Posted on November 14, 2013

Boots to Business Workshop Gives Veteran-Owned Businesses a Step Up

By Tony Khing

SAN FRANCISCO — PG&E took a big step toward supporting those members of the military who are returning to civilian life when it hosted a first-of-its-kind workshop this week.

On Tuesday (Nov. 12), nearly 100 veteran and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses attended the first Boots to Business workshop held at PG&E’s main offices in San Francisco. For three hours, attendees were introduced to what it takes to become a PG&E supplier and to the available resources to help them succeed.

PG&E's Mary King welcomed attendees to the Boots to Business workshop. (Photo by Tony Khing.)

PG&E is the first California utility to hold this type of event, which was hosted by the company’s supplier diversity department.

“When I came to corporate America, I lost that sense of belonging every solider or officer has in the military,” said Mary King, chief of staff to the president of PG&E and a former U.S. Army captain, who delivered the opening remarks. “This type of workshop will help connect us again. PG&E can’t be successful without our diverse suppliers. It’s a critical part of providing safe and reliable service to 15 million Americans who live in Northern and Central California.”

The event was considered a real success.

“This event is designed to bring awareness. It’s been very well received,” said Tim McLaughlin, PG&E supplier diversity consultant, who also said the workshop will probably be held next year. “This is an event that goes beyond just disabled veteran businesses. It’s to our veteran universe.”

Besides learning how to become a PG&E supplier, attendees:

  • Were told how to become a certified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Enterprise (DVBE)
  • Learned how to acquire certification for a veteran-owned business (VOB)
  • Got an introduction to the U.S. Government’s Boots to Business program and other Small Business Administration (SBA) programs for DVBEs and VOBs
  • Were told where to access investment capital from secondary markets such as angel investors and venture capitalists
  • And heard how diverse suppliers can gain a competitive advantage by going global.

But the workshop was about more than just learning tips and tricks. The event provided a chance for businesses to network.

“This was an opportunity for me to learn and to see what other opportunities are out there for veteran enterprises,” said Michael Robirds of MDR Inc., whose company has worked with PG&E since 2010. “I wanted to introduce myself and some of the services we provide to PG&E to other people. Maybe I can help other veteran entities provide their services to PG&E.”

Randy Sinnott, a former U.S. Marine colonel and founding partner of the Sinnott, Puebla, Campagne and Curet law firm, attended “to deepen my relationship with PG&E and to find out if there are other aspects of the company we can help with. There are very few DBE law firms in California. We’re very pleased and proud to be working with PG&E.”

Nearly 100 veteran and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses attended the event.

In addition to helping businesses grow, these veterans also shared advice with their brethren.

“Find someone at PG&E who you can work and partner with,” said Robirds, who suffered from noise exposure while fighting in Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom. “We were fortunate. We had a couple of folks who were with us all the way through the process. We always had that key contact that could always answer our questions.”

Sinnott said the businesses should be realistic about their capabilities. “Be the best you can be in the services and goods you’re supplying,” said Sinnott, whose firm has worked with PG&E since 2010. “Don’t oversell yourself, but don’t sell yourself short. Communicate with the supplier diversity people. They’ll introduce you to the right people in the company.”

With forums such as PG&E’s Boots to Business and the supportive network of DVBEs, there’s no reason why VOBs can’t be successful.

In 2012, PG&E achieved an all-time high of more than $2 billion in spending with diverse suppliers, which accounted for 38.8 percent of its total procurement budget. PG&E’s total spend on DVBEs also reached an all-time high of $115 million, an increase of $35 million, or 43.5 percent, over 2011.

For information on PG&E’s supplier diversity program or to learn how to apply to become a certified diverse supplier, visit The Boots to Business event was just one way that PG&E supports veterans and works to add them to its workforce.

Email Tony Khing at

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"PG&E" refers to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation.
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