Robinson’s Cleaners — Columbia, MO
- Published: Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Many entrepreneurs find that government contracting is an excellent way to ensure that their small business grows. But for Kit Price, co-owner of Robinson’s Cleaners in Columbia, Missouri, government contracting goes beyond expanding her company. To her, it has been part of the family business since Robinson’s Cleaners opened over sixty years ago.
“I’m a third-generation dry cleaner,” explains Price. “My great-grandmother and my great-uncle originally started this business and then my parents got into it. Then, my brother and I bought it.”
Since its creation, Robinson’s Cleaners has become extremely diversified with six locations scattered throughout the Columbia and Jefferson City areas. Today, they offer everything from basic dry cleaning and laundry services to wedding dress preservation and textile restoration.
When Price’s parents owned the business, they were faithful federal contractors. Throughout the twenty-four years that Price and her brother, Casey Smith, have owned Robinson’s Cleaners, they have tried to “continue that tradition.”
In 2004, the sister-brother duo received an offer to help maintain this tradition. Price was approached by Bill Stuby, Procurement Specialist at the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) hosted at the University of Missouri. He was interested in assisting Robinson’s Cleaners.
“Bill Stuby came into my business and said he’d like to work with me,” Price explains. “And everything kind of just went from there.”
Price accepted Stuby’s offer. The introduction created a fifteen-year-long relationship between Robinson’s Cleaners and PTAC.
During that time, Stuby assisted Price and Smith with their Hub-Zone and Women Business Enterprise (WBE) Certifications. They also received help registering for the Wide Area Workflow (WAWF) system. Stuby continuously reviewed Price and Smith’s bids, answered their questions, and offered advice when they encountered a problem.
In April 2007, the effort they put into acquiring these additional certifications was rewarded when Price and Smith received a contract with Whiteman Air Force Base in Johnson County, Missouri.
With Stuby’s help, Price and Smith would go on to secure multiple contracts. They have worked with Scott Air Force Base, Fort Leonard Wood, the City of Columbia, the University of Missouri, and the Boone County Sheriff’s Department. These contracts have been excellent for Robinson’s Cleaners.
“Government contracts are always a big positive because they provide us with a steady volume that we can depend on,” explains Price.
In the future, Price says that she and Smith will continue looking for and bidding on contracts because they are not only great for business but also create learning opportunities.
“We’re always looking and always bidding,” says Price. “And I’m always learning something new or different.”
And while the process can present opportunities to learn, it can also be tricky. For businesses interested in becoming a federal contractor, Price says that the best way to get into government contracting is to just start bidding.
“If you start, you’ll learn the process. So, just get started,” she recommends.
As for businesses who are already involved in government contracting, Price acknowledges that help is sometimes necessary, even for experienced federal contractors, because it can be difficult.
“PTAC was wonderful. They were so helpful,” says Price. “It’s a great resource to learn how to be successful in government contracting because that realm is so different from everything else.”
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