Jeannette Hughes and her husband, Dale, are parents of 10 children; six of them are adopted, and four of those children have special needs. “In planning for their future needs and life care, we decided that the best way to ensure this endeavor was to start a business that would last for generations,” she says. “We saw a need for specialized security forces.” With her husband’s experience as a retired D.C. Metropolitan Police Department officer, and with one of her sons’ experience in intelligence, a security agency was a natural fit. But Jeannette thought Dale would start the investigations business after picking up contracts after his retirement. Instead, Hughes Barney Investigations was a family business — and a woman-owned one.
“Since our beginning in 2005, major primes and agencies have not exactly welcomed us warmly,” Hughes recalled. As a minority woman-owned business in a male-dominated industry, Hughes Barney Investigations struggled to find its initial footing.
“In our business field, we have the experience to perform the work,” Hughes says. “However, I need hands-on help and knowledge in order to understand how to properly navigate within the contracting world of state and federal governments.” She struggled with state paperwork, finding a company to underwrite the million-dollar insurance policy she needed, and getting initial clients. Hughes started by focusing on building the biometrics side of the business.
When a friend recommended she reach out to SCORE, Hughes met with several different members to focus on her various concerns and goals. "It was mind-blowing to me to find out that there were such levels of proficiency and help out there, and it is all free!," she says. "I knew that I needed this kind of help in order to learn, grow and succeed in business."
Hughes connected with volunteer mentor Karen Williams, and shared her goal of completing her 8(a) Business Development Program certification. Not being certified has prevented her from securing contracts to ensure that her business continues to thrive. Hughes is working with Williams to determine her best method of achieving smart growth.
"Over the years we grew from fingerprinting three people a month, to now servicing 400-600 people per month for the state and FBI," Hughes says.
“Using the knowledge that Mrs. Williams has taught me thus far, I can see a difference already as to how the primes interact with me now,” Hughes reports. “Subcontracting work and increased revenues are right on the horizon for our company.” Together, the women are targeting the information needed for the 8(a) application, section by section, so the process it won’t be so overwhelming.
Hughes Barney Investigations was selected as one of 102 state winners in the 2017 American Small Business Championship, and was named Outstanding Encore Entrepreneur at the 2017 SCORE Awards.
"As a mentor Ms. Williams is not only making a mark in my life that will never be erased, but she is impacting the lives of our future employees," Hughes says.