Sandia LabNews

One year, many successes

Mentor-Protégé Program finishes inaugural year helping small businesses

Image of Mentor-Protege program virtual meeting
WORKSHOP SUCCESS — Representatives from small-business protégés and Sandia mentors take part in a continuous improvement workshop as part of the Labs’ Mentor-Protégé Program. Since the beginning of the program, protégés have participated in 15 virtual workshops, covering areas such as additive manufacturing and 3D printing, accounting, safety and security, cybersecurity, leadership and financial management. (Photo by Zach Mikelson)

Sandia’s Mentor-Protégé Program wrapped up its first year this October of working with small businesses, already making an impact with a new subcontract awarded to one participating company and several initiatives aimed at helping all three protégés thrive.

“We have been extremely successful, not only providing exceptional development assistance for our small-business protégés but also leveraging the knowledge and skills of Sandia mentors to support program initiatives,” said Royina Lopez, the Mentor-Protégé Program lead. “It is great working with such a diverse group of people, who have a passion and desire to collaboratively work toward increasing small-business participation at Sandia.”

Such participation increased in July when the first protégé was awarded a noncompetitive contract as allowed by federal regulations meant to bolster developmental assistance to protégés. CeLeen LLC, a small disadvantaged business based in Perryville, Missouri, with an operating location in Belleville, Illinois, was awarded a subcontract to complete data governance work at Sandia.

“The Mentor-Protégé Program is supporting us in strengthening our core operations as well as expanding our client base and vertical market solution offerings,” said Charles Hickey, vice president of client services for CeLeen. “We are truly thankful to the Mentor-Protégé Program core team, the leadership team and the many people at Sandia that have offered their time and support as mentors to CeLeen.”   

CeLeen also received a subcontract purchase agreement that will allow Sandia to mentor the professional and information technology service provider while completing individual orders with defined scopes, Royina said. Sandia is also working on subcontract purchase agreements for the other two small-business protégés in the program, Albuquerque-based Pluma LLC and Strategic Industry Inc., based in Kingsburg, California. Both companies are service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses specializing in construction.

Since the beginning of the Mentor-Protégé Program, the businesses have participated virtually in nearly three dozen one-on-one sessions and 15 workshops, covering areas such as additive manufacturing and 3D printing, accounting, continuous improvement, safety and security, cybersecurity, technical leadership and financial management. Sixty-seven mentors from all Sandia divisions have assisted with the workshops. The three protégés have at least one more year in the program with the option of a third.

“It was truly an honor to be able to help small businesses and to represent Sandia,” said Elsa Bonano, a system engineer and presenting mentor. “I am looking forward to continuing to work with CeLeen and Strategic and with future small businesses.”

With Sandia’s current program objectives focusing on mentoring protégés from construction and IT industries, the next opportunity will focus on Sandia’s mission area needs. Sandia is looking for businesses with a focus in cables and connectors, said Paul Sedillo, Sandia’s small-business program manager.

“I am looking forward to our next round of the Mentor-Protégé Program,” Paul said. “We are working closely with our nuclear deterrence mission area to find protégés that will help grow our supplier base in this critical area. This opportunity will allow Sandia to award up to three agreements. It is a great thing that the supplier diversity team and the small-business community can help in a meaningful way with this effort.”

Sandia’s fall 2021 mentor-protégé opportunity was recently posted on the Labs’ Business Opportunities website and received an overwhelmingly positive response from small businesses across the country, Paul said.