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Business on her own terms: this entrepreneur works hard to create a company with a conscience.

Faye Coleman throws herself into everything she does--including her business. As president and CEO of Silver Spring, Maryland-based Westover Consultants Inc., Coleman leverages technology to handle an impressive lineup of projects for government entities.

An all-or-nothing approach is what originally drove Coleman to start her own management and technology firm in 1984, after working as a program manager and project director for several technical and management consulting firms in Washington, D.C. "I got to the point where I was working so hard to achieve success for someone else's company," says Coleman, 57. "I figured, why not be the one to benefit from it?"

With that, Coleman set up shop in her basement, named her company after the street on which she lived, and took $2,000 to pay for computer equipment, business cards, and letterhead. Armed with a sociology degree from Simmons College, a master's degree in early childhood education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a doctorate in education from the University of Maryland, Coleman began developing educational training programs, planning events, creating public outreach campaigns, and conducting surveys for the likes of the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Commerce, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Today, Westover comprises three divisions: Health and Behavioral Sciences, Management Support Services, and the Information Technology Services division.

One of Westover's recent projects is with the U.S. Air Force, which contracted the firm to develop an automated, online time sheet and payroll system for use at the agency's childcare centers. "The Air Force realized that it couldn't put its fighting forces in a position to choose between what's in the best interest of their children and serving their country," says Coleman.

Westover created a system that could keep track of the childcare providers (mainly military spouses with their own children). Now, providers are monitored via a password-protected, Web-based time sheet and payroll system through which West over can track hours worked and issue paychecks.

Such innovative solutions have helped Coleman grow her business from the basement to two office locations with 43 employees. Revenues in 2003 were $6.4 million, up from $3.9 million in 2002. This year, thanks to a new government contract, Coleman is expecting $10 million in sales.

A recipient of the Small Business Administration's Distinguished Award of Excellence in 1994, Coleman sticks to a value system that goes beyond just making money and creating jobs.

"I started my company because I wanted to improve the human condition," says Coleman, whose firm has worked on a number of AIDS- and HIV-related projects over the last two decades. "We're living testimony that you can do that while also being successful in business."

Charlene Drew Jarvis, president of Southeastern University in Washington, D.C., credits Coleman's persistence, diligence, and integrity with helping her create a company with a conscience. "Faye always said what she was going to do, and then she did it well," says Jarvis. "I have no doubt that. Westover Consultants will continue to expand and do good work, based on that strong foundation."

Coleman says that her role as a government contractor isn't always easy, especially during an election year. This year will be no different, as Coleman waits to see if an administration change will take place. If the change comes, business could slow dramatically. "Government contracting is largely affected by changes in the executive and legislative branches," says Coleman. "When a new administration comes in, you can pretty much expect that nothing is going to happen for 12 to 18 months, as new initiatives and funding decisions are put on hold."

Westover works with 17 different agencies which will help pull the company through should a change come in November. "The fact that we're a niche business working for Department of Defense clients gives us a cushion," says Coleman.
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Title Annotation:Black Digerati; Faye Coleman
Author:McCrea, Bridget
Publication:Black Enterprise
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2004
Words:640
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