Apple Awards

When Dennis Smith was coaching high school basketball in the 1980s, he never dreamed his dissatisfaction with local trophy products for his teams would set him on a journey to government contracting. After building a golf course in the 1990s and selling personalized trophies and awards there, Smith decided to open a small shop in the town of Hayward. In fall 1996 he went to look at Apple Awards, a mail order awards business whose owners had recently moved from Green Bay to Hayward. When the owners realized they needed to sell the business and retire, Smith was in the right place at the right time. Apple Awards historically has sold to teachers’ associations and educational organizations. Its brass, marble and crystal apple products are sourced from India, Taiwan and China with personalizing and base production taking place at its Hayward shop.  Smith keeps a ready stock for quick service and ships products to all 50 states, Canada and occasionally China.

While Smith continued to sell from his local shop after purchasing Apple Awards, he saw a great opportunity in the nascent Internet to add to the traditional catalog and mail order marketing for the company. Before it was common, he built an e-commerce site in 2000. Through the years he developed his online business into a thriving one, with more than 700 new customers in 2015. As his online business was growing, Smith’s foray into contracting began in September 2014 when he attended a seminar held by the Wisconsin Procurement Institute, the federal Procurement Technical Assistance Center in the state. Through that and WPI’s in-person visit to his business, he learned Hayward was in one of Wisconsin’s historically underutilized business zones (HUBZone), which are designated to encourage economic development and employment growth in distressed areas by providing access to more federal contracting
opportunities. As a HUBZone-certified small business, Apple Awards could a 10 percent price preference and be awarded sole source contracts.
Smith’s first step was to register Apple Awards in the System for Awards Management (SAM) online with the help of Joe Smetak and Ben Blanc at WPI. The registration led to a contract with the New York Housing and Preservation Authority, which had an incentive to use small businesses and is now a repeat customer. Dennis worked on the HUBZone verification process around the daily demands of his busy schedule. Soon after completing it in 2015, he got his first HUBZone contract with a Texas-based company. Smith is looking now at how to sustain the HUBZone advantage and his SAM registration as an income stream. “I’m pulling business into Wisconsin that I would not have been able to without the registration, and WPI was key to getting me into SAM and into the HUBZone program. It’s a commitment and I’m looking at the best way to move forward.”