SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — Adrienne Morgan got her start in business as a young girl helping by her father, a painting contractor, keep his account payables and receivable in good order.
"I knew even then that I wanted one day to own my own company," said Morgan, president and chief executive officer of A-Zone Environmental Service LLC, her seven-year-old, six-employee company based in Charles Town, W.Va.
Morgan told an audience of more than 50 Eastern Panhandle small business owners that she was awarded a $4 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contract for environmental remediation services.
"We were doing subcontract work for prime contractors. Now we're a prime contractor," Morgan said in an interview after her speech at the Small Business Administration-sponsored forum at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center in Shepherdstown.
Her federal contract includes work in environmental restoration, pollution prevention, erosion and sediment control, brownfield cleanup, storm water and water reuse, and energy management.
A-Zone is so named "because that's the top layer of soil that we drill," she said.
Morgan, 40, started the business at home in Charles Town, W.Va., while taking care of her three small children. Her husband, Jesse, kept his job so the bills would be paid, she said.
"Seven years ago, I could never had considered I'd be living this dream today," she told the audience.
Morgan said she developed a good business plan, offered good customer service, was fiscally conservative ("If we couldn't afford it, we didn't buy it"), used all available help and found a mentor.
She advised anyone starting or running a small business to comply with all government rules and regulations, no matter how difficult.
"You have to pay attention to them. It's a lot cheaper in the long run," she said.
Morgan and her husband met at Boston University when both were environmental studies students.
Jeannette King, founder of Strategic Resolution Experts Inc., is a Navy veteran who started her small business in Martinsburg, W.Va. She recently signed a $167,000 consulting contract with the U.S. Treasury Department.
"It took us several years to break into the federal market, but with the help of the great people at SBA and our teaming partners we are successfully delivering services to our federal customers," King, who was not present at the forum, said in a news release.
The forum Thursday was one of three SBA-sponsored events for its WV Small Business Rural and Ready development and training initiative. A regulator fairness forum was held in Berkeley Springs on Wednesday afternoon.
A government contracting workshop is scheduled for today at 10 a.m. at the Newberry Executive Center at 142 N. Queen St., in Martinsburg.
It will be led by Melissa Loder, SBA business opportunity specialist, and Nancy Ferner, business coach at the West Virginia Small Business Development Center.