Navy veteran Delaware Small Business Person of Year
Source: Scott Goss, The News Journal April 11, 2015
Nearly all small business owners take pride in their work.
But for U.S. Navy veteran Brad Winemiller, tending to the grounds of veterans cemeteries up and down the East Coast – including Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia – is a matter of duty-bound honor.
“The way I look at, we’re taking care of people who gave everything to serve this country,” said the 50-year-old owner of Greenleaf Services near Newport. “Whether it be politicians, dignitaries or veterans and their spouses, those people deserve to have best, and that’s the kind of respect and service we provide.”
That approach – combined with Greenleaf’s 23-year rise from a two-man residential landscaper to a government contractor with 47 employees – led to Winemiller being named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Person of the Year for Delaware last week.
“Brad has real integrity in what he does and his company has just grown exponentially over the years,” said Juanita Beauford, the director of the Delaware Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAC) and the person who nominated Winemiller for the award. “As a PTAC client, I just knew he was doing all the things that the SBA is looking for in a recipient of this honor.”
Greenleaf Services currently holds grounds maintenance and construction contracts at close to 10 Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs facilities from Virginia to Maine, including the VA Medical Center in Wilmington, the Delaware Veterans Cemetery in Bear and veterans cemeteries in other five states.
Yet none come close to the $17.3 million deal the company won to provide ground maintenance services – from mowing to ice removal – at Arlington National Cemetery.
Greanleaf inked the one-year deal with a four-year option as part of a teaming agreement with Davey Commercial Landscape Service, a division of an Ohio-based company that held the contract dating back to 1996. It’s the second contract Greenleaf has received for Arlington since 2011.
Greenleaf now maintains a satellite office at the national cemetery. There, Winemiller’s stepson James Sampson manages the daily operations, which includes mowing, sodding and weed control on nearly 640 acres, as well as trimming around 400,000 headstones and 9,000 trees. The company also maintains another 30 acres called the Navy Annex that will be added to Arlington’s grounds.
“Arlington has been a major boost for our business,” Winemiller said. “But there is also no greater honor than maintaining the grounds of fallen service members. It’s a job I take very seriously and so do the guys that work for me.”
Building his business to a point where it could win government contracts didn’t happen overnight.
Instead, it was the result of a concentrated effort that included overcoming a few obstacles along the way.
Even starting the business was the result of some early setbacks, he said.
The south Indiana native originally dreamed of becoming a history teacher.
“Where I came from, you had a choice of working in factory, working on a family farm or going to college,” he said. “I ended up doing all three.”
But in the middle of his sophomore year at Vincennes University, Winemiller made an abrupt shift.
“I just felt I needed something different so I walked out of my classes on a Wednesday and walked into a recruitment center right across the street,” he said. “By that Friday, I was at Great Lakes Naval Air Station and starting my basic training.”
As an aviation boatswain’s mate handler, Winemiller worked on the flight deck of the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier for four years, until an accident left him with four herniated spinal discs.
Following an honorable medical discharge, Winemiller moved to Delaware with his future wife, Cynthia and her son James. He soon took a job with the Davey Tree Expert Company, the parent company of the business he now uses as a subcontractor at Arlington National Cemetery.
Winemiller later left that job after he and his brother-in-law began Greenleaf, which started as a weekend gig to make extra money and blossomed into a full-time operation they incorporated in 1992.
Winemiller bought out his brother-in-law in 2004 and immediately began looking to move away from the apartment complexes and shopping malls that made up the bulk of their clients in favor of the longer-term stability of government contracting.
Greenleaf won its first government contract for grounds maintenance from the Wilmington VA Medical Center in 2005. A contracting agent there recommended Winemiller reach out to PTAC to learn about better positioning his business to win federal work.
That led to Greenleaf becoming certified as a service-disabled veteran-owned small business, a designation that allows the company to qualify for certain set asides available only to firms owned by veterans injured in the line of duty.
The certification isn’t a guarantee of success, Winemiller said.
Greenleaf failed to win the first contract it bid on – a $4.4 million grounds maintenance deal at Dover Air Force Base. Last year, it also lost out on a $5.7 million job at the Pentagon.
But the contracts the business has received are allowing Winemiller to hire other veterans, who he said add to the business’ culture of respect.
“I’ve seen my guys walk a field to help older people find their loved one’s grave site,” he said. “If I see an employee on a job site talking to a veteran, I don’t say you should be working. I tell them good job. If a veteran wants to speak to you for five or 10 minutes, that’s fine by me because you probably just made their day.”
Winemiller will be honored as the Small Business Person of the Year during a ceremony at the DuPont Country Club on May 5, along with other 2015 Delaware Small Business Awards winners.
Those honorees include O.A. Newton in Bridgeville, the Delaware SBA’s exporter of the year; Fireside Partners of New Castle, the veteran-owned business of the year; First State Manufacturing of Milford, the 8(a) graduate of the year; Brew HaHa!, the woman-owned business of the year; and Duck In Cash Wash owner Garrett Grier of Milford, the young entrepreneur of the year.
Applied Bank also will be honored by the state’s 7(a) program lender by dollar amount, while M&T Bank will be recognized as the 7(a) program lender by number of loans.
For help with Government Contracting: contact your nearest Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). Funded through Cooperative Agreements between the U.S. Department of Defense and state and local governments/institutions, PTACs provide free and low-cost assistance in virtually all areas of government contracting.