From working alone as a consultant to winning Arizona Small Business Person of the Year in 2014 for her $7 million, nationwide company, Cynthia Reed, CEO of MIRACORP, a Mesa-based management and administrative services provider, has certainly come a long way.
After Reed left the Army in 1989 she worked for a few government contractors, but in 1999 she went out on her own to consult for the Department of Defense and the companies that serve it.
She said she began working for Vector Research, now owned by another company, doing largely the same job she had in the Army — administration. Slowly, she moved over to procurement and pricing, something she said she found more enjoyable.
Reed said she stayed with government contractors because the environment, filled with fellow veterans, was familiar and friendly. Later she worked for CALIBRE and GCI, other government contractors.
When her job transferred her from Ann Arbor, Mich., where she had moved after leaving the Army, back to her last station of Arlington, Va., Reed found herself once again leading the hectic life of a professional in Washington D.C. She said the demanding schedule and cutthroat pace inspired her to work for herself.
“Being in D.C., everyone has crazy work hours. I worked a lot. I just believed I could do this,” she said.
Reed worked for herself, consulting for others in the D.C. area until her husband’s job moved them to the Valley of the Sun in 2000. At first, she was unsure her business would be viable operating from Arizona, but she was determined to continue her work, if possible.
But business is plentiful and consulting from across the country is still viable. She eventually found herself with enough work to do that it made sense to incorporate and hire some help. In 2007, Reed filed incorporation papers. She then hired five employees, adding health care and organized payroll in 2008. In 2012 her husband left his job to come work for her.
She said one of the largest struggles is finding people in the Phoenix area who really understand the kind of work MIRACORP does. Being so far away from the culture of Washington, people don’t always grasp how the system works, but Reed said she doesn’t let that, or anything else, stop her.
“I would say, never give up, just when you think nothing is going to happen, something does,” Reed said, giving advice to other startup hopefuls. “When you lose work, something always works out for the better.”
Stephen Hart, from the Small Business Administration, said winning Small Business Person of the Year is certainly no small feat. The administration utilizes a very formal process to select candidates from the field of nominees they receive submissions for each year.
The candidates are vetted and then circulated to a panel of judges who give independent ratings that are ranked against each other. Once winners at the state level are selected, they are forwarded up to the regional level to compete for the national award. The national winner in 2014 was the duo of William Charles Taylor and Brook Ann Harvey-Taylor from Oregon. The two own Pacifica a company that makes perfume and candles.
Hart said the administration looks into the depth of the company and of the individual, the story of its growth, the uniqueness of their approach, and its contribution to their community, among other factors.
“She is a great example for others who have an ambition of getting into business,” Hart said of Reed.
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