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A + S Ideas Studio: Business and Passion in Federal Contracting

Sarimá Gracia, Creative Director of A + S Ideas Studio, is motivated by social causes and working with non-profit foundations. For her, as well as for her partner and Director of Strategy, Andrés Fernández, it is really important to find a balance between business and passion. The multi-award-winning digital marketing and advertising agency carved its path to do business with the U.S. government by balancing these two. The partners relied on each other, their team, and the help of Rafael Marrero & Company.

Thanks to the assistance of Dr. Rafael Marrero and the hard work of Sarimá Gracia and Andrés Fernández, their company has several key federal small business certifications and a contract with the U.S. government. These are not only the greatest achievements of their careers but also offer opportunities to help others even more. Rafael Marrero, a national expert on federal contracting, was in charge of connecting these two Latino entrepreneurs directly with Uncle Sam. Their success allows them to strike their own balance between how much they can do and how much clients can pay to help those who do not have much.

See how Dr. Rafael Marrero assisted these marketing and advertising specialists to do business with Uncle Sam. Follow their journey from humble beginnings to a thriving federal contracting studio.

Inspiration for Federal Contracting

As a Puerto Rican businesswoman living in Miami, Sarimá became very involved in relief efforts after Hurricane Maria passed through her hometown in 2017. She was able to collaborate with relief efforts thanks to the connections she had. However, she also realized that Small Business Administration (SBA) certifications would be required to increase the company’s capacity to help.

A + S Ideas Studio was already working with Rafael Marrero & Company at the time. Hurricane Maria was the motivation the team needed to become certified and move forward. Sarimá couldn’t imagine the trauma and crisis of another disaster like that occurring in the United States, so she needed a guide to the federal marketplace to support national relief efforts.

Located in Miami’s Design District, this agency has renowned clients — such as the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism (MITUR), Wynwood Brewing Company, Florida International University (FIU), and the Florida Center for Allergy & Asthma Care. It has also received various international industry awards.

Despite their success in the private sector, their new goal was to work with the U.S. government.  After doing a lot of research on who to work with to become federal contractors, they found out about Rafael Marrero and immediately sat down to chat. The businesswoman was happy to work with the federal contracting advisor, calling him an incredible person.

The Certification Process

Becoming certified through SBA programs requires plenty of paperwork. For small business owners, this can be a major hurdle to doing business with Uncle Sam. Gracia, an Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale alumna, discover the difficulties of running a business and applying for certifications. Currently, the A + S Ideas Studio agency is certified with the SBA under the minority and women-owned businesses program, as well as under the 8(a) development program and the Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) program.

Rafael Marrero guided them through the process of selecting certifications and compiling application materials. The women-owned business program offers set-asides and visibility to small businesses with women as the majority owners. For the SBA 8(a) certification, the team had to prove they were a small business and the majority of owners were economically and socially disadvantaged. Finally, HUBZone certification verifies that the location of their business is in an area that’s been underutilized historically by businesses.

Walking the Walk as Federal Contractors

With Marrero’s guidance, Gracia and Fernández attended a boot camp by Rafael Marrero & Company. This training opportunity helped them feel more confident in marketing, communicating, and working with the U.S. government. Dr. Marrero was available and responsive throughout the process, reviewing proposals and offering feedback to help A + S Ideas Studio succeed. Gracia felt that the assistance they received from Rafael Marrero & Company was crucial in becoming certified and winning a federal contract.

As a passionate graphic designer and problem solver, the businesswoman added that her agency’s goal for the next five years is to grow in the federal market, continue helping nonprofit organizations (such as the Hispanic National Bar Foundation), and continue working with current customers. They started with the Dominican Republic’s MITUR in 2009, and have continued to add clients since then through referrals. Their expertise and passionate service have allowed them to build a strong, loyal client base, and great expertise in their field.

Synergy and Success With Dr. Marrero

A + S Ideas Studio made a powerful connection with Dr. Marrero. That synergy worked so well that Marrero hired A + S Ideas Studio to design his book “La salsa Secreta del Tío Sam.” As the first book in Spanish on how to do business with the US Government, this Hispanic-community-focused project was an excellent opportunity for the studio.

Gracia brainstormed ideas with Marrero and decided to lay out the book like a cookbook. The clean design and streamlined organizational structure make it an easy read and dynamic example of Gracia’s expertise.

With this level of teamwork, Rafael Marrero & Company and A + S Ideas Studio managed to materialize two projects. They are proof that Latinos in the United States can not only help each other but also empower each other. As the icing on the cake, Gracia landed her first government contract to work specifically with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) in 2019.

A dedicated advisor with experience in the federal marketplace helped this studio achieve its dreams. Dr. Marrero offers years of experience navigating the certification process, standing out as a skilled contractor, and making essential connections in relevant government departments and agencies.

Take the next step in your own journey to federal contracting with Rafael Marrero & Company. Contact us to schedule a consultation with Dr. Marrero. Discuss SBA certifications, federal branding strategies, and other steps you can take to grow your business-to-government firm to reach your goals.

Dr. Rafael Marrero

A nationally recognized expert in federal contracting, small business entrepreneurship, vendor, and project/program management. A graduate of the prestigious Stanford and Cornell Universities, Dr. Rafael Marrero is a former Fortune 500 procurement executive, two-time Inc. 500 honoree, network news commentator, and Amazon best-selling author.

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