On January 28th, 2013, Astra sat down with Sandy Hunter, President of Hunter Hawk, Inc. Take five and read on to hear how Sandy leverages the Astra WBENC network for success.
1. You’ve been an Astra/WBENC WBE for more than ten years. What turned you onto the Astra/WBENC network?
The Shell Martinez Refinery requested that I become certified. I was very resistant because I didn’t understand the need; I was already doing business with Shell and other refineries. My initial reaction is that no one should have access to my business information. Suzanne Lackman, Vice-President of Astra Women’s Business Alliance told me straight up,” You will conform to the WBENC standards or you will not be certified.” Even though that doesn’t sound like a good beginning, I consider Suzanne the champion of Astra/WBENC standards and I cherish her support. Both Suzanne and her sister and co-founder Diane McClelland work tirelessly for women business owners. For them it is a vocation. They are the supreme connectors. I hope I live up to their expectations. And Mary Jo Juarez, as a former Navy contracts person has been phenomenal in her support. She’s on the Astra Board as well. She is so good, plus talented – at our first in-person meeting she presented me with a bracelet she made for me. Her continuous support has spurred me on. She insisted that I keep trying. It took us 6 complete bid packages, totaling many many hours and almost two years of trying to finally win a contract from the US Army that put us over the $2 million dollar mark. We had to re-think it. We had to re-engineer and re-locate what we do to find $6 per unit difference to make it work. Do you understand what that contract has meant for our business? Our business is now 50% diversified between government and non-government work. Diversity of client base is key to our success and that balance will help us continue to grow this year.
2. How has your business changed over this period?
We went through that bad place called 2009 and it was our best year ever. Then in 2010 our business took a one million dollar dump. It was all due to our small customer base and I was too involved. In 2011, we switched it up and learned how to go after government contracts. We are not looking back. In 2012 I did the Kauffman Bootcamp in San Leandro with Astra. That program for me was invaluable in many ways. It kicked me in the butt. It made me stop whining and over thinking. It allowed me to breathe. I walked out after 5 days and hired someone who I trust to do the stuff I don’t like to do and shouldn’t be doing. Now I make sure I get a chance to do what I love; be with my customers and sell. That’s what I do best. It also taught me to look beyond the comfort zone and now we have 3 divisions. We studied our audience, our customers and potential customers. Now we know who they are and we are effectively communicating with them. That sounds so simple now but who knows how long it would have taken me on my own. The support from the facilitators and other business owners was priceless.
3. What’s your favorite Astra/WBENC connection story?
I was nominated by Astra in late 2009 to be a WBENC Star for 2010. So in November of 2009 I arrive in Baltimore and I was lost in space. Then I met “The Women in the Bar” – Denise Kanaar, D& D Logistics, from Michigan and Laurie Travis, LTevention from Las Vegas. We literally looked at each other and said, “You a star?” “Yeah I’m a star.” “Does anyone know what we’re doing?” We had no idea. We still laugh about it. But I learned so much from that experience. The following year when I heard that Janell McGill, Milligan Events from Idaho was named as Astra’s Star and would be honored at the Summit and Salute II called her up and said, “ Here’s the scoop.” That’s the WBENC sisterhood – sharing information and paying it forward.
4. What was your Astra/WBENC “Aha” moment?
When Sandra James. Private Eyes, Inc. came to my ‘home’ office to do my Site Visit – way back when…..Yes I run a $2 million business with 4 employees out of my converted garage. The moment was the instant connection about the common things we shared as women business owners. Although I had friends that owned businesses, this was different. I didn’t even know what I was missing. Sandra is so real. She just gets it and pays it forward all the time. For me, she is “the real deal”.
5. What are your Astra/WBENC plans for 2013 and how can Astra/WBENC improve its service offering to your company?
Astra is essential to us this year. The introductions and connections that we will gain by attending Astra events and paying it forward will propel us to our goal of $3 million in revenue. We’re working on the bids right now. It’s going to happen. I am now operating a bi-coastal company and my desire is that Astra will help make that even more successful with more bi-coastal contacts. We are based in Northern California and have a manufacturing facility in North Carolina. We continue to deliver products with zero defects zero rejects on our Army contract. The receiver of the equipment is Lockheed Martin. It’s a working network. I am not sure if we will expand internationally or not. I am not ruling it out but we have a Made in America/Buy in America Policy and we are sticking to it. When first looking for suppliers I look for women business owners, then minorities, then small businesses. It’s a supply chain program that works for us and will continue to spur our growth. Hunter Hawk remains fearless, focused and flexible. Working together. Women working together. That’s WBENC. That’s Astra.
Here’s more about Hunter Hawk, Inc:
Want to meet Sandy in-person? Join Sandy & Astra in Napa, California for “Wine, Women & Winning” on February 22nd, 2013.
To find out more about Hunter Hawk, Inc. visit their website: www.hunterhawk.com