This little-known program can help small businesses earn money from the federal government

Gene Marks
4 min readApr 15, 2024

A little-known “gem” that helps small business owners pursue government contracts

(This column originally appeared in The Inquirer)

With trillions being spent on infrastructure, manufacturing and other programs, just about every business owner I know is interested in doing work with the federal government. Unfortunately, most are unsure where to get started and others are put off by the complexity of the process. This doesn’t have to be.

Apex Accelerators, a little-known program within the Department of Defense, can help overcome these challenges and create new revenue streams for many small businesses.

The program assists a wide range of businesses that pursue contracts not only with the Department of Defense but with most other federal agencies, state and local governments and with prime contractors who work directly with the government. The program was authorized in 1985 but moved to the Department of Defense in 2020 in order to build “strong, sustainable, and resilient U.S. supply chains.”

According to Apex’s director Khalil Mack, the program is “a hidden gem” in the government.

“We exist in order to help small businesses successfully compete for both federal and state government contracts, regardless of the agency,” he said. “We provide one-on-one counseling and a lot of hand-holding.”

Never done business with the government before?

Reach out to Apex at one of their more 97 offices across 49 states and territories (including ones at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and Kutztown University and numerous locations in New Jersey and Delaware). An adviser will help match your business to contracts offered by all agencies of the federal government specific to your industry.

Igor Messano is a partner at Alli Architectural and Manufacturing, a metal work manufacturer based in Collingdale with about 17 employees. He had never done any work for the government, but when he was looking for new opportunities a few years ago, Messano decided to go after government contracts. He found that, depending on the agency, it was a “maze” of systems and registrations.

“It’s not hard to find places where government contracts are listed — like the System for Award Management, the Federal Procurement Data System or the Federal Register — but the issue is how do you actually get access to look at drawings to bid and to make sure that you’re in compliance with everything,” he said.

Brandon Holiday, a former police officer with disabilities who owns Red, White & Blue K9 Service in Perkasie was also looking for government work for his company, which supplies trained dogs for security and drug detection. Like Messano, he was daunted by the process, but helped by Apex.

“They taught me how to properly search on the government contract sites and what contracts to look for,” said Holiday. “They also made sure I was set up with the proper industry codes to better narrow the contracts that were best suited to my business.”

Once Holiday and Messano decided on the contracts they wanted to pursue, Apex guided them through the process, answering questions and helping them navigate the oftentimes baffling rules for navigating the complex world of government certifications, applications and documentation requirements.

“The people we worked with at Apex coached us and then as we arrived in actual contracts or bids, I would say, what does this mean or are we in compliance and they would guide us through the process,” said Messano.

They not only helped identify which agencies and offices may need their products or services and how connect with them, but also connected them to contracting managers both in the government and in private industry.

“There are so many different contracting officers at all the government departments that could potentially use my services,” said Holiday. “There are also prime contractors — shipping firms like DHS that need dogs to detect narcotics — which they helped me reach.”

Apex has helped Messano with introductions to and is currently working with him on five open bids. The program makes these introductions because many government contracts awarded to larger companies mandates that these companies use smaller firms as part of their project.

“There are some massive contracts out there with companies that need to use firms like mine,” he said. “Apex has helped us make those introductions so that we could be of service to these larger companies.” Both Messano and Holiday pointed out that by establishing these relationships (and of course doing a good job) these same companies then come back to them with future projects.

All of the services provided by Apex are free and available to businesses of all sizes. There is also an emphasis on helping underserved businesses — such as businesses run by people with disabilities, or in historically underutilized business zones, as well as companies owned by women and veterans.

Once a business works with the agency, they’ll continue to be notified of government contracting opportunities and can participate in events where they can network with buying officers, prime contractors and other businesses. The program also provides assistance to help resolve performance issues and prepare for audits.

Mack has been involved with the program for less than two years and is focused on getting more businesses — particularly small businesses — involved.

“It’s just amazing that this program is not more widely known,” he said.

Originally published at on April 15, 2024.



Gene Marks

Columnist on smallbiz, economy, public policy, tech for The Guardian, The Hill, Philly Inquirer, Wash Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur. Small Business owner and CPA