Virginia has launched an app to help connect state government agencies and other users with local, woman- and minority-owned businesses more efficiently, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday.
The Start Small app is available for free, and it allows users to conduct keyword searches to match with businesses that fit their needs, and can be narrowed to small, woman- and minority-owned (SWaM) businesses certified through the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, as well as those owned by service-disabled veterans.
“Virginia is stronger because of our small businesses,” Northam said in a statement. “This app makes it easier than ever to support our local, women-owned, and minority-owned businesses. I encourage all Virginians to take advantage of Start Small to find vendors that fit their needs.”
In 2019, Northam appointed Janice Underwood as the state’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer and tasked her with leading the creation of the One Virginia Plan, which aimed in part to create more inclusive practices in state agencies, including hiring more minority- and woman-led vendors and contractors. Northam issued an executive order that year directing executive branch agencies and institutions to allocate more than 42% of discretionary spending to certified small businesses.
In 2020, more than $945 million was spent by agency charge cardholders, and there are 13,000 SWaM-certified vendors registered with the state. More than 191,000 purchase order worth more than $1.5 billion were issued through the state’s electronic procurement system known as eVA, and the app will use vendor data from that system. Virginia Department of Transportation created the Start Small app, according to Wednesday’s announcement.