Twenty-six years after crossing the USF commencement stage with a degree in electrical engineering, Floyd Freeman is back on campus playing an important role in its growth. The Cablelytics owner installs technologies such as structured cabling, Wi-Fi and fiber optics, and has a contract with USF to install public safety Distributed Antenna Systems, which boost police and fire radios, in the Judy Genshaft Honors College building and Student Wellness Center – both scheduled to open next year.
Freeman landed the jobs while participating in the most recent cohort of the USF Mentor Protégé Program – developed in partnership with Skanska to support the Tampa Bay region’s diverse-owned small businesses in the construction industry. The program provides businesses with training, development and partnership opportunities to help them grow their capacity and become more effective with competitive bidding processes. Freeman shared on LinkedIn that he was enrolled in the 10-week program, and a general contractor saw the post and reached out to offer him the jobs.
He and 11 other local business owners recently graduated from the program, which he says resulted in him becoming more knowledgeable about a variety of aspects of business, such as Occupational Safety Health Administration regulations, legislation that impacts employee law and human resources best practices. Participants were selected based on recommendations from community partners, such as the Hillsborough County NAACP, Prospera, the Women’s Business Enterprise Council Florida, Inclusive St. Pete and the Manasota Black Chamber of Commerce.
“It was a comprehensive program with a lot of great information. It was well worth it, and I highly recommend it,” said Freeman, who previously hired a USF graduate who started at Cablelytics as a first job out of school. “This was the most I had been on campus in a long time and it’s really neat to see my experience at USF come full circle.”
Freeman learned about the Mentor Protégé Program while attending a meeting hosted by the Office of Supplier Diversity that outlined upcoming opportunities to secure contracts to work on the future on-campus stadium. He’s in the process of applying to bid on a contract for that project too.
Samamed Home Improvements is another diverse-owned business benefitting from the mentor program. Owners Modesto and Julio Samamed were part of the program’s first class in 2021. Since then, they’ve adjusted their business model from residential painting to commercial projects – now providing service to a packaging supply store.
“This program was a game changer and of course, we have a lot of things to do in order to achieve our goals. A year later, our business has grown very much. Our vision is different, and we are doing the right things to grow up,” the Samamad brothers shared.
Nia Ogletree, founder and CEO of facilities management firm Arielle Management Group, was also part of the inaugural group. She says she joined the program because she felt her business was too small to compete for larger projects. Since completing the program, she says her client base has increased, receiving increased work on a commercial fire alarm project and a new, five-year contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs to offer veterans transportation to their doctor’s appointments.
“This mentoring program came at a time where I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay the course in the construction industry, it’s a tough hill to climb,” said Ogletree, who served in the U.S. Army for 18 years. “Trying to find good mentors to help guide us to grow and staying educated about the industry became a challenge as well. What changed for me was an increased knowledge of the construction industry taught during the program. The mentoring I received gave me the confidence to get out of my comfort zone, do more public speaking and go out to find projects for the company.”
Arielle Management Group employees complete flooring project for the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lake City.
Ogletree says the Mentor Protégé Program provided her much-needed support to help level the playing field for small businesses like hers to thrive and survive. She shares for the next cohort of business owners, “the journey together will be phenomenal.”
The USF Office of Supplier Diversity is in the early stages of planning its third annual Mentor Protégé Program, with application information expected to be available in spring 2023.
You can register here to find out when applications for next year’s mentor program open and receive notifications about future Office of Supplier Diversity events or USF purchasing opportunities.