2020 SBA 8(A) Graduate of the Year Award is Honored by the SBA St. Louis District Office


Success Story: The Project Controls Group, St. Louis, MO


Co-founders/Principals: Marvin Woods and Viola Pancratz


Marvin Woods and Viola Pancratz faced the kind of nightmare no employee wants to have. The company they worked for closed its doors and the project management duo found themselves unemployed. But they quickly turned a negative into a positive and used the opportunity to launch their own business. They turned to SCORE, an SBA resource partner that provides free in-person and online counseling through its network of business counselors. Marvin and Viola sought help with their business plan and marketing advice and used what they learned to launch Project Controls Group in 2003. A few years into business, a financial crisis swept through the U.S. economy, leaving many small businesses struggling to stay open.


What challenges did you have?

After the financial crash in 2008, like many businesses we found ourselves in need of contracts to survive the crash. We were participating in the SBA’s Emerging Leaders (formerly e200) program, which provides business training and networking opportunities that accelerate the growth of small businesses. We used what we learned to assemble an impressive strategic plan that would help us identify realistic goals for increasing sales, revenue and an appropriately sized staff. With a solid growth plan in hand, but still struggling to land local contracts, we turned to the SBA once again.


What was the SBA solution?

This time we got help through the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program. The federal government's goal is to award at least five percent of all federal contracting dollars to socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses each year. The program helps level the playing field by limiting competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate in the 8(a) program. In 2010 we landed a $12 million, five-year contract with the Army Corps of Engineers.


What benefit did this have for you?

Winning this procurement established our reputation for successful performance in the government contracting arena and enabled us to secure other government contracts either as a prime contractor or subcontractor. The program came about at just the right time. Now we’re able to give back to our community through sponsorship and the financial support we provide to various local charities. We’d like other entrepreneurs to be inspired by our story. They must prepare for disappointments but be encouraged to bounce back from them quickly and keep moving forward.