficiaries or members have the greatest need. Comcast looks forward to introducing a new phase of RISE in 2023, which will continue our efforts and help an even broader range of small businesses while continuing our focus on diversity, inclusion, and community investment. For all that they do to invest and uplift the small business community, congratulations to Small Business Champion of the Year – Comcast R.I.S.E.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Amanda Preske, Because Science

Amanda Preske is a young entrepreneur who combined her passion for science with a love of art to create her company Because Science. Amanda began making jewelry out of broken circuit boards by casting them in resin to create pendants while attending the Rochester Institute of Technology. The result was striking, and craft show customers fell in love with the interplay between art and science. After successfully defending her Ph.D. thesis, Amanda directed all of her energy toward growing her business as one of the most prolific creators of handmade and custom circuit board art in the world. Amanda took the leap of faith to open her first brick-and-mortar store this year in Adams Morgan in a retail space that had been vacant for years. The Chamber congratulates Amanda Preske as the Young Entrepreneur of the Year for her creative passion to make her business dreams a reality.

Small Business Summit Partners

The DC Chamber of Commerce would like to thank our partners and sponsors.

Event Sponsor

Award Sponsor

Breakfast Reception Sponsor

Morning Keynote Sponsor

Luncheon Keynote Sponsor

Makers Market Sponsor

Workforce Development Sponsor

Media Partners


Gold Sponsors

Silver Sponsors

  • ACSI Translations
  • Comcast
  • MDB Communications

Bronze Sponsors

  • Brandire
  • City National Bank
  • Factum Global
  • First National Bank
  • JLAN Solutions
  • Square Peg Technologies
  • TD Bank
  • Usource Construction

2023 Small Business Summit

May 09 2023
7:30 am - 3:30 pm


Washington Convention Center
801 Mount Vernon Place Northwest, Washington, DC, USA