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Delaware SBDC Client, First State Manufacturing, Wins National Small Business Week 8(a) Award #SBDC #DreamSmallBiz

In 1998 Eli Valenzuela was an upholsterer at Dover Air Force, also doing freelance work repairing upholstery at local restaurants.   When their son Simon was diagnosed with autism, Eli and his wife Sher realized that her job as a newspaper reporter and his at the Air Force base would not provide what was needed for his treatment. So they created First State Manufacturing in order to build a business that could.  But before they quit their jobs to turn all their energies to the new venture, they did their homework, turning to the Small Business Development Center for guidance on business planning, financing and the myriad details necessary launch a successful business. As the business grew they have returned many times to the SBDC for feedback and advice on new opportunities.

Quickly realizing that government contracting had significant potential for the growing firm, the SBDC introduced them to its brand new PTAC right after it opened in 1999. First State Manufacturing was the PTAC’s 2nd client and is an active client to this day, recording over 182 awards totaling over $20,000,000.00.  One key to initial growth was obtaining 8a status, a grueling one year process involving much work by the Valenzuelas and their PTAC advisors. 

Eliseo and Sher Valenzuela are role models for how SBA’s 8a Business Development Program should work, notes PTAC of Delaware Director Juanita Beauford, who will also be honored at the Delaware Small Business Week Gala on May 5 as Small Business Champion. “They made excellent use of 8a as a means of getting a foothold into government contracting and proving their capabilities which translated into thriving upon graduation.” The SBDC and PTAC of Delaware are honored that First State Manufacturing chose them among many business resources.

More on First State Manufacturing (


Small businesses comprise a vital component of our economy by spurring growth and creating jobs in a state where “big business” is no longer the anchor of the local economy. The focus of the Delaware Small Business Development Center (DSBDC), a unit of the University of Delaware’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships, is to develop and support entrepreneurship throughout the State of Delaware by working one-on-one with our clients to understand their needs and assist them in a path forward. Contact the Delaware SBDC today!

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