Sandia LabNews

DOE awards Labs for helping small businesses

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MENTOR OF THE YEAR — Sandia Mentor Protégé Program Lead Royina Lopez, center, accepts the award for DOE Mentor of the Year at a ceremony on July 11. Ron Pierce, Director of DOE Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, left, and small-business owner Wendell Pierce presented the award. (Photo by Patricia Brown)

For the second consecutive year, Sandia’s Mentor-Protégé Program has been named Mentor of the Year by the DOE Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.

The DOE Awards Program has also named Sandia’s Supply Chain Subcontract Manager Sofia Delgadillo-Marrufo as Facility Management Contracting Officer of the Year, and Santa Fe-based Sandia subcontractor Wildflower International Ltd. was awarded HUBZone Small Business of the Year.

The annual DOE awards recognize small-business advocates for their efforts to help small businesses grow and share their technical solutions in support of national security and energy missions.

Mentor-Protégé Program

Sandia’s Mentor-Protégé Program, led by Royina Lopez, is now in its fourth year and is currently mentoring five small businesses:

  • Pluma LLC, a general construction business in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • Strategic Industry Inc., a construction business in Kingsburg, California.
  • CeLeen LLC, an information technology business in Perryville, Missouri.
  • Dynamic Structures and Materials LLC, a precision motion systems manufacturer in Franklin, Tennessee.
  • Compunetics Inc., a circuit board manufacturer in Monroeville, Pennsylvania.

Through its 127 mentors, the program provides specialized training and support that helps these businesses develop and grow, secure DOE prime contracts and subcontracts and foster long-term relationships that help Sandia achieve its mission. One way they do that is by providing innovative and reliable products necessary for the work that happens at Sandia.

Three of the five protégés are considered disadvantaged by the Small Business Administration. Pluma and Strategic Industry are owned by disabled veterans, and CeLeen is tribally owned.

Protégés say the help that Sandia has provided has proven priceless. “Learning the Sandia way and the different processes have been an eye-opener. We have taken the feedback and knowledge from Sandia and applied it to our safety plans and quality plans, which has helped the overall business. We are also seeing significant growth as a small business,” said representatives of Strategic Industry in the program’s nomination submission.

Facility Management Contracting Officer of the Year

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SMALL-BUSINESS ADVOCATE — Sandia Supply Chain Subcontract Manager Sofia Delgadillo-Marrufo, center, receives the Facility Management Contracting Officer of the Year award for her successful partnership with small business CeLeen through the Mentor-Protégé Program. (Photo by Patricia Brown)

Sofia, who was awarded Facility Management Contracting Officer of the Year, has been working for Sandia for nearly 20 years. She works closely with CeLeen in the Mentor-Protégé Program.

Through their partnership, Sofia helped identify areas of need at Sandia that could be met by CeLeen. She has helped the business learn and understand the procurement process, gain experience and grow their capabilities. The partnership has resulted in the awarding of two information technology contract purchase agreements to CeLeen, with a potential total value of $8 million.

The company currently provides software development, information technology project management and cloud-based support systems to help Sandia achieve its mission. Since it became a protégé, CeLeen has added six employees, which is significant growth for a business of its size.

“I was really happy to receive the recognition. I really enjoy what I do every day and working with CeLeen has been a growth opportunity for both of us,” Sofia said. “It has been a wonderful relationship that I look forward to continuing. I want to see how they succeed, not only at Sandia but across the entire DOE complex.”

HUBZone Small Business of the Year

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SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORTING LABS — The Wildflower International team, including Operations Manager Cheri Chandler, second from left, DOE Business Unit Director Justin Thigpen, center, and DOE Operations Senior Manager Marlena Lucero, second from right, accepts the HUBZone Small Business of the Year award. The award recognizes Wildflower’s critical support of Sandia, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories. (Photo by Patricia Brown)

Wildflower International, recognized as HUBZone Small Business of the Year, is a small information technology business based in Santa Fe that provides support to Sandia, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories. Wildflower International was founded by Kimberly deCastro in 1991 in her daughter’s bedroom. The business has been working with the DOE community ever since. The three national labs joined together to nominate Wildflower, stating that its understanding and handling of supply chain constraints helped Sandia and Los Alamos carry out their missions in a critical time.

The company provides, among other things, the ability for the labs to search for supplies within their own procurement system and deliver them in days instead of weeks, reducing the wait and cost. The company can provide 24-hour turnaround delivery for urgent needs. In fiscal year 2022, Wildflower filled 1,165 orders that included 61,166 items. It also helped negotiate special pricing from suppliers resulting in the savings of more than $3.2 million.

“Our customers are our mission, so the fact that we are being recognized for helping them complete their mission means that we’ve done a pretty good job at ours. It’s humbling and makes us all very proud,” said Justin Thigpen, DOE business unit director at Wildflower International.

“DOE is at the cornerstone of Wildflower’s history. It was the company’s first customer and remains its most important,” deCastro added. “DOE is both a customer and a mentor, with a commitment to mutual success. We are proud to serve our customer and our community. After all, shouldn’t it always be that way?”

Wildflower has transformed that way of thinking into an annual scholarship. Created in 2022, the Dell Technologies/Wildflower International Endowed Scholarship Fund provides financial support to high school students in northern New Mexico pursuing studies in computer science and other technologies. The inaugural recipient is Los Alamos homeschool student Samuel Landis, who has since secured an internship at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

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