PUBLIC SERVICE RECOGNITION WEEK-KIM BREWER
Brewer enjoys 'lifting the veil' of public purchasing for businesses
Kim Brewer travels Virginia teaching the ins and outs of selling to the commonwealth to anyone who is interested. There is one moment in every class _ what she calls the "wow factor" _ where it all clicks and she knows she's made a difference for that business.
"You literally have people who go, "Oh, wow," Brewer said. "For a business coming in to government sector selling, it can be very overwhelming. Sometimes they aren't sure where to start. They feel like they have so much information they're trying to take in, so our objective is to remove some of those barriers, provide them enough information and show them different types of self-service tools available through eVA."
Brewer has worked for nearly 10 years as the outreach and marketing manager for eVA, Virginia's online marketplace.
More than 245 state agencies and institutes of higher education, and more than 900 local governments and public bodies use eVA to announce bidding opportunities, receive quotes, place and approve orders, manage contracts and more.
Providing industry leading procurement solutions for all public bodies, the marketplace includes nearly 100,000 businesses competing to provide the Commonwealth with quality goods and services, resulting in more than $30 million in savings annually.
For businesses and citizens, eVA provides open access to what Virginia public bodies buy, as well as the rules, regulations and processes behind those procurements.
DGS partners with economic development groups and small business outreach centers as well as other state and local government entities to provide workshops and speak at conferences all across Virginia.
In total, Brewer participates in more than 60 outreach events each year.
Brewer's upbeat attitude and penchant for storytelling, not simply reciting facts, directions and rules, helps her connect with attendees. A tack board in her office is overflowing with Thank You cards from businesses large and small.
"The gratitude that people feel from being able to have someone lift that veil and remove the stigmatism around the fact that it is this difficult process," she said.
Kim's session is designed to provide a high-level overview of the commonwealth's procurement process, including purchasing policies that affect how buyers use the eVA system to "shop." Attendees learn about the valuable tools available thru eVA like B2B Connect, an online message board where businesses can post their interest in partnering on a specific Virginia solicitation; Virginia Information Business Exchange (VIBE), a page dedicated to helping businesses or individuals make private sector connections, promote their business/organization/self, advertise a business need or promotion, search for goods/services and more; and eVA's free public reports (who's buying what you sell, prices being paid and more).
"They walk away being able to, for themselves, figure out if there is an opportunity, how they want to fit into this process, do they want to be a prime contractor or a subcontractor, how competitive they can be, and then understanding the rules of competition," Brewer said.
Brewer covers high-level policy information, including how gaining certification as a micro, small, women-owned, minority-owned or service-disabled veteran-owned business can benefit a business. Still, she says the class is beneficial for businesses of all sizes.
"Policies and procedures, including those socioeconomic programs, those change but what doesn't is eVA's ability to support all of those changes, and that's why I enjoy helping businesses understand the process," Brewer said. "Regardless of your size, who you're trying to sell to _ it's not just state agencies, it's the colleges and universities, and almost 1,000 local government and public bodies, the different audiences with different policies _ eVA is that common thread. So it's allowing them to understand that we may do things differently depending on who you're trying to sell to, but eVA gives you that one place to identify all of those business opportunities, to connect with your different audiences, and to connect with other businesses that also are interested in government sector selling."
Brewer, 43, spent time in the private sector before starting work with the DGS Division of Purchases and Supply, but public service is in her blood. Her father retired as a First Sergeant with Virginia State Police after more than 45 years of service. Her mother was a school crossing guard, her sister works in the Richmond court system, and her brother-in-law also serves with Virginia State Police.
The Richmond native enjoys getting to travel Virginia, from the Eastern Shore to the far southwestern reaches of the state. A map outside her office marks each spot she's visited for work.
"We have one of the most diverse states," she said. "Every time I get on Interstate 81, which is a couple times a year or maybe more, I still stare out the window like a tourist at the landscape."
While it can be a challenge to travel so much for work while juggling her two children's schedules, she says the work-life balance and the close sense of family makes her enjoy being part of the eVA team.
And while her duties also include buyer communications, eVA website content, social media relations, special projects and more, it's helping businesses make those connections and have those "wow" moments that Brewer loves most.
"I think you definitely want to feel like you're making a difference and contributing, which is why I enjoy so much the outreach piece of it, because I get to interact with so many different types of people," Brewer said. "It doesn't matter where they are in the business process, whether they're a startup or they're a very seasoned company, the message is all the same. They're all coming in wanting to understand how government selling works."